It was quite a magical evening last night in Montreal. The Canadiens unveiled their Ring of Honour, complete with several greats from the past present, including Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Dickie Moore, Guy Lapointe, Steve Shutt, Larry Robinson, Dick Duff, Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer and Bob Gainey.
But stealing center stage last night was Elmer Lach and Butch Bouchard. Make that center ice. The two oldest living Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famers were brought for the ceremonial face off.
Now it goes without saying that most of us never got to see them play, and that there is very little video of them in action.
Despite his Art Ross and Hart trophies and Hall of Fame inclusion, Lach may be one of the most underrated players in team history. He played directly in the shadows of Rocket Richard, centering him and Toe Blake for years. He still looks great, far younger than 90. Apparently he still plays golf regularly.
Then there is Butch Bouchard. Brought out on the ice in a wheelchair, you would never guess that this man was once the most feared and physical blue liners in the history of the game. Gordie Howe once called him "The cornerstone of the building."
I couldn't help but wonder what was going on in Bouchard's mind when Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara came over to shake his hand and participate in the ceremonial puck drop.
If there is a player today who could be best compared to Bouchard, it is the giant 6'9" Chara, the biggest and strongest man on the ice. Does Chara have any idea of that? Does Bouchard?
As Bouchard struggled to stand up from his wheelchair and look up at the nearly 7 foot tall monster on skates he may have been thinking "I used to be you, you big bugger!"
Nah, Butch is no different than any one of us, or probably no different than so many people who met Bouchard back when he played. He shook the Chara's hand, undoubtedly thinking "This guy is huge!"
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