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You can add another name to the Canadiens’ long list of Hall of Famers — Youppi!
The Canadiens’ orange, furry mascot was inducted into The Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind., on Sunday in a virtual ceremony because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mascot Hall of Fame was founded in 2005 by David Raymond, the original Phillie Phanatic. It was originally an online-only hall, but on Dec. 26, 2018 it became an interactive children’s museum with a permanent home. The hall’s mission is to honour mascot performers, performances and programs that have positively affected their communities.
Youppi! was one of four inductees in this year’s class, joining the The Oriole Bird from Baltimore, Boomer of the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts’ Blue, bringing the total number of mascots in the hall to 25.
Youppi! is the first member of the Mascot Hall of Fame to work for two teams in different sports. Youppi! joined the Canadiens — becoming the team’s first mascot — in 2005, a year after the Expos left Montreal to become the Washington Nationals. Youppi! made his debut with the Expos in 1979.
Youppi! also made history on Aug. 23, 1989, when he became the first mascot to be tossed from a Major League Baseball game. In the 11th inning of a 0-0 game, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda grew tired of Youppi!’s antics on the roof of his team’s dugout and had him thrown out of the game by an umpire.
“Get the f–k off my dugout,” Lasorda could be heard shouting at Youppi! during the seventh inning after he had been stomping on the dugout roof. “I don’t want him jumping on my dugout.”
Four innnings later, Youppi! had changed into pyjamas and appeared to be taking a nap on the Dodgers’ dugout. That’s when Lasorda really lost it.
But Claude Hubert, who was in the Youppi! costume that night, tells a different version of the story.
“The fans were making lots of noise on the dugout,” Hubert e xplained to Telé-Québec’s Guylaine Tremblay in a 2017 interview .
“Dodgers coach Tommy Lasorda came out and the first thing he saw was me,” Hubert added. “I explained that it wasn’t me, it was the fans. He understood, but the third-base umpire (Bob Davidson) thought he was yelling at me, so he said ‘Youppi!, get out of the game.'”
The Dodgers eventually won 1-0 in 22 innings on a home run by Rick Dempsey in a game that lasted six hours and 39 minutes. Only a portion of the 21,742 fans who showed up at the start of the game at Olympic Stadium were still present at the end.
Hockey purists in Montreal weren’t happy when Youppi! first joined the Canadiens, but in recent years you could argue he has been their most consistent star and kids’ faces at the Bell Centre still light up when they see him.
This Date in Expos History
Speaking of the Expos, it was on this date (June 15) in 1997 that Henry Rodriguez hit a home run that hit the technical rim at Olympic Stadium in a 10-2 win over the Detroit Tigers. The ball was estimated to have travelled 525 feet.
Rodriguez finished the 1997 season with 26 homers and 83 RBIs, after belting 36 homers and picking up 103 RBIs the previous season, when he earned the nickname “Oh Henry”.
The Expos traded Rodriguez to the Chicago Cubs in on Dec. 12, 1997 in exchange for pitcher Miguel Batista.
“The promised slashing of the Expos’ payroll is complete,” the late Ian MacDonald wrote in the next day’s Montreal Gazette. “ Well, who else can they unload?
“With the trade of slugger Henry Rodriguez to the Chicago Cubs yesterday, the Expos have now shed their 10 best-paid players,” MacDonald added. “Almost incredibly, just a little more than two months after the end of the 1997 season, the Expos have cut almost $15 million from their $18-million payroll.”
Rodriguez was third on the Expos’ payroll at $2.3 million.
Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit the longest home run ever at Olympic Stadium on May 20, 1978, driving the ball into the red seats in second deck in right field. The blast was estimated to have travelled 535 feet. The Expos placed a yellow seat where the ball landed to honour Stargell. The seat was moved to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., after the Expos moved to Washington.
Habs’ Kotkaniemi looking good
Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s season came to an end on March 6 when he suffered a spleen injury while playing for the Laval Rocket in an AHL game against the Cleveland Monsters. The Rocket won the game 5-1 and Kotkaniemi spent the night in a Cleveland hospital before returning to Montreal the next day.
Kotkaniemi didn’t require surgery, but the Canadiens announced a few days later that the 19-year-old centre was done for the season. In 36 games this season with the Canadiens, Kotkaniemi had 6-2-8 totals and was minus-11 before being sent down to Laval. With the Rocket, he had 1-12-13 totals in 13 games and was even in plus/minus.
When Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin held a media conference call on May 27 he couldn’t provide an update on Kotkaniemi’s condition after his spleen injury.
“At this point and time, I don’t have an idea because he returned home to Finland and since he has not seen our medical staff I can’t give an update on that,” Bergevin said.
On the weekend, Kotkaniemi provided some good news for Canadiens fans when he posted a photo of himself playing tennis on his Instagram account. The teenager definitely looks like he has been working out.
Lightning’s Killorn a Masterton candidate
Forward Alex Killorn is the Tampa Bay Lightning’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, which goes to the NHL player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
Shea Weber is the Canadiens’ nominee for the award.
Killorn, who grew up on Montreal’s West Island, was selected by the Lightning in the third round (77th overall) of the 2007 NHL entry draft, but didn’t make his NHL debut until the 2012-13 season. After playing midget hockey for the Lac St. Louis Lions in 2005-06 and attending high school at Loyola, Killorn spent two years at Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts, and then spent four seasons playing for Harvard University while earning a degree in government.
Killorn grew up as a big Canadiens fan and former captain Saku Koivu was his favourite player.
This season, Killorn set career highs in goals and points with 26-23-49 totals in 68 games. The 30-year-old has also taken on a leadership role with the Lightning and is the team’s NHLPA representative. During the NHL’s COVID-19 shutdown, Killorn has started a “Dock Talk with Killer” Instagram series in which he rides his jet ski around Tampa and pulls into the docks of Lightning teammates and other pro athletes in the area to interview them using questions sent to him by fans.
Here’s link to a column I wrote about Killorn five years ago and how his parents taught him to use hockey to get a university degree from Harvard.
New head of hockey at LCC
Neil Blunden is the new head of hockey operations at Montreal’s Lower Canada College, replacing Kirk Llano, who has left the school after 17 years to pursue a new career in hockey management.
The 30-year-old Blunden graduated from LCC in 2009 before going to McGill University, where he was a defenceman on the Redmen hockey team that won the 2012 national championship — a first for the school. He graduated from McGill with a bachelor’s degree, majoring in political science.
Blunden spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Redmen.
I went to Centennial Regional High School in Greenfield Park and we used to play against LCC at the school’s old rink, which was an artificial surface but was basically outside, with a tin roof above it and canvas as walls to keep the wind out. Instead of glass, there was wire fencing behind the nets. The ice was amazing — but it was brutally cold on some nights with the water bottles on the bench freezing, along with your toes — and for more than 20 years I played pickup old-timers hockey with a group of friends at the old LCC rink.
LCC now has a new, modern indoor rink, but I still miss the old one, which was torn down.
Video of the day
I always loved this scene from Field of Dreams and Tom’s Old Days provides some good advice for MLB’s billionaire owners and millionaire players as they battle over money with the possibility of no season this year.
Photo of the day
Yet another reason why Muhammad Ali was and always will be “The Greatest.”
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