Red Fisher remembers his friend and Canadiens legend Dickie Moore, who has died at age 84

RED FISHER
SPECIAL TO THE MONTREAL GAZETTE

I am looking for the right words, but where do you start? How do you say goodbye to a dear friend of more than six decades when tears get in the way?

How do you say a final farewell to Dickie Moore, who passed away on Saturday. He was 84.

I have known so many of the NHL’s players since the mid-1950s. Almost without exception, I was full of admiration for their talent, but only a few among them were to become friends.

Dickie was my closest friend.

It goes back to his hockey days in the late 1940s when Canadiens GM Frank Selke Sr. anointed him Canada’s best junior. I watched him mature with the Quebec Senior Hockey League Royals and shine as few others in the NHL.

Even as a junior, he was all about “team”, a player blessed with a special mixture of courage and on-ice talent surpassed only by his decency as a human being. They were qualities which served him so well at the game’s every level. They were what made him so endearing to so many of us who knew him and those who did not.

Who can forget his 1957-58 season with the Canadiens, midway through a dynasty which was to win a record five Stanley Cups in a row? A broken wrist he suffered during a collision with Detroit defenceman Marcel Pronovost threatened to cut short a scoring championship year. Moore, the competitor, wanted to win the Art Ross. He had his eye on the prize, but Moore, the team man, had other ideas.

One night, when the Canadiens were travelling on the train, he asked for a meeting with coach Toe Blake and his linemates, Maurice and Henri  Richard. At the time, Henri was Dickie’s closest pursuer in the scoring race. Dickie told them he could still play with his wrist in a cast, but for how long? And as long as he played with an injury which would sideline most players, how much could he contribute to the line?

“It’s not fair to Henri,” Moore told Blake. “It’s not fair not to allow him  to win the scoring title.”  

The meeting lasted no more than a few minutes. It ended abruptly when Maurice and Henri told Blake: “There’s no damned way he’s going off the line.”

Moore remained on the line. He played with his wrist imprisoned in a cast for the second half of the season. He won the Ross with an NHL-leading 36 goals and 48 assists in a 70-game season. Henri finished four points behind. Moore won it again the following year with 41 goals and 55 assists.

How much did Dickie mean to the Canadiens?

In the six-team league, no rivalry was as fierce as the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens. Hardly a game would pass without the benches being cleared.

One night, in Toronto, Henri moved in to check Frank Mahovlich. The latter had all kinds of room. Instead, he fired the puck directly at Richard’s head.

Dickie led the charge off the bench.

After the period, GM Selke hurried to the Canadiens room with a message for Blake.

“Don’t start Moore in the next period,” he told Blake.

“Why not?”

 “We don’t need that kind of trouble,” Selke snapped.

Dickie started the third period.

Moore, the player, was like the Park Extension district in which he grew up: tough and relentless. His heart was almost too big for his own good. Winning for his team was what he loved; losing was what he hated. If fighting was needed, Moore would fight. If playing with pain was needed, nobody on the Canadiens had to ask him twice.

Speed wasn’t among Dickie’s strong points, but few players performed with more finesse despite bad knees which plagued him throughout his career — and beyond. He didn’t out-skate opponents, but his strength was in out-thinking them. Few players handled the puck as well as he did, and nobody was as good in a one-on-one with a goaltender.

He overcame adversity better than most players, but what he couldn’t handle was the frustration of not playing, which happens to so many players late in their careers.

The Canadiens were in Chicago on this night, only a few days before Christmas. The cracks had widened in the dynasty which had won Stanley Cups from 1955-56 through 1959-60. The Rocket had been forced into retirement prior to the start of the 1960-61 season. Dickie’s best friend on the team, Doug Harvey, had been shipped to the Rangers after the 1961-62 season.

In the two seasons following their astonishing string of five consecutive Stanley Cups, the Canadiens had finished first in their division, but failed to get beyond the first round. Changes were needed and, as a result, a few of the veterans spent a lot of time on the bench. Against the Blackhawks, Dickie was among them.

He knocked on my hotel room door at 2 a.m.

“You awake?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m always awake at two o’clock in the morning. What’s up?”

