Dwelling On The Kerfuffle In Kanata. Blame It On The Anthem Singer

If I was better man, a nicer man, a good man, I’d feel differently about the mess the Ottawa Senators find themselves in right now. But I’m a terrible man, a bad man, so I’m quite giddy, thank you very much.

Even though there’s still time to redeem themselves, the Ottawa Senators, and their fans I’m sure, know otherwise. They know this is a team that has never gotten it done, even though there’s always been more than enough talent. Hey, they’ve had so much talent, they didn’t have either room or money for Zdeno Chara, Martin Havlat, and Marian Hossa!

And who can forget number one draft pick Alexander Daigle, who the team threw wheelbarrows of cash at, (5 year, 12.5 million), because he’d been a good junior, but alas, who turned out to be a remarkably lousy pro and even lousier actor.

Alexei Yashin, another young Senators pick, turned out to be a guy with dollar signs in his eyes, and even though talented, became a bum nonetheless. This is a guy who promised to donate a million bucks to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, then changed his mind and said forget it.

And every year they shoot themselves in the foot because they fail to recognize, for some unknown reason, that they don’t have a goalie. That’s what it’s always boiled down to. The goalie.

Patrick Lalime must have needed glasses. Martin Gerber wasn’t good enough in Carolina, so why would he be good enough in Ottawa?  Dominik Hasek would’ve been a good choice but either his head or his body or both were never in the Nation’s Capital and he became just another sad disappointment.

And Ray Emery? He could’ve played himself in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” This is a guy who dresses like a pimp, is late for practices, thinks the Ottawa police have it in for him, seems out of sorts with life itself, and millions of dollars won’t fix it.

It’s like he doesn’t want to play hockey, hates it in fact, but it’s a damn job and woe is me.

When the Senators went 15 and 2 at the start of the season, it looked like they should be handed the Stanley Cup then because it wouldn’t fair to put the other teams through the misery. The big line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, and Jason Spezza were collecting, it seemed, about eight points a night between the three of them. The media was wondering if this team could be the new 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, who had only lost eight games all year.

People in Ottawa, including a bunch I know, were slapping themselves on the back on a nightly basis. But Ottawa fans should’ve learned after all the playoff implosions that you can’t sit back and get comfortable. Anything can happen. Ray Emery can happen.

And when I think of the Ottawa Senators, I also think of someone else. The smug, silly-smiling, hand-gesturing, thumbs up, winking, singing cop decked out in his finest. The one who sings the national anthem, the one I wish would go away, Lyndon Slewidge.

Senator’s fans now say it’s never over until the fat lady sings.

I say it’s over when Lyndon Slewidge sings. 

Montreal Shoots For The Stars, While Ottawa Shoots For The Bars

It was a tremendous 3-0 shutout win tonight for the Montreal Canadiens over the unbelievably struggling Ottawa Senators, and it could have been ninety years ago in Ottawa, at the old Auditorium, when Aurele Joliat, Howie Morenz, and Pit Lepine came to town to battle it out with Cy Denneny, Frank Finnigan, and Punch Broadbent. It was good old hockey then, and it was good old hockey tonight. Rough, tough, feisty, ill-mannered hockey.   finnigan.jpg     joliat.jpg

Years ago, my ex-wife’s mother’s uncle used to tell me stories about when he was a kid and used to crawl in through a window at the Auditorium and watch Morenz and Joliat, Clancy and Finnigan, in action. It was good stuff.

I wonder if Ottawa kids climb in windows now at Scotiabank Place to see Chris Neil and Anton Volchenkov.

The big differences between then and now are, tonight (April 1st) there were about 14,000 more fans at Scotiabank Place than at the old Auditorium. Ottawa wears a Trojan Condom sweater now instead of the old stripes. Beer then, if it was sold, was probably about a dime. Now it’s about eight bucks. And the officiating was probably better back then. The amount of chintzy penalties called tonight was staggering.

