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First Line Q&A: The Big Three and Geoff Molson

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL – In the first Q&A session of the 2014-15 season, members of The First Line spent the afternoon grilling Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe on all things hockey related, before getting another chance to put Canadiens owner Geoff Molson on the hot seat.


The Canadiens’ legendary “Big Three” on defense, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe made up arguably the greatest blue line crop in NHL history in the 1970s. Recording 2,019 regular season points between them in their careers to go with a combined 20 Stanley Cups, the three Hall-of-Famers still sit among the Top 5 in every major statistical category for Habs defensemen. Savard’s No. 18 was retired on November 18, 2006, Robinson’s No. 19 on November 19, 2007, and Lapointe’s No. 5 is set to join them in the Bell Centre rafters prior to Saturday’s game against the Wild. All three were in the house for a special event with members of the First Line. Here is a sampling of the exclusive Q&A:


Serge was the first of you to play with the team so I imagine he was like a big brother for you guys on the Big Three. Serge, what was it like for you starting out?

SERGE SAVARD: I’ll just share a little anecdote with you about Guy. He was playing with the Voyageurs, which was our farm team back in the day. One day, the Canadiens decided to call him up for a day just to practice with us. During the warm up, I skated over next to him and said, ‘Guy, so you know, we have a goalie here, Gump Worsley, who really likes working on his high glove during practice.’ Guy listened to me and went in and fired a slap shot top shelf, and the puck flew by Gump’s face, just missing his head. Goalies back then weren’t wearing masks, and Worsley dropped his stick and his gloves and chased Guy around the ice. He was so mad! That was Guy’s ‘Welcome to the NHL’. He’s a big prankster, but his start with the Canadiens was me playing one on him.

Michel Lacroix moderates the First Line Q&A, featuring (L to R) Serge Savard, Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe.
Larry, how did you get involved with the team? Serge and Guy were already there when you arrived. Tell us about your start.

SS: He was very polite then.

LARRY ROBINSON: Yeah, and I still am! (laughs) I knew Serge better than I knew Guy at the time so Serge helped me quite a bit. I remember my first training camp, when I was getting my equipment on, my shin pads covered about half my legs. When I took the pad off and looked on the inside, it had No. 9 written on it. The only one who had every worn that, other than myself, was The Rocket. Guy was nice enough that he went over and told Eddy Palchak that there might be a little size difference between me and the Rocket and he got me a new pair of pads. That was the first good thing he ever did for me. After that it was downhill! (laughs) I had to check my shorts to make sure there was no hot stuff in them, I had to change my laces every morning because he cut my laces, one night, I go to drive off after practice and I turn my windshield wipers on and they were full of Vaseline so I had to stop at the gas station to clean them off. Other than that, Guy has been a great guy to me.

We’ve heard a lot of stories about the pranks Mr. Lapointe has pulled, but what’s your favorite memory of playing together?

GUY LAPOINTE: There are a lot. My favorite memory is probably the last few minutes of every game. Larry, Serge and I were on the ice for the last three or four minutes of every game – one of us would be on the bench and the other two would be looking like, ok it’s my turn to change, and the three of us would just trade with each other. When we would pull the goalie, the three of us were on the ice for the end all together. Serge would be there killing penalties with his big stick. I have great memories of those years together.

There was a game in the mid-70s where the Philadelphia Flyers were here in town. I guess there was a bit of a disagreement on the ice and all the players decided to have a little meeting on the ice. Larry, I specifically saw you on the ice. You seemed to be wanting to have a conversation with a certain Dave Schultz, which you handled quite well, to the point where his teammates had to go help him. Would you say that was a turning point in the Broad Street history where they were not as intimidating any more where not just the Canadiens but other teams said, ‘Wait a second, we can do something about this. They’re not invincible.’?

