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Hector Clouthier is a former member of Canadian Parliament. He’s advised Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and rubbed elbows with world leaders. Decades before that, he played hockey with his friends in the little villages that dot the banks of the Ottawa River where it forms the border of Ontario and Quebec.
"Pond hockey or the outdoor rinks," Clouthier says. "Up around Chapeau and Pembroke and Petawawa and Waltham and Sheenboro."
Clouthier says one player stood out. His name was Chris Hayes.
"He was a great skater, a fantastic skater," Clouthier says. "He was solid. He was wiry. He was hard-nosed. And if you wanted to play a finesse game, he could play a finesse game. If you wanted to play a tough, rough game, he could play a tough, rough game. But he was always the star of the show."
Chris Hayes didn’t follow Clouthier into the rough, tough world of politics. His career path would lead him into the company of even bigger celebrities, at least in Canada.
When Hayes joined the Oshawa Generals in 1964, his roommate was a top prospect who’d soon begin an 18-year NHL career as a grinding corner man and a fearsome fighter.
"So what was it like rooming with Wayne Cashman?" I ask. "Did the slightest argument provoke a major brawl?"
"Wayne was kind of rough around the edges and flexed his muscles a lot," Hayes says, laughing.
Also on the Generals’ roster was a young guy named Orr. Hayes remembers the future Hall of Famer as "very quiet. Very, very quiet."
Hayes posted good numbers at Oshawa. He became one of the few junior players of his era to earn a college degree. NHL scouts were interested. Hector Clouthier says Hayes’ brains, hockey skills and brawn endeared him to one team in particular.
"Why do you think that the Boston Bruins liked him?" Clouthier asks.
Hayes joined the Bruins for training camp in the fall of 1971, but was sent down to the minors before the NHL season began. Hayes’ Central Hockey League (CHL) team was knocked out of the playoffs the following spring. He was pondering his summer plans when he got a call from Bruins head coach Tom Johnson, whose team was battling the St. Louis Blues in the Eastern Conference Finals.
"Tom says, 'You’re gonna dress tonight.' And I was ecstatic because I wanted to play some more hockey," Hayes says.
The word got out to Hector Clouthier in Petawawa.
"Somebody called somebody, and so we were just phoning one other, saying, 'You know, Hayes has been called up, and he’s playing with Boston tonight,' " Clouthier says. "It was a big event. It was a huge event. Because when does someone from a little Quebec town, population around 200, get an opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs with Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Cashman, Sanderson, Johnny Bucyk? So it was a very prestigious thing for him to play there. It was huge news."
'You're In The Big Leagues Now'
On April 23, 1972, Chris Hayes suited up for Game 3 in St. Louis.
"I know when they announced the lineup and his name was there, I just went, 'Wow. Like, you’re in the big leagues now,' " Clouthier remembers.
Clouthier was listening on the family radio. The TV was unavailable.
"I think my sisters were watching 'The Edge of Night' or something," he says.
Hayes didn’t expect to get much playing time in Game 3. He was a left winger, and the Bruins were stacked on the left side. To crack the lineup, he’d have to get the nod over the more experienced John Bucyk, Don Marcotte, Ace Bailey and his
old Oshawa roommate, Wayne Cashman. He worried that the veterans might not welcome him.
"I knew all the guys from training camp," Hayes says. "Cash was there, Bobby. Freddy Stanfield said, 'Where you been so long? What have you been doing?' I remember Cash saying before the game, 'They better bring their own puck, because they’re not gonna get ours tonight.' "
Hayes doesn’t remember much about the game. The box score shows Hayes with no goals or assists. He served a two-minute penalty for too many men on the ice. But Hayes does remember replacing Wayne Cashman on the Bruins’ top line, centered by Phil Esposito, then the league’s leading scorer.
Hayes recalls a two-on-one rush during which he drew a backpedaling defenseman away from Espo so he could get off a shot. Hayes returned to the bench.
"Cash shouted, 'Why didn’t you yell for the puck?' And I said, 'I forgot what his name was,' " Hayes says.
'Just The Way The Cards Were Dealt'
The Bruins won 7-2, and took a 3-0 lead in the Series. Chris Hayes and the Bruins were one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals. But ...
"Yeah, well, Tom Johnson talked to me after the game," Hayes explains. "And he said 'Chris, I gotta talk to you. You’re not gonna like what I’m gonna tell you. But ... Chris, you know you can play in his league, but ... ' "
Hayes trails off. He’s at a loss to explain why he was let go. He thinks the Bruins wanted to promote players from its AHL affiliate, the Boston Braves. Whatever the reason, the Bruins didn’t need him anymore. They swept the Blues. And in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins had a fairly easy time with the New York Rangers.
Hayes said he didn’t watch. He’s stoic when asked if he was bitter about being left off the roster as the Bruins captured their second Cup in three seasons.
"That’s just the way the cards were dealt, and I just accepted it," he says.
