Happy birthday to former Canadiens Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden, who turned 65 on Aug. 8.
Red Fisher – and many others – believe that Dryden’s book The Game is the best hockey book ever published. As Fisher put it: “Dryden’s portraits of his teammates were classics, his view of head coach Scotty Bowman nothing less than exquisite.”
“He is uncompromising, unmellowing, unable to be finessed; he is beyond our control,” Dryden wrote about Bowman. “Being a nice guy doesn’t count; going to optional practices, coming early, staying late, doesn’t count. As Pete Mahovlich, Cournoyer and Henri Richard have discovered, what you have done before counts only until you can’t do it again. No politics, no favours, it is how you measure up to what you can do, how you help the team, how you perform – they are what count. It is thin comfort.
“There are many successful ways to coach. There are autocrats and technocrats, mean SOBs and just plain folks. What makes Bowman’s style work is an understanding, the understanding that must exist between a coach and his team: he knows the most important thing to a team is to win; we know he does what he does to make us win.
“I like him.”
On Larry Robinson developing from an outstanding player to a “presence,” Dryden wrote:
“It had to do with being so big, so strong, so tough, so agile, that no one knew how good he was and no one wanted to find out.
“A burst of speed, a quick pass, triumphantly in the clear, then looking up and seeing him, and feeling everything inside you slowly sucked out. It had to do with knowing that anything you can do, he can do better, so throw up your hands, shrug your shoulders, put on the brakes – what’s the use? He had a numbing reputation, an imperial manner, and the goods to back them up, a game rooted in defence, opportunistic on offence, limited, economic and dominant. It had to do with what he did and what he didn’t have to do because of how he did it.
“Nowhere was this more clear, or more important, than against the Flyers or the Bruins. They held him in such awe, treating him with an embarrassing, almost fawning respect, that they seemed even to abandon their style of play when he was around, and with it any hope of winning.”
You can read what Dryden wrote about Fisher earlier this year when Red announced he was retiring from The Gazette after 58 years covering the Canadiens by clicking here.
Dryden’s birthday comes a day after Sidney Crosby turned 25. Find out how Crosby earned the nickname “Creature” by clicking here.
(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)