And back then, Ottawa, from time to time, were champs. Nowadays, Ottawa, most of the time, are chumps. Now, they’re going to fight it out to make the playoffs, with Washington, only two points away, breathing down their backs. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

And then we get to Montreal. With tonight’s impressive win over the Senators and two referees, the team reaches 100 points to tie with Pittsburgh for first over-all in the east. They win the Northeast division. Carey Price notches his third shutout. The team played great after a couple of sleepfests in Buffalo and Toronto. And my Ottawa friends who used to be Habs fans but are now Sens fans, are at this very moment, really pissed off and quite concerned about the state of their team.

LITTLE PIECES OF INFO: Two of Montreal’s five wounded soldiers were back – Mark Streit and Guilliaume Latendresse, leaving now Koivu, Komisarek, and Bouillon still on the shelf.

Ottawa’s top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, and Jason Spezza actually did play. Although you’d never know it.

Whew! Thank Goodness There’s A Way To Tell When Spring Has Sprung

With the big game in Ottawa coming up shortly, with first place overall still not decided, and with injuries mounting, it can be tremendously stressful for Habs fans. But we’re not the only ones with problems. People in general can be stressed. You just got your lay-off notice at the factory. The mortgage is due. Your daughter has a new tattoo on her forehead. The mother-in-law’s coming. The beer fridge is empty.

But when the sun shines in spring, things have a way of looking up. A young man’s (and woman’s) fancy turns to love. And the playoffs.

And things could be worse. We could be Leafs fans.  

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Almost Good News On The Habs Hurting Front. And Tom Kostopoulos Knows What It Takes

Now that the dust has settled on just how healthy the Montreal Canadiens are, it seems  possible that only Saku Koivu might be out for awhile. But even that’s unclear.

What’s clear is that five Habs are hobbling and grimacing. Guillaume Latendresse has neck spasms and although he didn’t play in Toronto, he should play in Ottawa.

Mark Streit took a puck off the foot in Buffalo, didn’t play in Toronto, and although the team’s a bit vague, it seems he won’t be out long either.

Francis Bouillon didn’t play in Toronto either and is suffering from a right ankle injury. He’ll be back quickly though, because he’s a tough little bugger.

Mike Komisarek injured his hip (lower body injury!) in Boston but has started skating again, so this is good.

Which leaves us to Saku Koivu. He took a puck on the foot in Buffalo (like Streit), didn’t play in Toronto, and left Toronto on crutches. His foot is swollen and they’re not sure if it’s fractured or just badly bruised.  If it’s broken, he could be out until sometime in the second round of the playoffs.

When Koivu got the stick in the eye a couple of years ago against Carolina, the team went poof, like air going out of a balloon. But Montreal’s much better now, much deeper, more talented, and much more-rounded, and so although it would hurt to lose him, the boys can still get the job done. But let’s just hope it’s just badly bruised.

I also want to mention something about Tom Kostopoulos. This is guy who was a healthy scratch many times this year. He usually plays only on the fourth line, and he doesn’t get a lot of ink in the papers. But here’s the kind of guy he is:  Mike Komisarek said that when he was being treated in Boston for his hip injury, Kostopoulos was brought in after a fight in which half his face was blackened and his one eye was closed shut. But all Kostopoulos kept saying was to get him an ice pack and hurry because he needed to get back on the ice.

Now I have new-found respect for Tom Kostopoulos. This is old school, old time hockey. This is what separates men from boys. This is a guy who wanted to help his team and his teammates. He’s bounced around the minors, never really winning a job. This is the kind of guy who’d play for free. And players like him don’t disappear in the playoffs.     

Montreal Was In A Coma Saturday Night In Toronto. And Who The Heck Is Anton Stralman?

Why am I not surprised that MontreaL, leading the eastern division, waltz’s into Toronto to take on the sad-sack Leafs who won’t be in the playoffs, and comes out flatter than a pancake. Montreal had no drive, no spirit, not much of anything, as they lost 4-2 Saturday night to Toronto, and some unheard of Leaf named Anton Stralman scores two goals that Jaroslav Halak should have stopped.