Clouthier thinks that if Hayes had signed with any other NHL team, he would have enjoyed a long, successful pro hockey career. Instead, Hayes played the next season with the AHL’s Boston Braves, and then another with the CHL’s Albuquerque Six-Guns. Two years after his one and only NHL game, his doubts were beginning to catch up with him.
"And I went home that summer, and I turned 28 in August," he says. "I had a good education. I had my MBA. I had a young family. I was probably more apt to get into the corporate world in my late 20s than my early 30s, so I made a decision to end my professional hockey career."
'I Didn’t Even Know If I Was Eligible For A Ring.'
Hayes started looking for a job in the banking industry.
"I was in Ottawa at the time, and I was just out walking down Bank Street, and I saw a sign — 'We’re hiring,' or something like that," he says. "And they hired me right on the spot. It was kind of an adjustment after making X amount of dollars to making about a third of an X amount of dollars, but it worked out in the long run."
"Did you ever find yourself sort of drifting off into a daydream, thinking, 'Gosh, I sure would love to have a championship ring from the Bruins?' " I ask.
"You know, I did think about it, but I wasn’t focused on it," he says. "And, to be honest with you, back then I didn’t even know if I was eligible for a ring."
But Clouthier knew.
"The criteria for getting a Stanley Cup ring is simply this: If you have dressed and played in one game — one game in the Stanley Cup playoffs — you are eligible to get a Stanley Cup ring," Clouthier says. "I’d thought about it for years and years and years. And it had always been bothering me. And early last fall, or late last summer, I don’t know, something just popped in my head, and said 'You know what? Chris Hayes should get that ring, and I’m gonna see if I can help facilitate getting the ring.' "
Clouthier’s career in politics taught him a few things about string-pulling and diplomacy. He sent a handwritten letter to the owner of the Boston Bruins.
"And I just laid it out there," he says. "And I didn’t have the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. No, I just tugged at his heartstrings a bit, and said, 'You know, Mr. Jacobs, this has been an oversight for 45 years now, and isn’t it time that this oversight was resolved? What do you think?' And I left it like that.
"And I never explained to Jeremy Jacobs that I was a former member of Parliament or a former adviser to a prime minister. That didn’t even come into the letter in any way, shape or form. Within a week, Cam Neely called me."
Cam Neely is a Hall of Fame hockey player. He’s currently the president of the Boston Bruins.
"And he said, 'OK,' " Clouthier recalls. "He said, 'I’ve been speaking to Johnny Bucyk. He remembers Chris very well.' "
Bucyk was a Bruin for 21 seasons. He’s now a senior adviser with the team. But he hadn’t known that Hayes had never received a ring. Nobody in the organization knew.
"I sit out at night sometimes on the veranda and sort of look at it. And it’ll bring back so many memories of, not just hockey players I met along the way, but people I’ve lived with, people I’ve met."Chris Hayes
'I Need Your Ring Size And The Mailing Address'
A few months after receiving Clouthier’s letter, Jeremy Jacobs gave the green light. The Bruins found a jeweler who could make an exact replica: 17 diamonds in a thick gold setting bearing the words "Boston Bruins/World Champions." Now all they
needed was Hayes’ ring size.
"So then I phoned Chris," Clouthier says. "And Chris thought at first I was joking. He said, 'You’re kidding me, aren’t you, Hector?' I said, 'No, I’m not kidding. I need your ring size and the mailing address. Because they’re going to courier that ring up to you.' He said, 'Really?' And I said, 'Yes.' "
The ring arrived, special delivery, at Hayes’ home in Chapeau on the morning of March 27, 2018.
"I went to the fireplace, and my wife’s picture was there," he says.
Hayes' wife, Jo-Anne, died seven years ago.
"So I got her picture, and I put it on the dining room table. And I said, 'Honey, we’re going to do this together.' I just opened it up, and, I mean, it was magnificent.
"For about two or three days, it felt like I was in the best movie that was ever made in the world. Like, 'Is this happening?' Sometimes I thought it was a dream, to be honest. And then I’d look at the ring and I'd say, 'Oh, I guess it did happen.'
"I find myself just looking at it. Like, I sit out at night sometimes on the veranda and sort of look at it. And it’ll bring back so many memories of, not just hockey players I met along the way, but people I’ve lived with, people I’ve met. There’s a different thought every time I look at the ring because something new comes into my mind."
Clouthier is happy his longtime friend got his Stanley Cup ring. He knows a few folks might think he doesn’t deserve it.
"Some people say, 'He played one game,' " Clouthier explains. "I said, 'So they play in the Super Bowl, one game, too, and they get a Super Bowl ring.' "
And, for those familiar with NHL protocol, there’s an unanswered question: Shouldn’t a player who earned a championship ring also have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup? I suggest to Clouthier that this, too, should be rectified.
"Um ... perhaps the wheels are already in motion," he says. "I’m not trying to be evasive, but there has been an inquiry made. Put it that way."
Read more about Chris Hayes' championship ring in Kelly Egan's column for the Ottawa Citizen.
This segment aired on June 2, 2018.
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