The Penthouse at the Holiday Inn Montreal Midtown was the location of the informal Friday night gathering where members enjoyed drinks with a beautiful sunset over McGill University as a backdrop. Thanks to host Earl Zukerman, everyone's needs were taken care of and refreshments were never beyond reach.
Like the day that was to follow, the evening was well attended by veteran members as well as first time attendees from all corners of Canada and the United States. Frank Heynsbroek of LaSalle, Ontario, showed off a wonderful antique one-piece hockey stick to the delight of many including Howard Morenz Jr. and his son Howard Morenz III and longtime SIHR member and stick expert Brian Logie. The Maritimes were again well represented by David McNeil, Marc Dallaire, Steve Leblanc, Jake Bartlett, Rheal Robichaud, Ernie and Marlene Fitzsimmons and Ron Leger with his photo albums in tow to whet the appetite of all those who have yet to visit his hockey room.
U.S. VP East Whit Bacon shared interesting samples of early hockey media guides from the Montreal Canadiens and the Winnipeg Jets while Utica, New York's Jim Mancuso educated the masses about all aspects of Minor-Pro hockey with his unequalled knowledge on the subject. Roger Godin, SIHR VP U.S. West of Minnesota chatted with Bill Sproule of Houghton, Michigan, and Bill Swift of Connecticut who had been in Montreal for a few days already. Anne, Peter and Paul Kitchen, were on hand with copies of Paul's fabulous Ottawa Hockey Club book, Win, Tie or Wrangle, which several people took home to add to their collections.
As one might expect, Quebec was well represented by several members. In addition to President James Milks and Executive Vice-President Jean-Patrice Martel, others included first time attendee Dan Ahmad, Quebec Nordiques expert Benoit Clairoux of Montreal, Guy Latour of Joliette and hockey historian Michel Lavigne.
Founding President Bill Fitsell led the group in song, and many who participated confirmed that they should stick to research! Many more Ontarians were in attendance from all parts of the province, but the winner of the longest distance travelled award goes to Jamie Vann Struth of British Columbia
Saturday brought an early start to a day filled with business, research presentations and hockey talk. The fifty plus members made their way into the Canadiens media room which served as the meeting place.
After opening words by hosts Earl Zukerman and Carl Lavigne, members heard from guest speaker Rejean Houle who recalled his playing days from junior in northern Quebec to his four Stanley Cup wins with Montreal and his time with the Quebec Nordiques of the WHA. Members each took a moment to introduce themselves during the Roll Call, at which time many first time attendees such as Nicolas Chabot and Normand Laplante were welcomed by the group as was guest Leo Bourgault who is the son of the former Canadiens player of the same name.
Following the Roll Call, the group dealt with business matters which included reports from the Officers and Committee members. Treasurer Paul Bruno reported on the positive financial situation of the group which has been augmented by the implementation of online payments, which President James Milks also declared a success in his report. Lloyd Davis gave an overview of the expanding membership which boasts over 380 members worldwide. Following a suggestion by Bill Fitsell, a moment of silence was observed for members Carleton "Mac" McDiarmid, John F. Pardon, Dave Talbot and Ron Boileau who passed away since the Fall Meeting.
A recess of the business meeting was declared at 11 am so that members could enjoy a tour of the Bell Centre with a visit to the locker room, the Canadiens Alumni room, the press lounge and the press gallery high above the ice before stopping by the Centennial Plaza, where member Howie Morenz Jr. was a hit with hockey fans who posed with the former player and son of the Canadiens legend in front of the bronze statue of Howie Senior. Following a group lunch at the adjoining Cage aux Sports restaurant, members headed back to the media room.
Executive Vice-President Jean-Patrice Martel kicked off the afternoon session with his paper titled How Many Frenchmen Does it Take for the Canadiens to Fly? His research, which garnered a lot of interest among Quebec media outlets, presented a fascinating analysis of the team's success with varying amounts of Quebec born players on the roster. Dave McNeil, son of former Habs goaltender Gerry McNeil, presented The Habs in the Playoffs, 1951-1954 which featured interesting data and rare photos of his father in action. Quebec member Michel Vigneault offered an insightful look at the evolution of NHL arenas and safety features with his paper Evolution of Ice Hockey Arenas: For or Against the Spectators? ahead of former NHL player and member Morris Mott who delivered Small-Town Rinks on the Canadian Prairies which outlined many simple arena buildings which dotted the Canadian West in the past century. Roger Godin, Vice-President USA West, painted a vivid picture of an early US player with his paper Frank "Coddy" Winters - Early American Superstar before the final presentation which was delivered by James Mancuso with Minor League Hockey's Greatest Teams.
Following the research presentations, author Paul Kitchen was honoured with the 2009 Brian McFarlane award for his work on Win, Tie or Wrangle: The Inside Story of the Old Ottawa Senators. Paul also won the award in 2000. Creighton Memorial Fund Committee Chair Ed Grenda briefed the group on the progress of the project, and expects to have more to announce later this summer. James Mancuso put forward a motion which was approved suggesting that SIHR create and adopt a special logo honouring the Society's 20th anniversary which will be celebrated in 2011.
Steve Leblanc and Morris Mott each took the floor to promote their bids to host the 2010 AGM in Halifax and Brandon respectively, which resulted in a tie vote. Paul Kitchen then put forward a motion which was adopted stating that the Executive board would consider the matter and chose the location at a later date.
Upon conclusion, attendees were provided with a souvenir bag compliments of Carl Lavigne and the Montreal Canadiens which contained a media guide and other souvenirs. Congratulations to Earl Zukerman and Carl for their efforts in organizing this memorable event.