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January 26, 1971 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-01-26

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Page Eight

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Tuesday, January 26, 1971

4

Page Eight THE MICHIGAN DAILY Tuesday, January 26, 1971

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Gagnon attracts Richard's attention at 14

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By TERRI FOUCHEY
Almost eight years ago a 14-
year-old who -was then playing
bantam league hockey answered
the phone at his home in Mont-
real. The caller asked for his
father, Jerry, and was informed
that he was not there. Then the
caller asked if the young man
he was speaking to was Bernard
and with the reply, "Oui," he
proceeded to state his business.
He asked Bernard if any pro
scouts from Detroit or Boston
had talked to him or his dad.
Bernard answered that n o n e
had and the conversation con-
tinued along the lines that the
caller had heard they were in-
terested so they might be con-
tacting him. As the conversa-
tion neared its e n d, Bernard
realized that he hadn't asked
who was calling. He finally did
and the reply w a s. "Maurice
Richard."
As Bernie Gagon describes his
reaction, "I was shocked. I knew
he knew my dad, but Maurice
Richard doesn't go around call-
ing Montreal's younger players
to tell them the pros may be in-
terested in them."
The pros are still interested in
him. Gagnon was drafted num-
ber two by the St. Louis Blues
two years ago. Scotty Bowman,
former Blues coach and n o w
general manager, coached Gag-
non during his first season with
the Junior Canadiens. Bowman
comments, "I knew him when
he played in Montreal and he
looked like a very fine perform-
er. When we draft a boy, we go
a lot on what other people say.
For Gagnon, we went on the

"He's a strong skater with good wrist and
slap shots. The fact that he scores in clutch sit-
uations and always comes up with the big play
at the right time helps the team a lot."
- Defenseman Brian Skinner on Bernie Gagnon

recommendation of h i s coach.
Al Renfrew told me when Gag-
non was a freshman that he was
probably the best young college
player he has had since Gordon
"Red" Berenson. We know how
good Berenson is and so we de-
cided to take a chance on Gag-
non."
It was during his first year as
a junior that Gagnon sustained
a concussion which is the most
serious injury he's received from
hockey. He came back from it
to be only a utility player and
to sit the bench. He feels he lost
a great deal of confidence as a

feel I was
must have
tial."

Renfrew agrees, "I had been
told by Gaston Marcotte about
Bernie's great potential. He al-
so said that he'd been good be-
fore he was hurt. The few times
I saw him play, there wasn't
much to see in what he was do-
ing, but the potential was ob-
viously there."
Regarding Gagnon's confi-
dence, Renfrew continues, "Last
year he started getting b a c k
some confidence in himself, and
it's made him better."

playing well, so he
based it on poten-

result. "I also realize now that
I signed to play junior too ear-
ly. I was just 16 and most of
the guys I was against were be-
tween 18 and 21. This factor
combined with the time lost be-
cause of the concussion to make
me tense and unable to play to
my ability and led to my losing
confidence in myself.
"Bowman signed me because
he thought a lot of my poten-
tial and Renfrew must h a v e
thought so too when he recruit-
ed me for Michigan. I wasn't
playing much when he was re-
cruiting and when I did, I don't

LU[

IS INTRODUCES
ENTERTAINME[NT

Gagnon views this recovery of
his lost confidence as his most
worthwhile experience at Michi-
gan. "Last year I was very ner-
vous, trying to prove myself, but
experience, growing up, and a
good year have helped me get
over it and get s o m e confi-
dence."
Playing and the confidence it
inspires are very important to
Gagnon. As he sees it, "T h e
more you play, the more desire
you have to play. You have to
want to play and win. Desire is
the most important part of
hockey. I've seen cases where it
can even overcome physical in-
eptitude."
Linemate Rick Mallette who
also played with Gagnon in Pee
Wee competition agrees with his
assessment of desire and feels
that Gagnon's desire adds to his
ability. "Bernie has a lot of de-
sire and t h at counts 70 per
cent." Mallette continues, "He's
a natural hockey player. He has
great moves and he's a good
passer which helps his wings."
Another teammate, defense-
man Brian Skinner, gives this
account of Gagnon's talents.
"He's a strong skater with good
wrist and slap shots. The fact
that he scores in clutch situa-
tions and always comes up with
the big play at the right time
helps the team a lot."
Skinner defends against a
player of Gagnon's caliber in
this manner. "You give him a
little more room to outside be-
cause he has a good shot and

