I went to university in Ottawa. (Go Gee-Gees!) Like a lot of university students, I needed a part-time job to scrape together enough money for wings and beer and possibly textbooks if there was enough left over. In my third year, a buddy of mine got me a job with the Ottawa 67's. And that's where I met one Guy Lapointe.
A six-time Cup winner with the Habs, Pointu was the least celebrated of the "Big Three" of Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Lapointe on the juggernaut 70's Habs. Robinson won multiple Norris trophies and dominated with his size, shot, and fists; Savard was the regal Senator with the spinerama, the first defender to win the Conn Smythe; but Lapointe was a four-time all-star, holds the Habs single season record for goals by a defenceman with 28 and was probably the most complete defender of the three. After his playing days, Lapointe got into scouting and was doing just that at a 67's game back in 1995 when I decided it was time to meet a Habs legend.
See, at those 67's games, we sold programs. Easy job, easy money, and we were told to knock off and count the money midway through the game, so we got to see a lot of hockey. Since the 67's never drew enough to fill the over 9,000 seat Civic Centre, we could pretty well sit where ever we wanted. My buddy Derek used to like to sit high up in the corners, "where the scouts sit" so we could "see everything develop." Well, one evening we wandered into the corner and saw Lapointe, notebook in hand watching the 67's battle the Bulls or Frontenacs or Generals or whomever.
Now, I'm not an autograph seeker by any stretch of the imagination, but growing up in a Habs household I was well versed in the awesomeness of the 1970's Canadiens. This was an autograph that, at the very least, would make a cool present for my Dad. I was apprehensive about approaching Lapointe, since the man was working, but after seeing a steady stream of people getting signatures, I headed down to the souvenir stand for something that Lapointe could scratch his name on. I was thinking a puck.
Some history before we proceed: Before local boy made good Jeff Hunt purchased the 67's and ramped the marketing, in-game experience and professionalism of the organization up to acceptable levels, the Barber Poles were a pretty sad-sack front office. The previous owner was a nice man but cheap, and he hung on to a lot of employees well past their time. The marketing department was a shambles, and the team was taking it on the chin after the recent arrival of the Sens. The in-game DJ doubled as the mascot, so he made a mixed CD and had his wife hit play and pause during the game while he worked the crowd. You could tell time by what song was playing. It was sad. The souvenir selection was on a par with the rest of the place, meaning there were no souvenir pucks for the precious Lapointe signature. I sheepishly approached a Hall-of-Fame defenceman from one of hockey's greatest dynasties with what seemed a comically over sized Montreal Canadiens pennant.