“I’m not a crybaby and if you say it one more time I’m going to get my daddy or daddy Mario to hit you. I’ve got two daddy’s. Hah. That’s more than you. And they’re strong. So there. And pretty soon, when I’m bigger, I’m going to get my own place and move out of daddy Mario’s place because I’ll be big and I’ll make sandwiches and stay up all night maybe and I can have cookies anytime I want and nobody will make me have a bath if I don’t feel like it. It’s gonna be fun. I think I’ll do it when I’m 30.”
Saku Koivu had this to say recently about the difference in closeness between his new team, the Anaheim Ducks, and his old. “It’s more of a tighter feeling than in Montreal.”
And that says a lot. Because if it’s true, that the Canadiens weren’t a close group, then no wonder they lost big and looked dismal while doing it. You can’t win if you’re not a family, even a disfunctional family. The Edmonton Oilers, thanks to the documentary “The Boys on the Bus”, along with testimonials from Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr et al over the years, have described and shown us what a hockey family is. The Habs of the 1950’s were a close group, except for Jacques Plante maybe, but he was a goalie, and goalies can be whatever they want. Ken Dryden told us in “The Game” what a tight group the 1970’s Canadiens were. The Toronto Maple Leafs, the second-most successful franchise of the 1960’s, became a family and banded together because of one common denominator – their distaste of coach and drill sargeant Punch Imlach. Detroit bonded, possibly because of the tragic car accident involving Vlad Konstantinov, and have shown many times to be a close group. Now Pittsburgh, maybe with the help of Mario Lemieux’s mansion/party house, seems the same.
But the Canadiens weren’t?
Were the rumours of a divided dressing room true? Did players go their own way socially, or in small groups only, like we’ve heard? Was there friction in the room, including those who felt Koivu was a taskmaster as captain? Were the Kostitsyn’s moody? Did Kovalev upset players with his inconsistant play and puck-hogging, and what was the true relationship between him and Koivu? Did players roll their eyes when they saw how Georges Laraque was told to go out and stage fights? Did the players drive coach Guy Carbonneau out? Did owner George Gillett stick his nose in places he shouldn’t, and too often? And is the real reason players from other teams have no desire to play for the Habs because attitudes and chemistry are all out of whack?
When Guy Carbonneau was fired, he said that someday the truth would come out. What is the truth? Is it related to a divided room, with some players poisoning the air? And has the team been blown up and rebuilt because of the problems among players that may have been the biggest contibutor to their dismal performance?
We’ll hear soon enough about this group, because no team, probably in any sport, is scrutinized, categorized and analyzed the way the Canadiens are. Bob Gainey knows what harmony in the dressing is. I’m thinking he’s gone out and tried to find it.
Hopefully he has.
Below is an article from a 1997 Hockey News. I’ve borrowed it and I don’t care. I’m a rebel. And sometimes I’m lazy. And the picture above has nothing to do with the article, except that this is Vinny posing with someone many of you wouldn’t mind posing with.
Now quit looking at the picture and read the story for gawds sakes:
Rimouski Oceanic centre Vincent Lecavalier will be the most-watched player in the Quebec League this season, but Hull Olympics’ coach Claude Julien already had a sneak preview of what fans can expect.
Lecavalier, the pre-season favourite to be the No. 1 pick at next year’s NHL entry draft, was part of the Canadian under-18 team that won the Tri-Nations tournament in the Czech Republic in August. Lecavalier scored the winning goal in Canada’s 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic in the final and finished the tournament with three goals and six points in three games.
“He was by far the best player there,” Julien said. “He was dominant. He plays hard at both ends of the ice. He has great hands and skills like Mario Lemieux. His work ethic is extraordinary. Any time you talk he’s so attentive. He listens and wants to learn and most of all he wants the puck.
“At this moment, I can’t see anyone else going first overall. You can’t go wrong picking Lecavalier.”
Would it be wrong to suggest that the twelve best hockey players to come out of Quebec are, in no particular order, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Mike Bossy, Patrick Roy, Doug Harvey, Henri Richard, Jacques Plante, Guy Lafleur, Ray Bourque, Marcel Dionne, Mario Lemieux…..
And of course, Gaston LeBois?
Mats Sundin has just signed with Vancouver, and there’s nothing that I could possibly say that hasn’t been said or will be said.
