I’m only just now looking at the new schedule because I’ve been battling an eyeball situation, but I see that the Canadiens open up on the road, hitting Toronto, Buffalo, and then a three-city west coast swing which takes them to Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton.
This might just be what the doctor ordered. All the new faces in the lineup, bonding early rather than later with the old faces on a good old west coach swing. And they get away from the pressure cooker before the pressure cooker is even turned on.
In Calgary, the boys can go out and take in the Calgary Zoo. They can go to the monkey cage and maybe see what myself and a bunch of others saw. A monkey sat behind the glass, looked at us with big eyes, and proceeded to play with himself until his eyes got even bigger. Mothers shielded their kids and scurried off. Japanese tourists talked politely, maybe snapped a few pictures, and carried on in orderly fashion.
I myself looked at the monkey with great admiration. Imagine all those eyes on you and you don’t even give a shit?
Something like this is invaluable. Scott Gomez and Mike Cammellari and the old and new of the team would have a good topic to bring up in the dressing room when the pressure gets umbearable. Everyone would laugh and loosen up, at the poor monkey’s expense.
In Vancouver, the guys can bond at the Yale Hotel, listening to the best blues in the city, and hoping not to get shot at when they go out on the darkened Granville Street afterwards. Tip to the players – call a cab beforehand and when it arrives, dive into it like you’re Michael Phelps and get the hell back to your hotel.
But the blues is heavenly. And on second thought, that area of Vancouver isn’t seedy and dangerous. Okay, maybe it is.
In Edmonton, the team can band together, old and new, by looking out their hotel window and seeing snow falling lazily from the sky. It’s early October in Edmonton. Almost winter.Very soon it’s going to get so cold you’d think Gary Bettman and Jim Balsillie had just met in an elevator. Or they can go en masse to the West Edmonton Mall at gawk at ladies in bikinis at the wave pool and whisper crude yet very funny remarks to each other that hurries up the bonding process.
Opening on the road is a way to find out if any of the new guys are easy card marks and a new and quick way to make extra money on the side. It’s a chance to find out about players on other teams from which the new guys came from. If Jerome Iginla really likes Michael Bolton or Celine Dion, this can be valuable trash talk on Saddledome ice.
Scoott Gomez can relate Sean Avery stories from New York. Maybe Avery walks old ladies across streets and tips hotel housekeepers. Brian Gionta might show a different side when he punches out the first guy who calls him Tom Thumb.
Very quickly the team will become very close from all these monkeys and snow and the blues. Then they go back for a six-game home stand where they’ll probably kick some serious ass.