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My First Game: Yvan Cournoyer


MONTREAL | January 27th, 2009
My First Game: Yvan Cournoyer
The Roadrunner will always remember when he flew out of the starting blocks with the Canadiens. There are some things in life you just don’t forget. Like a child’s first steps or someone’s first kiss, one’s first taste of NHL action stays with you.

While the world was still reeling from the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Yvan Cournoyer’s was making his big league debut on November 28, 1963. Even 45 years later, that fateful night remains burned in his memory.

“I was only 19 years old when I was told that I would be making the trip to Detroit to play the next night,” recalled Cournoyer who was busy tearing up the Ontario Hockey Association at the time. “You just can’t forget that first time you are told that you will be playing for the Montreal Canadiens.”

Wearing the No. 25 rather than his eventual trademark No. 12, Cournoyer made his way to Motown to face a group of players who needed no introduction.

“When you think of the Red Wings you think about some of the biggest names in hockey,” continued Cournoyer, a Hall of Famer in his own right. “To play your first game against big names like Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio and Terry Sawchuk is pretty amazing.”

Slated to skate alongside Robert Rousseau and Gilles Tremblay, the young left winger made an immediate impact.

With the Habs sitting on a comfortable 6-3 lead late in the third period, Cournoyer converted a nice feed from Rousseau make it a 7-3 final. Playing in relief of Terry Sawchuk who was pulled earlier in the game, little known Red Wings goalie Harrison Gray allowed the first of Cournoyer’s 428 career NHL goals.

“Even though I only scored the seventh goal that night, I’ve always told people that I scored the game-winner,” said Cournoyer with a smile. “It was everyone’s dream to play for the Canadiens and I count myself lucky to have made my dream a reality. And I got to live it not just for one game, but for 16 seasons.”

Cournoyer’s debut saw him fire four shots on goal on his way to posting a plus-three on the night. A stats line that didn’t go unnoticed by the Habs’ brass.

“I played in five games that season so the Canadiens didn’t have to put me on their protected list,” said Cournoyer, who scored three in those five games. “Our general manager Frank Selke later told me that had he signed me to contract immediately, the Canadiens would have won the Stanley Cup that spring.”

Thankfully for Selke and his successor Sam Pollock, Cournoyer more than made up for that lost opportunity by going on to lead the Habs to 10 Stanley Cups.