I think we might see Carey Price every night from here on in.

Why am I not surprised? This kind of thing has been going on for 40 years. If Toronto played Montreal 82 times a year, they’d be the greatest hockey team in the history of hockey. In reality, of course, Toronto stinks most of the time. But certainly, on this night, Montreal did the stinking.

This is the kind of thing that really plays with my head. For example, what if Montreal loses to Ottawa on Tuesday, then again against Buffalo, then closes the season against these dreaded Leafs. It could mean they lose four straight headed into the playoffs.

It’s just my paranoia talking here. I shouldn’t be thinking like this. But I can’t help it.

And still on the subject of feeling shitty, all Habs fans are waiting to see just how hurt are Saku Koivu and Mark Streit. Both were injured blocking shots in Buffalo.

The team’s been remarkably healthy all season, and now with the playoffs arriving, possibly three key players (with Komisarek), could be on the shelf.

Again, it’s my paranoia casting its’ spell.

Montreal’s rebounded all season from losses that would keep a lesser team down. They’ve surprised everyone. This is why Guy Carbonneau should be a strong contender for Coach of the Year. So I’m gonna say right now that they’ll come out like gangbusters on Tuesday night.

It’s Only Been 41 Years Since The Leafs Didn’t Suck

Regardless of the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs have basically stunk every year since 1967, they still manage to somehow play well against the Habs. Who knows why? Maybe Conn Smythe instilled a voodoo hex on Frank Selke Sr. for leaving the Leafs and joining the good guys at the Forum. Maybe Toronto wants so much to be like the Canadiens that they turn in these weird efforts that they can’t muster against anybody else. habs-too.jpg     leafs.jpg

So a Montreal-Toronto tilt is usually a good, interesting tilt, for whatever reason. And there also would have been big interest in a Montreal-Toronto playoff series which could have happened if Toronto didn’t suck quite so badly this year and had sneaked into eighth place by the skin of their teeth.

A series between these two might even have brought back the oldtimers who say they lost interest in hockey after expansion, fights, the price of beer, less attractive rink chaperones, watered-down product, the Broad Street Bullies, Osama Bin Laden, shopping on Sundays,  the ozone layer, and the downhill slide of Shopsy hot dogs.

Yes, it would’ve been a good series. Even though Montreal would’ve kicked their asses all the way up Yonge Street, possibly all the way to Orillia.

The two teams meet again tonight and at this moment,  game time is still hours away. Leaf fans will now be gearing up, selecting their finest Yorkville ensembles, and preparing for when the Habs take the ice and memories come flying back from when the oldtimers still liked hockey and George Armstrong, even though he was the Leaf’s captain, was still learning to skate.

Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec Saves The Day In Buffalo

I’m so tired I feel like I’m getting sleep-deprivation torture in a Saudi prison. It’s because I’m going to bed fairly late and getting up at 3:30 am to go to work. And today, at the ticket booth, I had trouble getting a guy’s credit card to work because the system was acting up, and finally, after it did work, the guy drove away and sarcastically said, “Thanks, you’re a real pro.” So I said “You’re welcome, you’re a real asshole.”

The Montreal-Buffalo game is on and it’s the end of the first period. Nothing really has happened so there’s nothing to report. So while I’m waiting for something to happen, I might as well say what I’m gonna say, and that is, “Mike’s an elevator mechanic. There’s a job that has it’s ups and downs.” BADDA BIN, BADDA BOOM!

Sorry. (This marks the eight thousandth time Mike has heard this.)

Montreal needs this game so I hope they’re regrouping in the dressing room. They need first overall for that prime spot in the playoffs, where they’d play in the first round, hopefully, Boston.

Buffalo is scratching and clawing for the final playoff spot, and if they reach it, they could play Montreal in the first round. So this is a team that’s desperate and hungry.

It’ll be interesting how this all plays out. Right now though, I’m tired.

