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Helmets Are A Player’s Best Friend
MONTREAL | April 28th, 2014
Helmets Are A Player’s Best Friend
In the world of professional sports, there’s perhaps no single tradition as time-honored as that of the rookie initiation. Montreal in the 1960s was no different. Whenever a young player would make his debut, the Canadiens squad would kindly welcome him into the fold by providing him with a stylish new haircut.

“The team’s veterans had a habit of giving all the rookies terrible haircuts,” explained Gilles Tremblay, who played his first full season with the Habs in 1961-62. “When my turn came, all they left on my head was a tiny tuft of hair, about the size of a loonie.”

From the safety of the club’s dressing room, this probably didn’t seem all that bad. On the other hand, the thought of sporting his new coif on the ice before of thousands of fans proved to be more humiliation than the young forward was prepared to take.

“After realizing I could barely look at myself in the mirror anymore, I decided I would have to wear a helmet the next time I played,” revealed Tremblay. “This was back in a time where players very rarely wore helmets.”

A few days later, the New York Rangers – and ex-Canadiens defenseman Doug Harvey – were in town to play the Habs at the Forum. Having just been traded to his new team that summer, Harvey was still well known among the Montreal players. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for someone to spill the beans on Tremblay’s secret shame.

“One of the guys let him know that the real reason I was wearing a helmet was to hide my haircut from the fans,” recalled Tremblay.

The information certainly didn’t fall on deaf ears, and the six-time Norris Trophy winner decided to have a little fun at the rookie’s expense.

“During the game, every time Harvey and I were battling in the corners, it seemed like he was trying a lot harder to knock the helmet off my head than he was to get the puck,” laughed Tremblay, who thankfully managed to get over the embarrassing experience and go on to win two Stanley Cups with the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge in 1965-66 and 1967-68.

Either way, over the course of his nine seasons with the club, chances are Tremblay had more than his share of opportunities to wield the clippers himself, generously helping induct a fresh slew of rookies in to the Montreal Canadiens family.

See also
Dude, where's my car?
Flower Power
Tom and Dickie
The Welcome Wagon
A Sticky Situation
The old switcheroo