Tag Archives: St. Petersburg

In The Magazine – Mistakes and All

If you have number six of Les Canadiens magazine from the 1991-92 season, then you have a small story about me, complete with a couple of errors.

I was in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1991, at the time the Soviet Union was falling apart, a mind-blowing and historic time to be sure, and I was visiting a bunch of serious Habs fans who had their own Montreal Canadiens Fan Club. We were at the president of the fan club’s apartment and we sat around drinking tea and talking hockey.

The fellow in the black San Jose Sharks shirt was my translater, and he was a Russian scout for the San Jose Sharks and later the Anaheim Ducks.

That’s me in the middle, clean-shaven, with a serious sunburn. And unfortunately, the magazine made a few mistakes. The picture of the fellow in the Habs jacket holding the puck isn’t me, although it says it is in the caption below it. (It’s Anatoli Brel, who I went with to the meeting).

The story that accompanies the pictures says that “Dennis Kane is the only foreign member of the Canadiens Fan Club in St. Petersburg. As a boy, Dennis was always writing letters to his heros, Doug Harvey, Bernard Geoffrion and Maurice Richard; he still has their lovingly replies. (Second error – I don’t have any replies except for Rocket’s Christmas card and a couple of autographed pictures. The author took some liberties here.)

And then, one day, he came across a newspaper article about Anatoli Brel, a Russian fellow looking for a Canadiens fan with whom to correspond.

After six years of exchanging letters, Dennis decided to go visit his hockey pen pal and meet the fan club people who met once a month to talk about the Habs and bring their statistics up to date. “It was really weird,” he recalls. “There I was, thousands of miles from Canada, on a street in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), and there was this huge Canadiens logo in the window.”

Following that memorable meeting, Dennis received a letter officially confirming his membership in the Canadiens Fan Club…St. Petersburg Chapter! What more could you ask?

Habs in the USSR

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In September of 1990, the Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota North Stars travelled to the USSR as part of their training camp for the 90-91 season. It was a long way to go for a training camp, but there’s a lot of NHL fans over there, and in particular, Montreal Canadiens fans, and this was a once in a lifetime chance for folks there to see these players in living colour.

Minnesota won only one of four games, but Montreal beat Leningrad SKA 5-3, Dynamo Riga 4-2, and Moscow Central Army 4-1, and lost 4-1 to Dynamo Moscow.

In semi-related news, years later, in 2000, I was walking the back streets of St. Petersburg and came across a restaurant called ‘The Montreal Canadiens Club’. Imagine my surprise!

I went in and there was a dance floor with a giant mural of the Montreal skyline, and also a souvenir booth selling Habs pucks and pins and such. And the waitresses wore team jerseys. Eventually this place closed down because it was really expensive, way too many rubles for the average Russian citizen. But they managed to bring the entire Legends of Hockey team there for a big night and there were pictures of Frank Mahovlich, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur, and other NHL stars getting tipsy and eyeballing the waitresses.

A few weeks after discovering this place I brought my friends there for dinner and it was great fun. I drank too much vodka, and went well beyond my budget, but I needed to do this. After all, how often does one get to eat at a Montreal Canadiens restaurant in St. Petersburg, Russia?

The Stockholm Prison/Hotel Stop

In early September of 1991, my first wife and I and our two kids stopped in Stockholm for a few days on our way to Leningrad, Russia. (St. Petersburg).

If my math is correct, it was 26 years ago. Time flies, as they say.

We stayed in a nice little hotel in Stockholm which was a converted old prison, so our rooms were prison cells.

The 1991 Canada Cup was underway back home, and I was in the lobby of this unique hotel and saw a Swedish newspaper with a picture of Mats Sundin and a big headline that mentioned “Canada”. So I asked the girl at the counter if she would please tell me what the headlines said.

She looked kind of embarrassed and told me that Mats Sundin says Sweden will have no trouble at all with Canada.

Canada ended up clobbering Sweden in this semi-final game 4-0 and maybe Sundin learned then that you don’t make predictions like this.

The game was Sept. 12, 1991. I know this and the score because I googled it.

This is the prison in Stockholm that became a hotel and those are my kids up there. My son’s a Habs fan and my daughter hates hockey. The other person is my ex-wife who stopped liking me and we split up in 1993.

The Soviet Union at this time was in the throngs of collapse, a truly historic time, and there were warnings by government officials to stay away. I also remember being told by a Swedish fellow at the hotel that Russia was way too volatile to visit. But we went in anyway, stayed with a Russian family, which was almost unheard of in those days, and had an incredibly fascinating time. But that’s another story.

Early Season Habs Blues

Four measly goals (and a shootout marker) in four games. Three straight losses after falling 3-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks on opening night at the Bell Centre. Another night of the power play shooting blanks.

If this keeps up, those wild and crazy Montreal Canadiens should be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs sometime around Christmas and we can concentrate fully on the magic of winter, spring, and early summer.

But they looked great in the first period, which should give us some hope. Maybe false hope. Tomas Plekanec handed the boys a 1-0 lead just 1:15 in, after letting loose a nice wrist shot, and they even ended the frame with 16 shots to the Hawks’ 7.

Really good. I was happy. Not happy the way Hugh Hefner was probably happy, but still pretty happy.

The problem was, Chicago scored twice in 19 seconds with only a couple of minutes left in the first, so all the good work that had been done was crushed like a beer can on a frat boy’s forehead.

And the main problem is, even though the boys are getting plenty of shots in each game, these are shots fired by guys not blessed with good hands, which is most of the team. Who on the Habs is blessed with good hands – Pacioretty? Sometimes he is. Drouin? Hopefully.