A couple of small observations. I like the original Buffalo Sabres’ uniforms better than the ones they wear now. The ones now look like a cross between the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, George Jetson, and the Los Angeles Rams football team.sabres.jpg

But I really like how low the cameras are placed at the HSBC Arena. It’s just like the old days in Montreal and Toronto. And these cameras are about a mile closer than the ones in Tampa Bay.
Second period’s over. Kovalev just tied it up 1-1, finishing a nice Grabovsky play. I’m also thinking about what der Habinator said about Pete Rose should be in Cooperstown and I think so too. I also found it interesting what Mike said about how it would take an elevator mechanic 48 years to make the same money as what Patrick Roy turned down. Kinda makes you think.

Holy smokin arseholes! Tomas Plekanec scored two goals in the last two and a half minutes of the game to tie it, then Chris Higgins wins it in overtime.  They won it even though Habs fans in Buffalo sang the olay song. Maybe the song works after all.

Tomorrow night, it’s up the Queen E to Toronto. And I was thinking. If the team wants to make a side trip to Orillia before they need to play Ottawa on Tuesday, several of them could probably stay at my dad’s house on Elmer Ave. They’ll have to be quiet though. He’s 87 and goes to bed at seven. And they could go out for drinks at the Atherley Arms. I’m sure the peelers would get a charge out of it.

Montreal’s back on top in the east with 98 points. They finished with 90 points last year.

Patrick Roy Is No Jean Beliveau

Remember when Patrick Roy winked at LA player Tomas Sandstrom after making a nice stop on him? There was something about that that I didn’t like. Maybe it was because I wasn’t sure that Patrick had robbed him blind, and that it was sort of a lucky save that simply looked good. I leaned toward the lucky save. 

Then remember in 1995 when he let in nine goals against Detroit and because Habs coach Mario Tremblay didn’t yank him sooner, Roy went to Ronald Corey and told him it was the last game he’d play for Montreal? Remember? Of course you do.

How come he let in nine goals?   roy.jpg

So after this recent mess in Chicoutimi involving Roy and his son Jonathan, it rang in my ears the words TSN’s Bob McKenzie said the other day. He said Roy will someday coach in the NHL, and the natural choice would be the Montreal Canadiens. 

I say, “Please Lord, don’t let this happen.”

I don’t like Patrick Roy, but instead of me going on about it, I’ll just step aside and let Red Fisher, the man I’m waiting to retire so I can have his job, tell the story.  It’s called “Roy Lost the Honour of Having His No 33 Retired Long Ago”.  I think you’ll find it interesting. Take it away, Red.

Goaltender Patrick Roy gave the Montreal Canadiens many on-ice moments to cherish, but there were also a number of off-ice issues that people cannot forget or forgive.

Montreal — The 14 banners hang in the Bell Centre rafters carrying the names and retired numbers of legendary players who for so many years contributed so much to making the Montreal Canadiens a team with a mystique for winning.Great names. Great players. Great human beings.The game plan is to add one more next season when this one-of-a-kind franchise celebrates its centenary. The only name I have heard – Patrick Roy.Yeah, that Patrick Roy – the one who led the Canadiens to Stanley Cups in 1986 and 1993.The Patrick Roy who coached the Quebec Remparts to the Memorial Cup two years ago.

The Patrick Roy whose son, Jonathan, a backup goaltender with the team, was suspended by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for seven games on Tuesday after skating the length of the ice to administer an ugly, vicious beating on Chicoutimi goaltender Bobby Nadeau during last Saturday’s playoff game.

Roy the coach – and co-owner and general manager – denies the horror show took place at his urging. But he was suspended five games for “failing to control his players” and police have been asked to launch an investigation, which could lead to criminal charges.

If the Canadiens have decided to retire Roy’s number, they must re-visit the decision. Canadiens owner George N. Gillett Jr. and team president Pierre Boivin should know it is a bad decision – and has been from the start. What they must do is look long and hard and decide if retiring Roy’s No. 33 is good for the game and for the organization.

It is not.

