Preseason Game 26 – Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3

Preseason Game 26
Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3
Saturday, October 1, 1983
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Only seconds into the Toronto Maple Leafs’ final exhibition game on Saturday, defenceman Bob Gainey – yes, he’s playing defence for the Montréal Canadiens – picked up the puck in his zone, immediately passed it to Toronto winger Terry Martin, and the Leafs had a 1-0 lead in a game they would eventually lose 5-3.

Rick Wamsley, playing his first full preseason game, tried for the stop, but was caught by surprise.

When National Hockey League prognosticators analyze the Canadiens, the predicted weaknesses are usually goaltending and defence – meaning Wamsley, Richard Sévigny and a young, inexperienced blueline corps that’s so thin right now that left winger Gainey must switch positions.

Defencemen Rick Green and Larry Robinson are out with injuries, and the Canadiens are counting heavily on rookie Kent Carlson to fill the gap until the two veterans return.

Remember when the Canadiens had, arguably, the three best defencemen in the league – Robinson, Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard, who played in front of the best goaltender, Ken Dryden?

Wamsley, a 24 year old from Simcoe, Ont., was the Canadiens’ principal goalie last year when the team allowed a record 286 goals against – the most in the history of the franchise.

Wamsley and Sévigny shared the job, with Wamsley playing in 46 games for a 3.51 average.

It was a season he would rather forget in professional and personal terms.

In September of last year, during the exhibition schedule, his infant son died in a Montréal hospital while the Canadiens were in Ottawa for a game against the Leafs. The 7 month old suffered from hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) and had been ill since birth.

What happened then was that Wamsley stopped being a wide-eyed kid to whom hockey meant everything, who grew up idolizing Jacques Plante but cheered for his favourite team, the Boston Bruins, whenever they were on television, and who dreamed of the day he would wear yellow and black in the Boston Garden.

“The game stopped being as important to me,” he said. “It’s not that I lost my desire to play, it was just that it didn’t seem as big.

“It kind of opens your eyes when something like that happens. You realize that playing the game is fun, but that there’s more to living than just the game.”

One never forgets, he says, but at least the pain of last September has subsided. He simply shrugs off last year as an inconsistent one for the Canadiens.

“My attitude with the club has always been that I would probably let in three goals a game. If we got four, we would probably win. Sometimes, it worked out last year; other times, it didn’t.”

With so much written about the decline of the Canadiens, it’s easy to forget that they had a good regular season last year, despite the disappointing playoff. They won 42 games, lost 24 and tied 14. Wamsley was in goal for 27 of those victories, 12 of the losses and five of the ties.

But, in the first round of postseason play, the Canadiens went out in three successive games to the upstart Buffalo Sabres. Wamsley played in all three and played very well. He recorded a 2.51 goals against average, but his teammates couldn’t score on the Sabres – certainly not the four a game for which Wamsley was hoping.

One difference this year is Plante, the former Canadien great who is tutoring the goalies. When Wamsley played bantam hockey in Port Dover, Ont., Plante was with the Leafs. Wamsley’s reading material at the time consisted largely of Plante’s book, Goaltending.

“Now that he’s with us,” Wamsley said, “it’s like having a library at my disposal. He’s such a good teacher.”

Wamsley says he is more at ease this year, his third in the league. Security has come from signing a multi-year contract with the Canadiens and now, he says, he can concentrate on hockey without worrying about distractions – personal or otherwise.

NOTES: Scoring for the Leafs were Martin, with two, and Rick Vaive. For Montréal, it was Ryan Walter, Guy Carbonneau, Doug Wickenheiser, Greg Paslawski and Keith Acton. The Leafs finished with a 3-6-1 exhibition record…The waiver draft takes place today, but the Leafs are not expected to make any moves.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, October 3, 1983

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 00:25 – Martin

MTL PEN – 01:05 – Lemieux, misconduct
TOR PEN – 01:33 – Korn
MTL PEN – 02:22 – Shutt
TOR PEN – 03:42 – Korn
MTL PEN – 04:15 – Wickenheiser
TOR PEN – 09:51 – Korn
MTL GOAL – 14:01 – Walter (Chabot)
MTL PEN – 15:25 – Lemieux, minor + major
TOR PEN – 15:25 – Graham, minor + major
MTL PEN – 19:52 – Carbonneau
TOR PEN – 19:52 – Vaive

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 02:11 – Martin (Vaive, Gingras)
MTL PEN – 02:54 – Lemieux
TOR PP GOAL – 03:06 – Vaive (Benning, Gingras)
MTL GOAL – 03:26 – Carbonneau (Paslawski, Carlson)

TOR PEN – 03:52 – Salming
MTL PEN – 04:01 – Walter
TOR PEN – 04:01 – Palmateer
MTL GOAL – 08:24 – Wickenheiser (Tremblay, Delorme)
TOR PEN – 15:55 – Graham
MTL PEN – 17:26 – Tremblay, double minor
TOR PEN – 17:26 – Korn
MTL GOAL – 18:56 – Paslawski

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 02:48 – Acton (Shutt, Gainey)

MTL – Wamsley (W, 32-35)
TOR – Palmateer (L, 28-33)

MTL – 10+13+10 = 33
TOR – 9+9+17 = 35