I’m going to laugh like crazy if he turns out to be mediocre, or gets hurt and plays very little. The hockey world has treated this guy like he’s Wayne Gretzky, Rocket Richard, and Mario Lemieux all wrapped in one. And the hockey world has let him write his own ticket – money, when he’ll play, and where he’ll play, and whether he feels like playing at all. And now he’s going to wait until he enjoys his Christmas and New Year’s before he joins the Canucks. They say we’re in a recession? Not so in pro sports.
Talk about a guy dictating to the league how it’s going to be.
I’ve never seen anything like this before. And Montreal lost a second-round draft pick trying to get this guy.
With the Canadiens in Philadelphia Monday night, the memories come swirling back to last spring.
Montreal had taken out Boston in the opening round in a hard-fought series, then met the Flyers in round two, and it didn’t go the way it was supposed to.
Alex Kovalev, Tom Plekanec, Chris Higgins, and many other Habs somehow lost their edge, while RJ Umberger for the Flyers played like Mario Lemieux, and goalie Daniel Biron and his goalposts got the job done for the bad guys.
And Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen laughed in Tom Kostopoulos’ face. Remember that?
Most unsettling for Montreal and their fans was that Carey Price, who had been so terrific as a rookie goalie all through the year, seemed tired and let in goals he wouldn’t have let in a month prior. The Flyers had everything going for them, and Montreal had hit a wall and were on the golf course sooner than hoped.
Flyers fans took it upon themselves to comment in droves on this site, berating me, berating the Canadiens, laughing at Price, making jokes about Canadian women, the flag, our weather, and in general, really taking it to me. When the series finished, I’m sure they carried on with their creativity in Penguins’ blogs.
The bottom line, though, behind all the fun and games, was that Montreal didn’t get the job done and the Flyers did.
Now they meet again Monday night. The Flyers still have a good team like last year. Just ask Pierre McGuire. He says it’ll be the Flyers in the Stanley Cup final, not Montreal. Umberger’s gone, but it’s a team built around big guns Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Biron.
It won’t like playing the Leafs Monday night. It’s going to be tough.
Time for a little payback, boys. I know you haven’t forgotten.
If you had a team made up of only players like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, and Mike Bossy, with the same type of all-stars on defence and in goal, you wouldn’t win every game. You probably wouldn’t win the Stanley Cup. All you’d be is a fancy team that’s missing something.
You wouldn’t have the type of players who battle in corners, who scrap to protect, who check other teams’ best lines, and who add colour and blue collar work ethic and dedication and the willingness to overcome odds that they’ve been overcoming for years.
That’s why every good team needs the plumbers. And that’s why Tom Kostopoulos is not only one of my favourite Habs, but also a key ingredient on the club.
This is a guy who was buried in the minors, had minor success with Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, and by all accounts, was going to be just another player in a long line of players who play a few years in the bigs and then become roofers and car salesmen.
But Kostopoulos somehow made his way into the Montreal Canadiens lineup as a free agent a year ago, and he’s fit like a glove. He’s not a star, just a fourth-liner who sometimes replaces others on other lines. He’s a grinder, a sometimes-goal scorer, a guy who defends his teammates although he’s not huge (6′ 200 lbs.), a guy who gets his nose dirty, and in his own little way, is just as important as any player on the Habs.
I remember the reactions on Habs forums when he was signed. Krustyopoulos they called him. What was Bob Gainey thinking, they cried. Fire Gainey. Imagine, signing a minor leaguer when there were good NHL’ers to be had.
Early in last year’s season, a Quebec TV show called 110% was aired, with hockey people like Michel Bergeron and Jean Perron, and another named Michel Beaudry, and talk started about how the Habs should be playing their French Canadian players more, like Steve Begin, and forget about Kostopoulos, who’s from Mississauga, Ontario.
Beaudry, on live TV, and to the chuckles of the others, called him Kostfuckupoulos.
Not only did Kostopoulos prove Beaudry wrong with his great play on the ice, but Beaudry was fired from his TV show.
Bob Gainey, as usual, knew what he was doing when he signed this guy. Tom Kostopoulos would help any team in the league.
He helped the Habs last year with his character, grit, the way he played hurt, and the way he went up against anybody at any time.
And this year, he’s going to help them go a long way.
A year ago today, July 17, 2007, Gary Lupul passed away. He was 48 years old.
