Flashback: All in a number for Mondou, Goupille

Red Goupille is helped into a pad designed by team business manager Frank Patrick for use in 1930s body-checking practices. Goupille, 6 feet and 190 pounds, was a rugged defenceman who protected the Habs’ small, fleet forwards.
Montreal Standard photo

The Gazette

The Canadiens will make a grand event of the retirement of Patrick Roy’s jersey, as they should. The goaltender’s No. 33 will be the 14th sweater retired by the club, which is celebrating its 100th season leading to the centennial of the franchise birth 13 months from tomorrow.

There’s no doubt Roy’s Nov. 22 ceremony will be a moving tribute to a Hall of Famer who won two Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe trophies and three Vézinas with Montreal.

And yet, Roy will have only one jersey celebrated. From the Canadiens’ misty past you’ll find two teammates who wore a combined nine of the 13 numbers currently hanging from the roof of the Bell Centre.

The names of the late Armand Mondou and Clifford (Red) Goupille aren’t displayed in the rafters, but the Canadiens’ rich history has been built in part by the pair and by many skaters from their mold who helped pour the team’s foundation.

Over 12 seasons, from 1928-40, Mondou’s sweaters rotated like a James Bond license plate – he wore Nos. 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 44, 64 and 66. From the great beyond, he has shared sweater-retirement glory with Bernie Geoffrion (5), Maurice Richard (9), Guy Lafleur (10), Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer (12), Serge Savard (18) and Larry Robinson (19).

The left-winger from Yamaska played 386 regular-season NHL games, all with the Canadiens, thus changing numbers every 29.7 games.

Goupille was a bruising defenceman who dressed for 222 games. He suited up for parts of eight seasons, from 1935 until he joined the senior league’s Montreal Army in 1942-43, then went off to war and returned to the minor leagues, never again to play in the NHL.

The Trois Rivières native was assigned Nos. 2, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17 and 19, a new Canadiens sweater every 31.7 games. Five of them were later worn to everlasting, ceiling-suspended fame – Doug Harvey (2), Jean Béliveau (4), Henri Richard and Elmer Lach before him (16), as well as Lafleur and Robinson.

Mondou, a checker and gifted playmaker, scored only 47 career goals. But the gritty left-winger played a key role in the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup victory in 1930, a huge upset of the defending champion Boston Bruins, and again in ’31.

Mondou will live in the record books forever, having been awarded the NHL’s first penalty shot. He was stopped in Toronto on Nov. 10, 1934, by Maple Leafs goaler George Hainsworth.

Goupille, a teammate of Mondou for five seasons, banged in only a dozen goals while spending 256 total minutes in the penalty box.

At 6 feet and 190 pounds, he was a rugged positional player who enthusiastically kept opposing thugs from abusing pocket-size forwards Aurel Joliat, Polly Drouin and Johnny (Black Cat) Gagnon, who averaged 5-foot-6 and 148 pounds.

Both Mondou and Goupille were in the Canadiens’ lineup on Oct. 29, 1939, for an unofficial all-star game against an NHL squad. The match before 6,000 Forum fans raised $15,000 for the family of Canadiens and Montreal Maroons great Babe Siebert, who tragically had drowned during a summer swim.

Won 5-2 by the NHL side, the game was refereed by Francis (King) Clancy, who two months later would be involved with Goupille in a rhubarb that rocked the 22-year-old NHL.

The Maple Leafs were Forum visitors, their 6-4 win handing the Canadiens a fifth consecutive loss. But the result was merely a footnote following a sorry circus that involved even Canadiens president Ernest Savard.

Clancy waved off what appeared to be a Goupille goal in a testy third period, infuriating Forum fans who littered the ice with anything that wasn’t nailed down, and a few chairs that were.

Canadiens’ Toe Blake and Toronto’s Bob Davidson promptly engaged in a spirited fight; moments later, Montreal forward Polly Drouin was slammed almost through the boards and retaliated with a slash, which was penalized.

While Clancy was discussing that call with Canadiens coach Pit Lépine and manager Jules Dugal, Savard raced down to the bench, grabbed the referee by the shoulders and shook him so hard that Clancy said his teeth rattled.

In Charles Coleman’s seminal The Trail of the Stanley Cup, Clancy said he "probably should have socked Savard in the nose, but there might have been a riot," and that the rules would levy a fine or suspension.

Amazingly, Savard was unpunished, saying two months later that he’d apologized to Clancy and that the matter was closed.

It was justice served at least for sportswriter Horace Lavigne of the Montreal daily La Patrie, who had written on Dec. 29 that Clancy was "one of the agents of the Canadiens’ defeat," adding that the referee’s work, guided by "Toronto rules," was incompetent, ugly and a travesty.

The Canadiens missed the playoffs that season, struggling since the 1937 death of the incandescent Howie Morenz. Sweater No. 7 had been retired in honour of the Stratford Streak, the first of 13 more thus celebrated through Bob Gainey’s No. 23 last February.

So many of those sweaters, then a thick, heavy wool, had toured the Forum ice on the torsos of Mondou and Goupille, among the less visible men to wear the CH. The pair’s industrious play seven decades ago is worthy of a thought now as their team prepares to raise another number to the roof.

The 1936-37 Canadiens, in a Crown Brand syrup promotional photo. Back row, from left: Trainer Jim McKenna, Roger Jenkins, Babe Siebert, Jack McGill, Toe Blake, Clifford (Red) Goupille, manager Cecil Hart, president J.E. Savard, secretary Jules Dugal, Bill Miller, George Brown, Paul Runge, Walter Buswell, assistant trainer John Laurin. Front row, from left: Armand Mondou, Paul Haynes, Georges Mantha, Joffre Desilets, Pit Lépine, Wilf Cude, Johnny (Black Cat) Gagnon, Howie Morenz, Aurel Joliat, Paul Drouin, Rod Lorraine.
Courtesy Erle Schneidman, canadiensmemorabilia.com

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