Roy abdicated his rights to that honour with his capitulation to irrationalism on Dec. 2, 1995, when a stunned Forum crowd saw him allow nine goals on 26 shots in an 11-1 meltdown to the Detroit Red Wings. It was only then that he was taken out of the game by coach Mario Tremblay.

Anyone who was there or viewed the game on television can still see a furious Roy shouldering his way past Tremblay to Canadiens president Ronald Corey, sitting in the first row behind the players’ bench, leaning over and telling him he had played his last game with the team. That film clip has been shown over and over again following last Saturday’s hockey version of road rage – and for good reason. It was unprofessional and a gross disrespect for the sweater he wore.

Four days later, he was shipped to the Colorado Avalanche.

Roy was a man of many faces throughout his brilliant career. Pleasant one minute, a mean, arrogant and unforgiving SOB the next. The Patrick Roy who came to play and to win every night could be abrasive, controlling and vindictive, but that does not diminish his accomplishments. His NHL-high 551 wins speak for him, as does his four Stanley Cups (two with the Canadiens and two with Colorado), three Conn Smythe trophies and three Vezinas.

Can anyone forget the night in 1986, when Roy stopped the first 13 shots he faced in the overtime period of a Conference final game against the New York Rangers? There he was, a 20-year-old rookie, turning aside at least a half-dozen spectacular scoring opportunities by the Rangers – until Claude Lemieux scored the winner with the Canadiens’ first shot.

Fast forward to 1993. The Canadiens lost the first two games in Quebec, the first in overtime. They won the next four, two of them in overtime. More importantly, the Canadiens won eight more games en route to their last Stanley Cup to set playoff records for the most overtime wins in one season and the most consecutive overtime wins.

Those were on-ice moments to cherish, but there also have been off-ice issues that people cannot forget or forgive. Ugly moments. Controversial moments. Disgusting moments such as Saturday’s brawl during which Roy’s son continued punching a defenceless Nadeau after he had been wrestled to the ice.

In Colorado, Roy got into an altercation with a Colorado Springs man at a hotel where Avalanche players and their wives were having a team party. They began shoving each other over an interruption in the music at the in-house disco. The case was settled out of court.

Early in the 1998-99 season, a furious Roy smashed two television sets and a VCR in the visiting coaches’ office in Anaheim. The reason: he was not credited with a victory because he was pulled by first-year coach Bob Hartley. Even though he did not face one shot, backup Craig Billington got the win because he was in net when the winning goal was scored.

Roy lost it again when the Denver Post reported the incident and falsely accused Valeri Kamensky of leaking the story. That led to a lengthy meeting between Roy, Kamensky, the player’s agent and reporter Adrian Dater, who wrote the story.

The most publicized incident during Roy’s years in Colorado occurred during the 2000-01 season, when his wife called 911 after a domestic dispute. Dater reported at the time that Michele Roy told police her husband “ripped two doors off their hinges at their home” and that she was “afraid of what her husband might do when she dialed 911.” Roy was charged with misdemeanour criminal mischief, but a couple of days later his wife called the charges “ridiculous.” The case against Roy was dismissed. (The Roys are now divorced.)

And yet some of Roy’s best moments have come when his gentleness has moved people to tears.

Roy surely has forgotten it, but I still remember one morning after a Canadiens practice in Quebec City. There was a game to be played that night, but Roy remained on the ice waiting for a 10-year-old to join him.

The boy was born to pain, and lived with it bravely – he had this dream of going one-on-one with his idol, Roy. What could be greater than to score a goal on Patrick Roy?

So there they were at the Quebec Coliseum: Roy skating in little circles, sending up small shivers of ice pellets, rattling the blade of his stick on the ice before settling into a crouch in his crease, looking every inch like a guy in the moments before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. The boy’s mother looked on nervously watching her child who had not smiled or laughed nearly often enough in his young life.

“Okay … I’m ready,” Roy finally yelled at the boy. “Show me your best.”

It took a long time for the boy, skating on his matchstick legs, to close the 15 feet separating him from Roy’s crease. A wobbly shot, a desperate lunge from Roy and … a goal! Roy slammed his stick on the ice in mock anger.