LR: Thank you, but I don’t think it was that one. Actually, Serge had a couple of good ones with Schultz, as well. I think there was another time where we were in Philadelphia and Scotty [Bowman] put on [Sean] Shanahan Pierre Bouchard, Dougie Risebrough, and Gilles Lupien. The smallest guy was probably Dougie Risebrough. A big brawl started out and some of the players were coming over and telling Scotty, ‘Ok stop it, we’ve had enough.’ I think we kind of set a precedent. One of my favorite Stanley Cups was in 1976 when we beat them in four straight. It was special because we felt that the whole league was behind us. They were the Broad Street Bullies and they bullied everybody in the league. We were able to beat them on the ice and off the ice and everything else. That was more of a turning point, I think, than that time on the ice with myself and Schultz.

Following the big three on stage, Geoff Molson took his turn at the mic, fielding questions from fans on everything from the potential for a Winter Classic in Montreal to his thoughts on fighting in hockey. Here are a few of the questions that were fired at the Canadiens’ owner, president and CEO:

We’ve heard about how the league wants to work to increase revenues, but what are your thoughts on sponsors on team jerseys?


GEOFF MOLSON: I’m proud of our jersey. It’s one of the most recognizable jerseys in the world and people recognize that it represents the winningest team in hockey history. I think a day will come where leagues, be it the NBA, MLB, the NFL or the NHL, will have that discussion. It will be a tough decision to make because our jersey is so special. I don’t think it’ll ever be like soccer where it’s the company logo on the front and not the team’s logo – that would really surprise me to see that. I don’t think that’s something that will come from the teams, but eventually it will be an opportunity the league will want to look at. We won’t be the first team to do it, though, that’s for sure. With something like that, it’s the league that brings it to the teams and the owners vote on the issue. For a decision like that, it would probably require a majority vote from the owners to do it.

I was very happy to see the organization celebrate Pierre Gervais’ 2,500th professional game recently. Can you give us some background on how that came about?

Lacroix wtih Habs owner Geoff Molson
GM: That was a great ceremony. I heard a lot of positive comments from people telling me that no other team would have done something like that. We’re very proud that we did. He’s probably the best-known trainer in hockey history. When other teams come to town, they want to talk to him. When Canada takes part in international competitions, he’s the first one they call. When I learned it was his 2,500th game, it was an easy decision to make. He’s extremely respected in the dressing room. I don’t know if you saw it on 24CH, but there was a clip from the room where you see how happy the players were for him. It was a great moment and very well deserved.

What are your thoughts on the possibility of a team coming back to Quebec City?


GM: I don’t know when, but I think there will be a day where Quebec will have its chance to have a team again. The arena is almost finished now. They’ll be ready. There are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the West. I’ve heard – and you’ve probably heard even more than I have – that there are some cities out West that are very interested in getting a team. That’s something the NHL will bring to the table for the owners to look at, whether they want to relocate a current team or talk about expansion. That will come up one day. Quebec is a great hockey market and we’d be for it. The rivalry would be intense, like it was before. That’s good for the game.

I’m wondering how close you are to the players? Do you talk to them? Are you close to the dressing room or do you stay in your office and just talk to Marc Bergevin?

GM: I’m close to the organization in general. Whether it’s the players, the therapists, the doctors, the GM, I’m close to everyone. But I also keep my distance. It’s important to do both. I think everyone in the family knows I support them. I know them all and they all know that I’ll do anything I need to do for them to help them win. We have a great culture here. Support comes from everyone throughout the organization, but it begins with me. I’m behind them. I stay in touch with everyone. But it’s not like I go out with the players and I never talk to them about their on-ice performances. They see me around and if they had a big game or big play, I’ll congratulate them. And when things aren’t going quite as well, via Marc, I’ll pass along those messages, too.

For access to exclusive First Line Q&A sessions, ticket presale opportunities, contests and more, register online at firstline.canadiens.com.

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

SEE ALSO:
Game Preview: Canadiens vs. Wild
This one's for Guy
Guy Lapointe will be honoured on November 8




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