“I’m going home in the morning,” he said. “I can’t take this any longer. There’s no point hanging around if I’m not playing.”

“Whoa! Did I hear you say you’re quitting the team?” I asked. “Is that the way you want people to remember Dickie Moore? As a quitter? If you leave now, that’s the way you’ll be remembered,” he was told. “And face it, Dickie, right now you’re not doing a hell of a lot out there when you’re on the ice.”

“Can’t score sitting on the bench,” he muttered.

“Have you talked to Toe about it?”

 “I haven’t told him I’m going home, but I’ve made up my mind. If I can’t play, I’d much rather be at home with the family,” said Moore. “I can handle anything the fans will say about this. They’re not sitting on the bench. I am,” he added.

We argued about it for the next two hours. Finally, Moore said: “OK, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’ll go with the team to Detroit. If I don’t play, I’m gone. I’m playing pretty well when I get on the ice, but I can’t buy a goal.”

“Try shooting more often,” he was told. “Whenever you’re on the ice, all you do is pass the puck to Henri.”

Moore was in the starting lineup two nights later. Henri won the faceoff and dropped the puck back to Moore. He was only one stride across centre ice when he released a rising shot at Terry Sawchuk.

Goal!

The press box in the old Detroit Olympia was fairly close to the ice. The instant the puck eluded Sawchuk, Moore raced down the left side of the rink, swept around behind the net and skated along the boards. Then, as he approached the press box he looked up, raised his stick and waved it.

The smile he wore lit up the arena.

Later in the game he scored a second goal.

He was to score 24 goals in 67 games in that 1962-63 season, his last with the Canadiens. He stayed out of hockey the next season, returned to play 38 games with Toronto in 1964-65, stayed out of hockey for the next two seasons but answered Scotty Bowman’s call in St. Louis in 1967-68, when the NHL doubled in size to 12 teams.

The Canadiens arrived in St. Louis for their first meeting with the Blues roughly 20 games into that expansion season. Both teams were struggling at the time. The Blues were in last place of the West Division, the Canadiens last in the East. The Canadiens won what had been a tight game — Bowman’s first with St. Louis as head coach. He had a message for me.

“I’m bringing in your friend,” he said.

“Yeah? Who?”

“Dickie.”

There was no need to mention the surname. For me, going back to his junior days, there was only one Dickie.

The Blues had been attracting only 5,000 fans at most of their games up to that point in the season, but with the addition of Moore and  Harvey, they played to sellout crowds and finished the season in third place with 70 points in a 74-game schedule. Dickie scored only five goals and three assists in 27 games.

The Blues beat Philadelphia in seven games in the first round. Then, they needed a goal from Larry Keenan 4:10 into the second overtime of Game 7 in a 2-1 victory over Minnesota to move into the Stanley Cup final against the Canadiens. They fell in four, but the Canadiens needed overtime goals in two of the games.

Dickie led the Blues with seven goals in 18 playoff games. He assisted on another seven. This time he retired for good.

The greatest moment of his Hall of Fame career came on Nov. 12, 2005 when, through misty eyes, he watched his No. 12 raised to the rafters.

You wonder what players think about at times like these, but what I knew for certain was that he was thinking about his mother, Ida, and his father, Charles, a City of Montreal employee who worked so hard to raise 10 kids. He was thinking about his brothers Charlie, Bill, Eddie, Bert, Tommy, Danny, Reggie, Jimmy and his sister Dolly — wishing they were all there. Sadly, by then, all gone, except Jimmy, who has since passed away, but he could feel their arms around him.

He could feel their love.

He was thinking about his son, Dickie Jr., who had died alone in the darkness of an early morning decades earlier in a one-car accident on a road leading to Arundel in the Laurentians.

He was thinking about his wife Joan, who has never fully recovered from her son’s death.

He was thinking about his daughter Lianne and his son, John.

Laughter always has come easily to Dickie, as it does to all of those marvellous people who have the rare quality of enjoying life to the fullest. Too many people I know don’t regard a day complete unless they can convince themselves and others that life is beating their brains out. They don’t care who knows it. They wear their misery on their sleeves.

They depress me.

Not Dickie. He always made the day brighter.