you try to keep, anyone with a
good shot at a farther angle.
You have to stay with him all
the time. The hardest place to
stop him is at 15 feet out when
he has control of the puck since
he has such a quick shot and
he can just set up and shoot
from there."
W h e n switching Gagnon to
center from his wing position of
last season Renfrew felt he
would be more at home in the
middle spot. "He has a habit of
following the puck quite a bit
and he stickhandles well. Oth-
ers who skate like him might be
better at wing, but his to-
tals seem to indicate that right
now he's playing where he
should be."
The switch has obviously help-
ed Gagnon's point production
since after only 17 games this
season he is only two points be-
low his total of 33 last season.
Gagnon finds this to be a bit of
a paradox, "Center g i v e s me
more skating area, but it's us-
ually on wing that a player gets
more shots and goals, for me
though center has been a good
position scoring-wise."
Getting the face-offs, or "at
least getting the puck where you
want it to go on the face-off"
is the most important part of
the center position. Gagnon en-
larges his description of what
he sees as his duties. "There's
the forechecking aspect. You
have to get on the guy quickly
,so that he has to pass and hope-
fully it'll be a bad pass."
Another crucial factor in the
center's repertoire is passing
ability. "A center has to make
good passes to both wings. He
has to set up the play in his own
zone; it's a little like quarter-
back in football."
"There's a difficult move my
dad taught me that I've never
been able to do in a game and
that's looking in one corner and
shooting in the opposite. A goal-
ie looks in your eyes to get a
hint and t h i s might confuse
him."
Gagnon thinks he is adequate
in all the qualities a forward
should have but admits, "I don't
feel I'm as good as people think
I am."
Basically, offensive - minded,
Gagnon doesn't have much of a
reputation as a fighter. How-
ever, in the game against North
Dakota on January 16, he was
involved in a skirmish for which
he received a game misconduct
and had to sit out the first game
of last weekend's series w i t h
Denver. The incident illustrated

some places where Gagnon feels
the WCHA rules are in need of
overhaul.
"There should be three ref-
erees. There were two fights and
the two refs were having trou-
ble separating everybody. Also,
if you drop your gloves, it's an
automatic penalty, so we fight
with sticks and that's a lot more
dangerous. They probably won't
change it until someone loses an
eye."
"In my case I think a match
misconduct is sufficient, with-
out making the guy sit out the
next game too. However, y o u
have to play it smart, which is
where I missed in that situation.
I should have taken the crap
and gone back to the bench. The
best way to get revenge is for
the line to score and you have to
be out there to do that."
Gagnon is one of fans' favor-
ites, but his biggest fan has only
seen him play in three games in'
his college career. She is Chris-
tine Boudrias, his fiancee, who
lives in Montreal and who saw
him play for the first time over

A

AW

-Daily-Denny Gainer
Bernie Gagnon (7) rushes up the ice

the recent holidays. They plan
to be married in August. "One
of the best things about her is
that she's not scared that I'll be
hurt on the ice. Knowing that
makes me feel good. She offers
moral support in a lot of ways."
Even without Christine watch-
ing, Gagnon enjoys the game.
"To know that you're working
as hard as you can and that
you're helping t h e team with
winning is a great feeling.
"Team spirit is very g o o d;
we're very together. The game
isn't one man doing one job; it's
everybody working together. If
I move over to a wing position
he takes my place at center;
we alternate. It's a team thing;
working cohesively, making our
own chances /ra n d capitalizing
on them and other opportuni-
ties. Luck to a certain extent is
part of the game, but you have
to have everything else working
to take advantage of it."
'With Bernie Gagnon and his
teammates working together,
maybe luck will soon begin to
smile on the Wolverine icers.

of

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