Gary Lupul was an ex-Vancouver Canuck, a proud Powell Riverite, a friend to people from all walks of live, and a great friend of mine. He was a scout for the Canucks when he died, and his beat was Ontario and the northern US, and he would phone me from Kitchener or Ottawa or even while driving through my old birthplace, Orillia, just to check in, to ask how I’m doing, and to say all was well with him.
Gary had lived several lives. Along with being a great athlete, he also had personal demons which ended his career prematurely. He told me once that there were times when he’d get a couple of hours sleep after a big party at his house in Vancouver, get up, walk over a bunch of people sleeping on the floor, and go to his Canucks practices.
He was such a colourful character, and it seems like he was just here a few days ago, and now he’s gone forever.
When I heard the news that Gary had died, for a minute or so I thought it had to be another Gary Lupul. It was shocking. It’s still hard to sort out.
He was the friendliness guy I think I’ve ever met. He only wanted to talk about you, never himself. And he was always genuinely interested. And he could be best friends to the most down and out folks, all the way up to the movers and shakers. Everyone loved him, and he loved everyone.
I would just like you to know that Gary was a real hockey player, not just a fringe player. Drugs and alcohol hurt his career and he never really had a chance to show what he could do.
Here’s some examples;
He was a crowd favourite, and the Pacific Coliseum faithful used to chant ‘Loop, Loop, Loop’ thoughout the game. They loved him.
He was a star from the beginning. In minor all-star, he once notched 70 points in 16 games. At 16 he was rookie of the year with the BC Hockey League Nanaimo Clippers. And he racked up 300 points in three years with the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League.
He was a force to be reckoned with in the 1981-82 Stanley Cup finals against the Islanders.
He played a total of 300 games, with 70 goals and 75 assists. All while he did too much partying.
Mario Lemieux’s first fight in the NHL was against Gary.
Gary played for Canada in the 1979 World Juniors in Sweden.
Twice he was picked as a three star selection in an NHL game. And twice he was interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada.
In a game against the Montreal Canadiens during his first season, he scored twice against Bunny Larocque.
And he scored on his first shot in the NHL against Rogie Vachon.
Gary is missed by many people. He was a friend to all.
The good news for the Pittsburgh Penguins is their three big guys, Crosby, Malkin, and Hossa, played well. The even better news for the Penguins is that they won game three, and are now pretty well back in the series. But not quite.
Sidney Crosby did what all great stars throughout the years have done. Stepped forward and scored huge goals in big games. Like Orr did, And Richard, Howe, Messier, Lemieux, Gretzky, and all the great ones over the years did.
Tonight, he netted the first two of the game, which broke the team goal drought, and which got the Penguins going.
That’s why he’s a star. He acts like one.
The Penguins barely won game three, though, hanging on for dear life through the third period. And all they have to do is win the next three out of four games.
So I’m not going to predict anything. I’m not Kreskin. It’s sort of possible that Pittsburgh could come all the way back and win this series. I doubt it, but it’s possible.
And like Toe Blake said, “predictions are for gypsys.”
One thing I feel though. Penguins defenceman Hal Gill should be read the riot act. What guys like Gill are known for are silly physical penalties that happen because the skill level isn’t quite up there. He can cost his team the game, which almost happened tonight.
One other note regarding tonight’s game on CBC. Pittsburgh cameras are placed alnost as high up as they are in Tampa. These cameras should be down at least fifteen feet. Detroit’s are. Lots of teams are. Although lots aren’t. I don’t know why.
In Montreal news.
Guy Lafleur has apparently said that when Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev become free agents in 2009, the Habs should concentrate more on signing Kovalev. He said Koivu is too serious and business-like in the dressing room, too demanding of his teammates.
What the hell is wrong with that? That just tells me that Koivu is about winning, is about making sure he and his teammates give their all. This is the way Mark Messier was, and Ted Lindsay years ago, and so many other great leaders. These guys have all summer to relax, joke around, have a good time. During the season, they’d better perform, better take it seriously. They’re being paid enough money.
If Koivu’s teammates, and there’s probably only a couple if any, don’t like his hard-core expectations, they should take up ballet instead.
Of course, this could be just one more case of Lafleur saying things that maybe he shouldn’t be saying. He’s been doing this for more than thirty years.
I say the team should concentrate on signing both. They’re equally important in the scheme of things in Montreal.
But I honestly do like the tough approach from the captain.