Pride, Passion, and Remembrance – La Coupe à Québec

Pride, Passion, and Remembrance – La Coupe à Québec

Article and photos by Catherine McKenna

November 11, 2012. Remembrance is multi-faceted on this special day: we pay homage to our veterans, remember our families – Joe Malone, his father, I, my grandfather, and for Radio-Canada sports journalist Marc Durand, it is looking back to the birth of hockey in Quebec and the intriguing story of the Quebec Bulldogs hockey team.

Here for the occasion is Joe Malone’s wife Rita, their son Brian, daughter Kathleen and her husband. We are at lunch together and Mr. Durand arrives to present his book to Joe Malone who, proud of his father’s stellar accomplishments, is sporting the 1913 team shirt.

Sitting across from one another, the energy is electric as Mr. Durand smiles broadly, watching Joe Malone leaf through La Coupe à Québec’s pages for the first time. His eyes light up with the same wonder and anticipation of a young boy opening a Christmas present.

The chat around the table is hockey, hockey, and hockey. The entire family are avid fans who know their facts and figures. Marc Durand’s encyclopaedic knowledge animates the conversation; like a racehorse out of the gate he rapidly responds to each and every one of Kathleen’s questions with a zest I have never before witnessed in any sports fan.

With no time to linger, we head down to the Colisée Pepsi where today the Remparts meet Cape Breton.

Mr. Malone accompanies Mr. Durand behind the scenes, and we find our seats in the second row behind the veterans, the Remparts team and coach Patrick Roy.

Kathleen and I await anxiously, impatiently, cameras in hand. Finally Marc Durand appears, accompanying Joe Malone out onto centre ice.

Our veterans are honoured.

The announcer continues with a laudatory tribute to the legendary Malone whose banner hangs from the ceiling, not far from that of Jean Béliveau.

He introduces the son of Québec’s first hero and Mr. Durand (who needs no intro among sports-minded québécois), praising the intensive work of the journalist. La Coupe à Québec is now available in bookstores across Quebec.

Joe Malone’s graciousness does not end with the ceremonies on the ice. Between periods, he will leave his seat to join Marc Durand at a book signing table in the old corridors of the Colisée, warmly greeting line-ups of fans eager to meet both gentlemen.

The Remparts win 5-4 in overtime and a shootout. The Malones have clearly enjoyed their afternoon. I marvel at the energy and vitality of this very special couple, whom Durand credits in his book, along with the family, as “…des gens d’une générosité incroyable à l’image des écrits sur l’illustre joueur et homme qu’était Joe «Phantom» Malone…

This is my third meeting with the Malones, but thanks to Mr. Durand, it is the first time I have had the privilege of spending an entire day with them, and what a day!

La Coupe à Québec does in fact read like a novel, as the author has wished. One that you cannot put down, one whose pages one cannot turn fast enough to see what happened next in his exciting account of the early days of hockey. If Marc Durand found it difficult to make the transition from sports television journalist to writer, there is no evidence of any such travail in the final product.

The book is dense in precise detail that surely did not, however, come without blood, sweat, and tears. In his meticulous research, he found that incorrect information abounded; the ensuing task of dispelling false rumours to provide the facts certainly must have been a formidable task, as nothing had ever before been chronicled on this golden age of the sport. He would meet this challenge in collaboration with award-winning Québec historian Jean Provencher.

Mr. Durand affirms that his most interesting discovery was learning about the birth of the game and the Bulldogs team which had stirred his curiosity since his boyhood days at the Colisée, staring up at the Joe Malone banner hanging from the rafters. Years later, he would embark upon a project that spanned more than ten years in order to tell the story of the world’s greatest hockey team of the time.

Joe_Malone_RitaHe unearthed fascinating facts and anecdotes, and revealed tantalising glimpses into his research on his blog. During the last four years of his work, he contacted descendants of the Bulldogs team players – 15 families, in fact – in search of memorabilia and whatever he could get his hands on to complete his opus. This endeavour yielded photos retrieved from dusty attics and more, but no meeting would prove as important as the one with Joe and Rita Malone. During the Remparts game, Mrs. Malone recounted that Marc Durand had arrived at their home in 2008 at 9:00 a.m., poured over a gold mine of material, and did not get up to leave until 6:00 p.m.

The rare photos alone in La Coupe à Québec are a newsreel of this bygone era. Selecting from boxes of possible choices must have presented yet another daunting challenge in creating the book. The final portrait is the players in all their colours – from austere looking men in overcoats visiting New York to star player profiles to comic book representations.

Among the many revelations is the reality of the violence on the ice. Known as “Gentleman Joe”, the record-holding Malone was said to have been the exception. Early games were played by Wild West style rules. Paddy Moran, a fierce goalie who grew up in Cap Blanc spat chewing tobacco at his opponents – strategically. The fact that the games were played without boards meant omniscuffles would break out on the ice among players, spectators, and police.

My mother recalls that her grandmother used to say that her son Walter Rooney would come back from games covered in cuts and bruises. And as a child (not knowing he had played on the Bulldogs team), I wondered why his nose was much wider and larger than in photos of his younger days. My grandfather’s rather blasé reply would be, “Oh, just playing hockey, it got broken a couple of times or so…”

A surprising fact is that the name Bulldogs (after player Joe Hall’s dog, Togo) did not exist before 1913; they were the Quebec Hockey Team. The first hockey game was played in 1875 in Montréal, and the first club – the Quebec Hockey Club – was formed here in Québec in 1877. In 1881, Montréal would come down river to play the first game.

The fruits of Marc Durand’s labour mean that now youngsters and fans like Nicholas, who approached the author to sign his copy of the book at the Tuesday launch at l’Observatoire de la Capitale, revealing how he, too, had looked up at the Colisée ceiling and asked the same question, “C’est qui, Joe Malone?” will have their answer, and so much more…

Featured at Le Salon du Livre in Montréal this past week, La Coupe à Québec has been the subject of a broad range of excellent and informative interviews and articles, including one in English on CBC Québec City:

Press and photos are also posted on Marc Durand’s blog:

But much better yet, whether you are a hockey fan, history buff or passionate about Québec City and its rich history, step out and pick up a copy at your nearest bookstore and continue the journey into Quebec’s storied past to discover the remarkable beginnings of our province’s beloved sport.

Durand, Marc avec la collaboration de Jean Provencher, La Coupe à Québec – Les Bulldogs et la Naissance du Hockey. Éditions Sylvain Harvey et Commission de la capitale nationale du Québec, 2012.

Categories: News, Opinion, Sports

About Author

Catherine McKenna

Catherine McKenna is a Quebecker of Irish descent who returned to her native city in 2002 to live inside the walls after many years in Toronto and the United States. Following her studies in literature and languages at York University, she rode Thoroughbred racehorses for 22 years, worked for The Pollution Probe Foundation, Canadian Parks and Wilderness, as well as in the arts, among other diverse endeavours. Her book, Jeanie Johnston Journal, was published in 2005, and she continues to write for various publications in Québec, Montréal, and Toronto. She has worked as an ESL teacher for ten years and a translator for five. The Défilé de la St-Patrick is an organisation dear to her heart; she has been a member of the Board of Directors since the revival of the parade in 2010.


  1. joelon
    joelon 4 December, 2012, 18:40

    Kudos to Catherine McKenna for her fine article on Marc Durand and his recently published book, La Coupe à Québec.

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