Junior Langlois

When Junior Langlois was called up for his first NHL game, hockey was the last thing on his mind.

"I played my junior hockey in Quebec City and when I turned pro I was with Rochester (AHL). We had played our last game of the season in Cleveland on a Saturday night. We had to wait after the game to see if Buffalo won because if they did we were out of the playoffs. Kenny Reardon was there that night from the Canadiens' front office. I guess he was supposed to inspire us or something. Anyway, Buffalo won so we were going to have a party. I was coming into the hotel carrying a case of beer under each arm and our coach, Roly McLenaghan, saw me and said, "You'd better go easy on that stuff. The Canadiens have just called you up."

Langlois thought his coach was joking until the coach handed over a bus ticket to Detroit. Langlois' life long dream was finally going to come true.

"They wanted me to go there and play with the Canadiens in their final game of the season. So that's how I started. I played in the game in Detroit and in the playoffs too."

This all happened in the spring of 1958. Langlois, just 23, had made the Montreal Canadiens in the middle of their 5 consecutive Stanley Cups dynasty. Langlois played 7 of 8 playoff games that season, replacing Dollard St. Laurent who suffered a broken cheekbone, to earn a taste of champagne from Lord Stanley's mug.

Langlois remembers it as an intimidating experience.

"To tell the truth, when I got to Detroit I really didn't want to be there. It was like a dream world even though I had been to training camp a few times. But when you're there for a real game. The atmosphere is so different. There I was with all those stars: Beliveau, Boomer, Harvey, everybody. I kept staring at the floor when we were getting dressed for the game. I was too scared to look them in the eye. Right across from me was the guy with the laser eyes, Rocket (Richard). I never wanted to look that way at all. Every once in a while I'd say to myself 'What am I doing here?' "

A hard hitting, defensive rearguard, Langlois returned the following autumn, earning the now departed St. Laurent's full time spot in the NHL's original six era. With that came two more Stanley Cup titles, in 1959 and 1960.

Langlois was particularly proud of the 1960 team.

"I was on the team when we won 8 straight games in 1960 for the fifth straight Cup. That was something special."

Although he was a part of three straight titles, Langlois never thought of himself as a great player.

"I remember I used to look around at those great players and say to myself that they won the Cup. I was just a player. Oh, I contributed I guess, but it was just to give them a rest. But they still remember me in Montreal, which tells you something about playing for the Canadiens. I can still walk down St. Catherines Street and people will yell at me, "Hey Junior! Comment ca va?" They remember me, and I wasn't a star. It's amazing.

Langlois knew the star on the Canadiens' blue line was Doug Harvey, his defense partner for much of Langlois' first six seasons in the NHL, including his stint in New York with the Rangers from 1961 through 1964. He called playing with Harvey "the easiest thing in the world. When in doubt, just give it to Doug. And if you made a mistake, he'd back you up."

In the mid 1960s he bounced around with Detroit then Boston. He was the last Bruin to wear number 4 before the arrival of Bobby Orr.

In 196-67 Langlois spent one last season in pro hockey, splitting a season with San Francisco and Los Angeles of the old Western (pro) Hockey League. He would meet his future wife in California, and would return in the 1980s.

After retiring he initially got into real estate, something he studied during his off time while with the Red Wings. He later was a sales representative for Canadian Hockey Equipment in Montreal. But he wanted to return to California, and did so in 1983. He moved to Beverly Hills after joining the firm Merrill-Lynch as a stock broker.


Paul,  12:53 PM  

Al Langlois had some bad luck as a member of the Wings in the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals. Bobby Baun's famous overtime goal in Game 6 of the Finals past Terry Sawchuk went in off Langlois. It was a rather harmless looking shot from the right point but the deflection off Langlois was all the Toronto Maple Leafs needed to win the game and knot the series at three games apiece. In Game 7, Gordie Howe, yes Howe, won a face off deep in the Leaf's zone, controlled the puck and sent it along the boards to Langlois at the left point. The puck skipped over Langlois' stick and was corralled by Andy Bathgate, who skated in all alone on a breakaway on Terry Sawchuk. Bathgate went high to the glove side for the Stanley Cup-winning goal that made it 1-0. The Leafs would tack on three goals in the third period when the Wings threw caution to the wind to try to tie the game, making the final score 4-0, Leafs.

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