I can remember a time in 1960 when the Candiens held their training camp in Victoria. One day, we were walking through the halls of the hotel where the team stayed. Not a sound was heard in the hotel’s greenhouse — except for some squeaks.

“What are those strange noises?” he was asked.

“Those aren’t strange noises,” he said. “They’re my knees.”

Like the rest of us, Dickie had his share of bad times. He could be breaking up inside, but he always regarded tears as private things. It stayed in the family. Joy and laughter were what he shared with others … always trying to make the people around him feel better. He cared for people, young and old alike.

I will miss so much about him. His courage. His laughter. His bad jokes. His goodness.

Some years ago, Dickie was involved in a life-threatening accident. It happened in Dorion on Aug. 27, 2006 under a pelting rain. He was slowly leaving a shopping mall’s parking area when he was sideswiped on the driver’s side by a truck.

Forty-five minutes passed before rescuers were able to remove him from his vehicle. He was rushed to the Montreal General Hospital, where doctors discovered he had suffered spinal and neck injuries. Eleven broken ribs. A knee injury. There were fears his kidney had been punctured. There was massive bleeding.

Several days before the accident, Dickie had visited the resting place of his son.

 “It won’t be long now, Richard,” he said. “It won’t be long.”

Dickie Jr.’s death so many years ago had left huge holes which never fully mended in the hearts of those he left behind. A boy: dead at 17. How do you deal with that? 

Somehow, Dickie did. 

On Saturday, when so many of us wept, father and son finally embraced.

(Photo by John Kenney/Montreal Gazette)

 

36 Comments

  1. Peter Young says:

    Dickie Moore was on the team I loved as I grew up, and he’s one of my five favourite Canadiens of all-time. I was so pleased when he won his two scoring titles, breaking the season point-scoring record with the second one. The line he formed with Maurice Richard and Henri Richard was something to behold. Dickie gave his all to the Canadiens, and I’m grateful for the tremendous contributions he made to the club. Well done, Dickie, a true champion. Condolences to his family and friends.

  2. Slack says:

    Wow.

    What a great read.

    Dickie Moore (and Red Fisher) are way before my time but this article made me feel like I’d been right there in the glory days. RIP Dickie.

  3. JohnBellyful says:

    Excellent tribute. Worthy of the man whose smiling face off-ice was as memorable as his exploits on the ice. Moore was one of those players every team needs to succeed; talented and tenacious and devoted to the team.

  4. zak says:

    You are still a great writer Red… Thanks

  5. Ian Cobb says:

    REUNION GAME TONIGHT
    Dickie Moore joins the 1950’s Canadiens 1st line in Heaven. Going to be a heck of a Saturday night game tonight up there.

    #12 D. Moore…#5 B.Geoffrion…#4 J.Béliveau…#9 M.Richard

  6. zip by says:

    Such a wonderful article by Red. The best. I remember as a kid looking up to Dickie Moore. Maybe even more I remember what a great treat it was to be taken to “Dickie Moore’s Dairy Queen” in Dorval. Maybe even more than that the cloud of Mayflies that would surround the DQ every spring…. kid’s memories eh? Thank you Red for a wonderful write up and thanks to Dickie for every game he played.

  7. JUST ME says:

    It is in those sad circumstances that we see who can best describe the essence of a man as mister Fisher did. Also heard an excellent hommage by Mitch Melnick on TSN radio who was saying how much mister Moore was the perfect portrait of the dna of the city of Montreal. How an anglophone can have many very successful careers in a city hostile for many who did not speak french or for that matter other languages of the different founding communities in MTL. To this day, not a construction site goes by without having a sign of les locations Dickie Moore who rents construction equipment … It is a very fitting way of understanding how so very attached to the city he was and charming in his unique way that mister Moore had everyone involved with him.

    We are also lucky that the Habs have such a tradition and a respect for the past that we know about mister Moore accomplishments even without having seen him play.

  8. on2ndthought says:

    RIP Dickie Moore. Condolences to kith and kin, and to the great Canadiens family.

    I remember how kind he was to a very shy boy asking for his autograph, the only one I’ve ever asked for; and I was asking for my dad!

