MacNeil, Geoffrion ©2020

I couldn’t believe it. It made no sense whatsoever. I was 12, and the hockey history books I was inhaling indicated coaches lasted a long time. Punch Imlach, Sid Abel, Toe Blake, Billy Reay… They’d all been with one team for what felt like forever. Stability behind the bench was seen as a good thing. Especially when they won.

Then the Montreal Canadiens, fresh off their 17th Stanley Cup in 1971, fired coach Al MacNeil (#19*) because he wasn’t French I was told. That was another early indication to me that adults had their issues with each other. Later the engraver left Al’s first name off the Cup. I couldn’t believe it.


David Ward authors books like The Lost 10 Point Night and Bay of Hope.


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  1. Twilight Zone: they look alike, shoot left, share a birthday/Sept 27, and were traded for one another June 1968.
    Geoffrion was a Ranger 66/67 and 67/68.
    Boyer was a Hawk 66/67.
    MacNeil last skated for Chicago 65/66.
    To complete the fun: MacNeil was a Ranger 66/67-so he is there – but not in the picture

    1. hah! nice investigative work, brad — CSI NHL. and from what i can tell, Al wore an ‘A’ on his jersey. so Boyer it is. thanks, as always, for sharing in the fun.

    2. Half the charm of vintage pictures such as these is sorting through the scramble of player trades/movements, sweater numbers, left or right-handedness, etc. Nice catch on this one…I’d have skated right by without question.

      1. thanks for your thoughts, aubrey. you’re so right. but it was brad who nailed this one down. i had considered *some* of the same things brad did, but he took the investigation to a whole new level. i tell people, “In my circle of friends, I’m the old-time hockey expert. But shortly after I walked into that room filled with members of the Society for International Hockey Research, I realized I was just a juvenile compared to that crowd.” and i’m glad for that.

  2. * i’m not 100% sure the hawk pictured here is al macneil. it might be wally boyer. both men wore #19 during this era. plus, i find there are several similarities in their appearance. if you have an opinion on who this pictured black hawk is, i’d like to hear from you.

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