Talbot room action

MONTREALJean-Guy Talbot, the second-last surviving member of a group of 12 players who won an unprecedented five consecutive Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens from 1956-60, died Thursday in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. 

He was 91.

A dependable, stay-at-home defenseman, Talbot played 1,066 regular-season games between 1955-71, skating 801 for the Canadiens. He would go on to play for the Minnesota North Stars, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and finally the Buffalo Sabres, getting 285 career points (43 goals, 242 assists).

Retired as a player, Talbot would coach the Blues from 1972-74 and the New York Rangers in 1977-78 before settling in Trois-Rivieres, about 85 miles northeast of Montreal.

Talbot Harvey

Jean-Guy Talbot playfully uses a broom handle to point out the Canadiens captain’s “C” of teammate Doug Harvey before the 1960-61 season.

With his wife, Pierrette, Talbot bought property across the St. Maurice River from his birthplace of Cap-de-la-Madeleine, happy to raise the couple’s three children in farm country far from the city where he achieved his hockey fame.

He remained a popular ambassador for the Canadiens, especially when he dropped into Bell Centre for a game and held court with his lively sense of humor in the team’s alumni lounge.

Talbot, forwards Henri Richard and Claude Provost and defenseman Bob Turner each won the championship with Montreal in their first five NHL seasons. In total, 12 players were members of each of those teams from 1955-60, as were Toe Blake, who won the Cup in each of his first five seasons as an NHL coach, and general manager Frank Selke Sr.

Only Don Marshall, 91, is still alive from that group.

In April 2020, on the 60th anniversary of the Canadiens’ historic fifth straight championship, Talbot reflected on a remarkable band of brothers for whom winning the Stanley Cup was virtually a rite of spring.

Talbot 1956 Canadiens

The 1955-56 Canadiens, their first of five consecutive Stanley Cup champions. Bottom row, from left: Dollard St. Laurent, Doug Harvey, assistant GM Ken Reardon, coach Toe Blake, Butch Bouchard, president Hartland Molson, GM Frank Selke Sr., Tom Johnson, Jean-Guy Talbot. Middle row: Public relations director Camil Desroches, Dickie Moore, Henri Richard, Maurice Richard, Jacques Plante, Bernie Geoffrion, Jean Beliveau, Bert Olmstead, public relations assistant Frank Selke Jr. Top row: trainer Hec Dubois, Claude Provost, Bob Turner, Jackie Leclair, Kenny Mosdell, Floyd Curry, Don Marshall, trainer Larry Aubut.

The 1960 triumph was the product of a four-game sweep of the Chicago Black Hawks in the Semifinals and a four-game dusting of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Final.

Only once previously -- the 1952 Detroit Red Wings -- had a team gone undefeated through two playoff rounds to win the Cup.

“Our five straight is a record that will never be broken, and that’s a very good feeling," Talbot said proudly at the time.

“We were a family. After every game we’d go out together for something to eat, with our wives, have a couple drinks, go home and return to the rink the next day. It was pretty good.

“We’d travel by train to games on the road. We’d talk a lot because we had lots of time. ‘Tonight I played bad, next time I’ll be better,’ and another guy would say, ‘You should give me the puck more.’ We were always talking about the games.

“My berth on the train was in front of Jean (Beliveau, the future captain). Some trips, there wasn’t a dining car, so we’d bring our own food. Jean and I would eat our sandwiches, talk and go to sleep, and wake up in the next city.”

Talbot 5 straight

From a Montreal Canadiens media guide, a salute to the 12 players, coach and GM on all five of the team’s 1956-60 Stanley Cup champions.

Eight players on the 1960 Canadiens were bound for the Hall of Fame: forwards Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Dickie Moore, and brothers Maurice and Henri Richard, defensemen Doug Harvey and Tom Johnson, and goalie Jacques Plante.

Add former player Ken Reardon, who was Canadiens vice-president that season, as well as Selke and team president Hartland Molson, each in the Builder category, and Blake (as a player) as others enshrined.

Harvey would win the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 1959-60, his fifth in six seasons, while Plante was awarded his fifth straight Vezina Trophy as the goalie whose team allowed the fewest goals (178, two fewer than Glenn Hall of Chicago).

The championship would be the crowning achievement for a remarkable dynasty that before puck drop the following season would see the retirement of captain Maurice Richard, who had won eight titles and scored a then-NHL record 544 goals during his 18-season, injury-riddled career.

Harvey would succeed Richard for one year, to be followed by Beliveau for a decade when Harvey was traded to the Rangers.

No matter how dominant those five-straight Canadiens were, Talbot remembered them being driven by a constant fear of failure, in their own eyes and those of their fans who didn’t merely hope for a championship, they fully expected one.

Talbot portrait pose

Jean-Guy Talbot in a newspaper publicity photo, and with teammates Claude Provost (left) and Bob Turner.

“We worked for those championships, don’t you worry,” Talbot said. “Before every game, we were afraid of losing. We worked so hard and the harder we worked, the more we won. We had a super team, all the players were like brothers, OK? Everybody went everywhere together, we never had a fight.

“The money we made wasn’t much, but it was better than lots of people. I was happy, going to the NHL and winning beyond that. Lots of good players never won the Stanley Cup -- Gilbert Perreault, Marcel Dionne, Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Bill Gadsby … all good players. You have to be in the right place at the right moment.”

Talbot was left unprotected in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft after having played 801 games for the Canadiens, including winning two more championships in 1965 and 1966. He was claimed by the North Stars, who he played four games with before being traded to Detroit.

The Red Wings then put him on waivers in January 1968, and Talbot was picked up by the Blues, who he played 172 games with through 1970, including advancing to the Cup Final three times.

Talbot dressing room

Jean-Guy Talbot (left) in the Canadiens’ 1956 Montreal Forum dressing room with Tom Johnson, coach Toe Blake, Bernie Geoffrion, captain Butch Bouchard and Ken Mosdell.

If Noel Picard is remembered as the Blues defenseman who pitchforked Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins into the air for the latter's historic Game 4 Cup-winning overtime goal in 1970, Talbot had maybe the best view of it, standing directly behind goalie Glenn Hall.

“We never won the Cup in St. Louis,” Talbot said. “But I’d tell the guys, ‘We’re not supposed to win it. The other guys are the ones who’ll be stressed, not us.’ But we had lots of fun and we didn't go to the Final for nothing.”

Talbot's 17-season career ended with the Sabres in 1970-71. His offensive totals were pedestrian at best, but he was tremendously valuable to his teams for his physical play and ability to move the puck.

Talbot spoke with NHL.com during the early days of the pandemic, he and his wife staying mostly indoors, mindful of the coronavirus. He was happy to be in good health but mindful of two health crises in recent years “that brought me close to death.

“At my age, I’m lucky to be alive, but I’m still here. Hard work does good for you.”

On Friday, the Canadiens announced Talbot’s death, expressing the team’s sympathies to his wife, three children and many grandchildren and friends.

Top photo: Jean-Guy Talbot laces up in the Canadiens dressing room, and in action defending Canadiens goalie Guy Worsley against Toronto’s Eddie Shack (bottom right) and Bob Pulford.