report on my interview with Dick Irvin, Jr.
- As soon as I finished my interview with Fleming Mackell, I had to
pour on the coal to make it to my interview with Dick Irvin, Jr. at
his home in Pointe Claire. Luckily, traffic was light and I made it
on time. Irvin lives alone in a very lovely home. (His wife had died
recently and Irvin told me he was thinking of selling the house).
The interview only lasted an hour. Irvin needed to get his taxes done
but it was a very good interview nonetheless.
The interview consisted of two parts. In the first part Dick (he
insisted that I call him Dick and not Mr. Irvin) discussed his late
father's coaching career with Toronto, Montreal, and Chicago. He told
me how his father got his jobs with Toronto and Montreal and how he
led his teams.
I asked Irvin about how and why his father left Montreal and I
mentioned what Tom Johnson said about Dick Irvin, Sr. being "pushed
out" and Irvin concurred slightly but he added that his father felt
that he had gone as a far as he could with Montreal and that he
needed a new challenge.
He then discussed how his father died of cancer.
Then the conversation turned to Maurice Richard. Irvin told me that
Richard was a mercurial personality until near the end of his life
when he mellowed a bit. He said you didn't know which Maurice Richard
would turn up. Sometimes he could be approachable and other times the
walls would come up.
Irvin told me that he was present in the Forum the night Richard
broke his leg during his rookie season. He was at the game with his
mother and a doctor friend of his parents. He saw Richard get hit and
slowly crumple to the ice and the doctor friend told the
Irvins, "that man just broke his leg" and he was right."
Dick told me he had played hockey himself and kept playing until he
graduated from college. After he got his degree, he worked for an oil
firm. It was around 1960-1961 that he got involved with broadcasting.
Not hockey at first. He was doing local TV work and, later, got to
meet Brian McFarlane who asked him if he wanted to get invovled with
HNIC. Irvin agreed and began his hockey work in the mid-1960s.
That led to a discussion of working with the late Danny Gallivan.
Irvin reaffirmed what he wrote in his book "Habs" about Gallivan.
Gallivan coined all those delicious phrases all by himself. It all
came from him. I was curious about that. I asked Dick if he had any
aides coining phrases or did Irvin himself ever suggest a
catchphrase. Irvin said it was strictly Danny Gallivan's doing.
He discussed Gallivan's personality. He said, outside the broadcast
booth, Gallivan was like Maurice Richard, a mercurial personality. He
said Gallivan never really socialized with people. Irvin and his
colleagues used to call Gallivan "room service" because he never
dined with Irvin and the crew. he stayed in his room. Irvin told me
the only time they were together was in the broadcast booth.
Irvin told me that Rene Lecavalier was the same way in terms of
Irvin told me some general anecdotes about broadcasting in the
Original Six era. He told me that there was never a time when they
were doing a show in Boston that they didn't have mice scurrying
under their feet in the broadcast booth. he made a great point. What
he liked about the old arenas was the quirkiness in each of the six
places. He said today's arenas don't have that. He told me that he
would talk to today's players and ask them what it was like playing
in today's arenas and they all say there is no difference at all.
Each arena has the same dimensions, the same ads, the same organ
music, the same exploding scoreboards, the same rallying cries. After
awhile it becomes a blur.
Irvin made another point. Back then you only had 120 players and you
knew them all. Today there are 600 and you can't "know" them as well
as you did back then. He said he was glad he retired when he did.
Irvin talked about the Montreal Forum. He said he appreciated the
nostalgia of the place but he said that Montreal made the right move
in leaving it and moving to the Bell Centre. He said the Forum's
physical plant left a lot to be desired. He felt the ice surface was
poor and had some other minor complaints too.
When it was over, Irvin graciously autographed my paperbook copy of
his book "Habs". I told him I got the idea of doing my oral history
from reading his book. He said something nice to me. He said that he
could tell that I was a historian by the in-depth questions I asked
him. He told me when he did "Habs" all he did was record 20-30 minute
telephone conversations with the various players interviewed in the
What amazed me the most about Dick Irvin was the way he answered my
questions. The interview was not a classic Q and A format. I would
ask a question but his answers were these very beautiful, involved
flawlessly prepared presentations. It was like I was in the broadcast
booth with him. His voice was so cool, calm, well-modulated, and
fluid. I was in awe listening to him. He never hemmed or hawed over
words. It was like he was reading a script. When it's all said and
done, Dick Irvin, Jr. truly deserves to be in the HHOF as a
broadcaster because he gave me a splendid performance.