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Yvan Cournoyer tames his eighty years with humor

Yvan Cournoyer tames his eighty years with humor

When they say time flies… Today Yvan Cournoyer celebrates his 80th birthday. It’s almost unimaginable for hockey fans who saw him play in his early days with the Canadian. Next Tuesday, it will also be 60 years since Cournoyer, then a junior, played his first game for the Habs. He scored the first of his 428 regular season goals in a 7-3 win over Detroit.

Cournoyer smiles when I ask him what it’s like to be 80 years old.

“If you have health, age is secondary,” he answers.



QMI Photo Agency, Mario Beauregard

Just looking at him, we can see that the new octogenarian is keeping himself fit. His hair may be bald, but his shirt suits his muscular frame.

The man still consists entirely of arms and legs.

Good feeling

The interview lasted twenty minutes when he returned to his age.

“Being 80 years old is hard,” he adds in a serious tone.

“But I’m not celebrating my birthday. I’m celebrating because I’m still alive at 80!” He says while laughing.

Typical reaction from him.

Cournoyer has a great sense of humor. It’s his way of putting things right.

But know that he is happy and comfortable in his own skin. Exudes happiness. He lives a good life with his charming partner, Evelyn, who for her part prefers to remain in the shadows. For her, the public aspect of their relationship is entirely down to her famous husband.

Member of two lineages

Not surprisingly, Cournoyer gives a positive assessment of what life has brought him so far.

“Maybe I’ll do the same thing again,” he says.



QMI Photo Agency, Mario Beauregard

“Hockey is my life and it still is. When the Canadian loses, I don’t go to bed in a different state of mind. It’s fun when the team wins. When you play in the playoffs, my hands still sweat during games.

The Canadian won the Stanley Cup 10 times during Cournoyer’s 15 full seasons with the team, which was largely made up of Quebec talent.

We will never see such dominance again.

Does this reality sadden Cournoyer?

He answers: “Yes and no.”

“I recently told Vincent Damphousse that he was lucky to win the cup in 1993. The players in that edition are still together. At my age, there are not many players left who were there when I started.

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Cournoyer divides his 10 Stanley Cup championships into two parts. His first five conquests were those won with Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Claude Provost, Jean Tremblay, Ralph Backstrom, Lorne Worsley and other players of the era.

The next generation consisting of Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemire, Steve Schott, Ken Dryden, Guy Lapointe and others were the architects of the 1973 invasion and who covered the period from 1976 to 1979.

“the timing “It’s a really important factor,” explains Cournoyer.

Century Series or 10 Stanley Cups?

Cournoyer saw the National League turn around during his 15 seasons with the Canadiens.

In its first three years, the NHL had six teams, and the Habs still travel by train. Junior Canadian players, including them, attended the parent team’s training sessions, facilitating their integration into the professional world.



QMI Photo Agency, Mario Beauregard

The players were a big family.

“The teams played each other 14 times a year,” he recalls.

“The competition was exceptional.”

Then expansions followed each other at a rapid pace. The number of rosters increased to 17 when a back injury forced Cournoyer to retire from competition in 1979.

But the 1972 Century Series was perhaps the event that most profoundly defined Cournoyer in his career.

“This series completely changed the game of hockey,” he says.

“We knew nothing about the Russians. We were told that they played with worn-out skates and bad sticks and that they did not rely on good goalkeepers. For my part, I told Frank Mahovlich that they should be good judging by their numerous victories in tournaments and Olympic Games.



QMI Photo Agency, Mario Beauregard

“Sometimes I wonder if I would rather win the Series of the Century than the 10 Stanley Cups I won.”

Plan B

In the end, Cournoyer had the career that admirers of Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau dreamed of at the time. It was the Rocket that opened the door to hosting top Quebecois players who moved to the National League during the second half of the 20th centuryH a century.

Not only did Cournoyer want to play in the best league in the world, he definitely wanted to be with the Canadian.

What if it doesn’t work?

“I was going to be a mechanic,” he says.

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“It was my father Shop On Memorial Street in Lachin. When we were young, we didn’t have the opportunity to go to school very often due to the many bus trips we took.

“So I learned the trade with my father. I liked it, I liked the smell that came out of the machines and spread throughout the place Shop. We had about ten employees working for us. My father’s offer Shop To my brother who said no.

“For me, I made a mistake. I played hockey!”

Faster and faster than ever!

It is impossible to summarize the career of a Canadian legend like Yvan Cournoyer in two texts. It will take a book.

So let’s start this overview with his famous nickname, WoodpeckerBrought to him by Mark Mulvoy, a former journalist at Sports Illustrated: “When I met him, I told him I was going to have to skate faster for the rest of my career!” says Cournoyer.

“I was lucky to grow up so fast. I always played with players bigger than me in those years because of my skating. I had great acceleration power. Guys told me I didn’t look young. It was my speed that allowed me to reach the National League.

His first game in the NHL

“I arrived at the hotel in Detroit with my skates and my stick. When I saw Henri Richard, I told him I was coming to help the team. He looked at me with a look that said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re coming to help us, of course!’ But in my mind, I wasn’t there to play against Detroit. I was there to play against “Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and the best players in the National League. We won 7 to 3 and after the game I told Henry I had scored the winning goal. It was the seventh goal! That’s how it started in the National League.”

The lost cup 1967

“People often ask me if I remember all 10 of my Stanley Cup victories. I say no, but I add that I remember the year we lost them.” [finale de 1967 contre Toronto]. This defeat helped us understand that we should have respected the opponent in front of us more.

Availability of Jean Beliveau

“He was a truly exceptional leader. He told us that he was our captain during the winter, and that if we had problems between seasons, he was also our captain during the summer. He was like a father to me.”

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Saturday evening meetings

“I often tell people who saw me play that we grew up together, me on the ice and you in front of the TVs. We had meetings every Saturday evening. We knew you were watching us and that we had to win.”

Russian players

Ivan Cournoyer gave everything during his career, but we felt the anger in him when he faced the Soviet team, as they were called at the time. “The Russians said they played better than us in the Century Series. We were waiting for them when we played them at the Forum on New Year’s Eve in 1975. We knew them, we knew what we had to do. We dominated them 38-13 in shots on goal.” [mais Vladislav Tretiak avait eu le meilleur sur Ken Dryden dans un verdict nul de 3 à 3].

“Years later, as we were passing through Montreal, I invited Tretiak to my house. Since it was hot, I asked him if he wanted to relax in our pool. I had a red swimsuit that I had given him. I told myself that it couldn’t be “There’s a Russian in my pool. We’ve become good friends.”

To the forum by snowmobile!

“It was during the winter of 1973. Jacques Lemaire and I had to drive back on our way to the Forum for a match because of a snowstorm. I lived in Baie d’Orfey and Jacques in Beaconsfield. We each took our own snowmobiles and used the 2-20 to get to the Forum. For nothing in the world, I would miss this game between us and the Flyers.

Hockey today

“I like it, I don’t like it. Everything goes very quickly. The equipment is superior, the players are better trained. But I have always said that the rinks are too small. Without saying that we should adopt Olympic dimensions [200 pieds de longueur par 100 pieds de largeur]we should expand our decks by 10 feet [de 85 à 95 pieds]”.

Would he have enjoyed playing three-on-three in overtime?

He added: “Someone recently pointed out to me that I am not allowed to cross the red line at the right time. But there, there is no more!