It began with heart-warming moments. Onto the ice in full uniform came Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden, Pete Mahovlich, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, Steve Shutt, and a host of others. It was like seeing a 1976 pre-game warmup.
And the best was yet to come. Others were introduced, and for me personally, seeing Ralph Backstrom, Bobby Rousseau and Terry Harper come out were special moments. I wanted to play like Backstrom and couldn’t, so instead I got a brush-cut like him. I wanted to shoot like Bobby Rousseau but few could, and anyway, I had a nice brush-cut like Backstrom. And I recently had a friendly and interesting chat on the phone with Terry Harper, who also had a brush-cut when he played.
But it was great seeing all the players. A whole cross-section of those from different decades, like the 1940’s Bob Fillion, Elmer Lach and Emile Bouchard, right up to modern times with guys such as Vincent Damphousse, Pierre Turgeon and Mike Keane. Coaches were there – Scotty Bowman, Claude Ruel, Jean Perron, Jacques Demers. And crusty old trainer Eddie Palchak came out in his trainers jacket and threw a couple of pails of pucks on the ice, like he did so many times in the past.
Next in line was seeing Lach and Bouchard finally have their numbers 16 and 3 sent up to the rafters. And as a capper, Ryan O’Byrne gave up his number three forever when he took it off and presented it to Bouchard, and O”Byrne is now number 20.
And then, to top everything off, the Habs trounced Boston 5-1, with Mike Cammelleri scoring three times. The team was solid, although a few less penalties would’ve been nice. And Carey Price was terrific, turning back 37 shots fired at him and looking like Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, who surely were pulling in a big way for the youngster from their private box.
Such a turnaround after the zombie-like performances against Toronto and Buffalo. But I suppose when you’re playing in front of all those legendary figures up above watching, you need to bring your ‘A’ game. And they did and it was the best birthday present the team could give themselves. And us.
Ken Dryden said it perfectly, as he always does. When he speaks, it’s like he’s writing a book, his words flow with grace and smarts. Dryden said the 2009-10 team can never be the team of the 1950’s or 1970’s or any other year. For the players, it’s now their team, their century, and it’s up to them to create their own history.
The team of today must have heard Dryden, and they came out with a huge win on a huge night. The birthday party is ending, and a new team is born.
Along with Cammalleri’s three goals, Glen Metropolit and Jaroslav Spacek also lit the lamp.
Gordie Howe came out carrying a Maurice Richard jersey. This is very poignant because they were never friends and Howe said many times he wasn’t crazy about the Rocket, even long after both had retired.
Philadelphia’s in town Monday. This is a team in slight disarray and it would be an excellent time to take advantage of their fragility.
Nice to see wooden sticks the old players carried, and Dryden’s mask.
I’m thinking about getting a brush-cut.