“Try that again,” he muttered at the boy, who by now had a reason to smile. “I’ll bet you can’t do that again.”

Another wobbly shot. Another goal.

Ten minutes of goal after goal followed – and after each one the boy would raise his stick skyward, his face lighting up with smiles that eventually grew into a delighted laugh. His mother looked on from her Coliseum seat – and cried.

“That was a nice thing you did this morning,” I told Roy later that day. “It must have been hard.”

“It was easy,” said Roy.

Holy Smokes! More Fascinating Facts! What A Blog!

Fascinating Fact #1.  It’s just what I always suspected. Patrick Roy is a moron.

Fascinating Fact #2.  In the early 1940’s the Montreal Canadiens were bringing in less fans than the senior league Montreal Royals. The Habs were averaging only about 1500 people in those days.

Fascinating Fact #3.  Guess what changed in Montreal? What caused fans to go from 1500 to 12,000 in only a few years?  Two words – The Rocket.

Fascinating Fact #4.  And guess what completed the growth of fan attendance, from 12,000 in the late 1940’s to regular sellouts at the beginning of the 1950’s. It was the signing of Quebec senior hockey hero, Jean Beliveau.  

Fascinating Fact #5.  Mickey Redmond, who played right wing for the Habs from 1967 to 1971, has been battling lung cancer since 2003. He says he’s feeling fine, thank God. Redmond was also a member of Team Canada during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Fascinating Fact #6.  Redmond was involved in a major deal halfway through the 1970-71 season when the Habs traded him to Detroit for Frank Mahovlich. Montreal also sent Guy Charron and Bill Collins, along with Redmond, to Detroit.

Fascinating Fact #7.   1950’s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin used to eat glass, and also wrestled bears. And once, while at raining camp in Victoria, BC, Bonin broke his thumb during some horseplay off the ice. He kept it a secret from Toe Blake, then during the next practice, pretended to hurt his hand on the ice and kept himself from getting into hot water with Blake. It worked.

Fascinating Fact #8.   Two NHL players who were notorious for treating rookies on their own teams badly were Steve Shutt and Dave Keon. Shutt’s reasoning was, “hey, it happened to me so it’s gonna happen to them too.” 

Fascinating Fact #9.   Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago.  It was found last year in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

Fascinating Fact #10.  This is the seventh installment of Fascinating Facts. 

Fascinating Fact #11.  Did I mention that Patrick Roy is a moron?

Mike Has A Great Chair And Shorter Hair Than Before

They don’t get any better than Mike. We’ve been friends for 40 years, and have fought  the good wars together. Those crazy sixties wars. Those times when sex and drugs and rock and rock were as much a part of our lives as waking up. And it was a time when the team we loved took a back seat for a few years while we spent some serious time on the edge.

Mike was involved in the 1960’s movement as much as anyone. He wore his black hair long, crashed where he could, never shyed away from a good party, and ingested a few things he probably shouldn’t have. These were unsettling times, but he and I got through it, and later on he found himself a nice cool chick who he’s still with today. 

But even though we put the Habs on the backburner for a few years in the late ’60’s, it didn’t mean we gave up or forgot. Not me, and not Mike. He follows the Habs closely, has for more than fifty years, and he knows the game and his team and is pissed off when they lose. You’ll see this by his comments he throws in often.

No one is prouder to own a Montreal Forum chair than Mike. And it’s not just any chair. It’s the one he sat in in his only visit to the Forum, in the late 1970’s.

Here’s a photo of Mike’s chair, and the Bud hat signed by Le Gros Bill, Jean Beliveau. And yes, the spelling of Micheal on the chair is the way it’s spelled.

Mike may have been a mover and shaker during the hippie movement, but you can’t keep a good Habs fan down. And even though he lives in Toronto and has for decades, don’t even think about talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs with him. He can’t stand them, even though they’re just down the road. Are you listening, Ottawa fans-who-used-to-be-Habs-fans?

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