Friday, May 21, 2021



It started with a tiger walking by the table. It ended with me as a frazzled kid editor.

Doug Creighton of the lamented Telegram sent me to Montreal to supervise our coverage of the opening of Expo '67 which was a marathon of fighting for access for our photographers and dealing with the bureaucracy of a world fair entering the technological age. At one point, we had to appeal to the Prime minister to get a camera position at the opening ceremony that had been given to TIME. Oh yes, throw in the Maple Leaf-Canadien Stanley Cup confrontation as the Leafs entered their winter and fell from the giant tree of hockey greatness.

Without deadlines for a Sunday edition to bother the crew, I intended on the Saturday as a rum drinker to sample all the concoctions at the opening of the Jamaican pavilion. And so there I was with a spread of  tasty specials in front of me, and with a respected and great conversationalist in Robert Fulford to share my musings on life.

Then Fulford got on the table which knocked over a few glasses. Why, I asked? Some jerk has brought a tiger in, he yelled. And the tiger slunk by me as rather obvious proof.

I never did find out the reason for the tiger but happily for Fulford and the drinks the jerk left with the tiger and the hubbub grew again in the atmosphere of a freeload.

It seemed like a good idea after all that rum to go for lunch at Schwartz's, which along with Bens dominated the famous deli world of Montreal years ago. And then, after a fine feed, to go to the Forum for the second game of the Stanley Cup because my press club friend, Windy O'Neill, had two tickets.

Windy had played briefly for the Leafs in the 1940s as a scrappy undersized defenceman and had famously been fired when he told the legendary dictator, Conn Smythe, that he intended to go to law school in his spare time. Smythe said none of his players were going to study law, so Windy quit and became a lawyer.

Windy had two tickets but it turned out they weren't together. Those were the kind of things that happened to him. So I sat in one corner on the north side and Windy sat on the other.

Towards the end of the first period, Bob Pulford got into a fight with Terry Harper. Since I had played with Pulford on a championship high school football team, I stood up and urged "Pully" on. The entire north end booed and threw stuff at me. I continued until the man behind tapped me on the shoulder and said that he was Randy Ellis and he was the father of Leaf player Ron Ellis and he was with Ron's pregnant wife and I was starting a riot.

So I sat down, and was watched suspiciously for the rest of the game. The Leafs won 3-0 in this battle of the goaltenders with old pro Johnny Bower emerging to some surprise as a replacement for the great Terry Sawchuk. The Leafs were the oldest team to ever win the Cup. 

At this point, I felt so good with this win over the traditional rival that I decided to drop in on my family, which was a shock to Mary and my two young sons when I emerged in Etobicoke after a jaunt down 401 from the Forum.

Back I drove early Monday and decided to look for my overcoat which had vanished on Saturday. There it was still hanging inside the front door at Schwartz's

At this point, the coverage of Expo '67 took second place behind another chore that Creighton had given  me, the wrangling of the Tely photographers, a talented collection of unique individuals who collectively decided that assistant city editors like me were to be tolerated but not respected.

Which led to the next Cup game and the complaints of management ( part owners of the Leafs) that we always lacked dressing room shots after the game. Which led me to insist to a photographer for the next game that he had to get dressing room shots. So he dutifully left with just a few minutes left in the game to get through the crowd to the dressing room. Trouble is, the Leafs scored and then won the game and he was trapped in the corridors of Maple Leaf Gardens and the Tely had no pictures of the goals.

I thought I would be disciplined as well as the photographer in the explosion that followed. I am not using his name because I found out later over the years that still waters do really run deep because this quiet man seemed to have two families at the same time and also a child with one of our colleagues.

It was the days that colour newspaper pictures were a big deal that took extra processing time. So Creighton and Andy MacFarlane decided to recover from not having those goal pictures by running a rare colour picture on the front page from the next Cup game. And the same photographer was dispatched to Montreal because of his superior equipment. 

I waited outside the Forum and he rushed out at the end of the game and threw me several rolls of film. I drove to the airport to catch the last plane to Toronto. The gate was closed when I arrived but I managed to argue past the staff and hammered the door of the plane until a startled stewardess opened it. I managed to persuade her, along with some cash, to take the film to Toronto. I phoned the Night Desk and explained how and where to meet the plane. The pickup was successful, thank heavens.

The phone rang early in the apartment that the Tely had rented in downtown Montreal for our Expo bureau. I answered expecting a pleasant well done from the brass. Instead they yelled. Seems the lighting at the Forum was one f-stop higher on one side than the other because the big TV lights were only on one side. So all our pictures had double images because the photographer was shooting at the wrong aperture.

I don't know who came up with the gimmick caption but the Telegram proudly ran a colour picture on Page One anyway. And we told much of the country, because the Tely in its glory days was the second largest newspaper in the country, that the action in the Leaf-Canadien game was so fast that the camera couldn't catch the players in single sharp images.

That was almost 20,000 days ago and film is obsolete and Schwartz's and Bens are gone and most the players are dead. But not my memories. But what ever did happen to that tiger?

1 comment:

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