    “a cannonading drive”

  9. WVHabsFan2 says:

    Thanks, Save the puck. I am a curious guy by nature.

  10. FenceSurfer says:

    Rest in peace Mr. Moore.

    Mr. Fisher penned a wonderful tribute.

  11. WVHabsFan2 says:

    My condolences to Mrs. Front and her father’s side of the family.

  12. WVHabsFan2 says:

    Can anyone tell me what happened to his son at age 17? How/ why did he pass away so young. Thanks. RIP Dickie.

    • savethepuck says:

      He was thinking about his son, Dickie Jr., who had died alone in the darkness of an early morning decades earlier in a one-car accident on a road leading to Arundel in the Laurentians.

      “They don’t hang Conference Championship Banners from the rafters here”
      Carey Price

  13. montreal ace says:

    Dickie Moore was truly, one of the best, to play for the Canadiens. Red is a wonderful writer, a very nice tribute to Mr. Moore

  14. Danno says:

    Thank you Red Fisher for the beautiful tribute to your friend Dickie. Well done Sir.

    ________________________________________

    “Hey Richard, two minutes for looking so good!”
    Updates, highlights & great discussions on all things Habs

  15. Comment_Bot says:

    It would be nice if you could coax Red to do the show.

  16. habsfan0 says:

    RIP Dickie Moore.
    As they did a year ago when Jean Beliveau passed, I believe officials at American Airlines Center in Dallas will offer a moment of silence prior to the game tonight.

  17. Thank you for a beautiful tribute Red; another giant now sleeps.

  18. SmartDog says:

    Great article by Red above.

    I’m not old enough to know Moore’s career but he sounds like a helluva player and person. RIP Dickie.

    ————————————-
    Listen to the Smart Dog. He knows his poop!

  19. warped says:

    Sad news. Dickie Moore, classy man, always seemed so positive.
    In the last 13 months we’ve lost MTL greats Gilles Tremblay, Jean Beliveau , Elmer Lach , Dollard St Laurent , Jim Roberts, Bert Olmstead and now Dickie.

  20. Cal says:

    RIP Dickie Moore. Another of the greats has breathed his last and taken his first steps as a Hab immortal.

  21. Danno says:

    By Dennis Kane: R.I.P. Dickie Moore

    ________________________________________

    “Hey Richard, two minutes for looking so good!”
    Updates, highlights & great discussions on all things Habs

  22. brennan2 says:

    I had the great pleasure of meeting Dickie Moore once and his twinkling sense of humour. What a delightful man. RIP Dickie Moore.

  23. B says:

    Addison scored his 13th in a 4-2 loss to Kingston this afternoon.

    –Go Habs Go!–

  24. The Gumper says:

    Another Canadiens great gone too soon and beautifully remembered by yet another Canadiens legend. Well done Red.
    That’s a helluva Club we have up there…

    ———————————————————————————————————-
    When the boogeyman goes to bed at night, he checks under his bed for Chuck Norris. When Chuck Norris goes to bed at night, he checks under his bed for James Harrison.

  25. WindsorHab-10 says:

    RIP Dickie Moore.

    Let’s win this one for Mr Moore.

  26. Old Bald Bird says:

    I sat in a streetcar with my best friend in one of those two years when he won the scoring title. I can remember a somewhat inebriated commuter going on and on saying, “Moore’s gonna make it.” And he did.

  27. JUST ME says:

    Good read ! Mister Moore was a class act. I remember working at the forum as a student crossing his path in the halls. He was a humble man and once he knew your face always sent a smile and waved a polite hello that made your day. Getting to be saluted by such a man could make your day everyday ! R.I.P.

  28. sprague cleghorn says:

    So sad to hear of the passing of the truly great Dickie Moore. My son was born more than thirty years after Dickie played his last game, but he wore number 12 and had Moore’s picture on his wall. Moore was quite simply one of the very, very best Habs of all time.
    … ‘ow could we forget that?

  29. BriPro says:

    My heart goes out to his loved ones. I recently lost my best friend. Mourning takes some time.
    I wish them a heart full recovery and peace in knowing what a positive figure Mr Moore was.

  30. HabinBurlington says:

    RIP Dickie.

    Wonderful read from Red.


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