Who else, Galchenyuk? The guy who so far in this early season looks like he’d rather be back in his apartment with several lovely young ladies. Maybe he should be somewhere else. Maybe Marc Bergevin should’ve moved him when other GMs still thought he was good.

Chicago’s third goal was a power play marker in the second period with Philip Danault in the box for hooking. A cheap call I thought, but whatever, Montreal was toast, because they only score once a game and that had already happened back in the first.

Next up for the Habs is a Saturday night tilt at the Bell against the Leafs. The Leafs, who score more goals in one game than Montreal does in four.

This morning on Sportsnet Hockey Central, host Daren Millard blurted out like a 12-year old,”Do you think the Leafs are becoming the Oilers of the 1980s”? I almost choked on my 7 a.m Labatts Blue.

The 1980s Oilers are considered one of the NHL’s greatest-ever teams. Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Anderson, Kurri. The Leafs, I’m pretty sure, aren’t quite the 80s Oilers.

The Leafs-media love-in is causing a whole new wave of Leafs fans. Refugees are pouring in, turning on their TVs, and hearing how fantastic the team in Toronto is from groupies like Millard.  So they become fans even though they don’t know the difference between a puck and Auston Mathews’ used jock strap.

Speaking of Mathews, here’s a photo of him and his teammates today doing some dryland exercises at their training facility.

And now – for some post game bonus coverage of action on the water. The seas were angry that day, my friends.

We were at a restaurant outside of St. Petersburg, Russia, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, where I went fishing at a small adjacent pond and caught a large trout.

Then the folks in the kitchen cooked it up and we ate it.

 

Sochi Games Underway

The Sochi Olympics are kicking off and should be a fine time and hopefully incident-free aside from the misplacing of 30,000 condoms and such.

I myself missed going to the 2012 London Summer Games because I never got an invitation. Apparently Canada already had their gymnastic team in place.

I’ve been to Russia six times, although never to Sochi. I was always in St. Petersburg, with one side trip to Moscow. I’d been fascinated by the country since the days when Father David Bauer’s Canadian National Team had such trouble against the teams they’d ice from there. And when the 1972 Summit Series took place, I was beside myself.

I was there in 1991 with my first wife and two kids, when the Soviet Union was collapsing, and I was there when the new Russia was rebuilding. I’d see the elderly and often wonder how they and their family and friends could live a life where at any time, a knock on the door could mean ten years in a Siberian work camp for usually the most pathetic of reasons, like being seen eating candy that was favoured by some of Stalin’s enemies.

I married my second wife, Luci, in Russia. And the day after the fairly unusual ceremony, I had to return to Canada and never saw her for a full year until she was able to join me.

I spent a winter there, saw hockey games, drank beer, and once was invited to a school to talk about Canada to young Russian students in an English class.

Russia can be difficult, it’s not North America, and although they now have supermarkets and fancy cars and luxury movie theatres, it’s still very different, and your patience can get a serious workout.

I strongly suggest that maybe sometime, instead of going to Mexico or on a Carribean cruise, go to Russia instead. You’d be amazed.

Here’s a little clip of Russian good samaritans.

Not Quite For Russian Juniors

I was leaning toward Russia in today’s World Junior semi finals action against Sweden, mainly because Luci’s Russian, and of course the idea of a possible Canada-Russia gold medal match-up.

Even though the true Canada-Russia novelty wore off years ago.

Canada still needs to beat Finland later today and Russia needed to overcome a strong Swedish bunch, which they didn’t do. So the original plan is out the window.

It wasn’t to be for the Russian juniors as Sweden held on for a 2-1 win, and it’s not the end of the world for me, considering a couple of Swedes are Habs draft choices, including big Jacob De La Rose, a 6’03” 187 lb left winger, and right winger Sebastian Collberg, who checks in at 5’11”, 175 lbs.

We also saw a little nastiness at the end, a sweet reminder that Sweden and Russia aren’t exactly crazy about each other. Maybe it goes back to the late 1700s when the two were at war and St. Petersburg was forced to build a beautiful fortress to keep the blond-haired foreigners from sailing down the Neva river and pillaging and doing other nasty deeds.

Good day for hockey. Two junior tilts and the Habs clashing with the Senators. Makes it hard to fit in grocery shopping, which is going to happen anyway, as long as the car starts.

So it’ll be Sweden against either Canada or Finland. Now I’m forced to drive Luci to the Russian grocery store in Brossard so she can pick up some fish and kalbasa. I’m sticking with cheeseburgers.

Below, St. Petersburg’s Peter Paul Fortress. I have an original nail from the Fortress, which Luci’s son Denis found near the top of the steeple when he was helping to fix it up.

Peter and Paul Fortress

 

Good Old May 10th

Today is a good day for me, even with a depressing Habs hangover.

Twelve years ago on this day, Luci and I were married in the Palace of Marriage in St. Petersburg, Russia. We had gone through an unbelievable amount of red tape and craziness, but it got done, surprisingly enough. The Russian bureaucracy doesn’t believe in making things go smoothly. I have no idea why.

The whole thing involved going from one place to another for several weeks, getting papers stamped and translation notarized and things getting duplicated and this and that. It drove me crazy. I’m not exactly the patient type to begin with, and I felt like jumping into one of the nearby canals.

If you want to get to know St. Petersburg quickly, just go through the process of getting married. You’ll see all corners of this massive city in no time flat.

When all the papers were finally rounded up and stamped, we took them to the Palace of Marriage a few days before the big day, and the lady on the ground floor examined everything, put another stamp on, and then sent us up four floors to another lady, who told us when we would be married. The lady downstairs couldn’t do this. It took two people.

On the day of the wedding, the lady who was to marry us was late, and when she did show up, she married us while she still had her coat on. We were expecting some sort of ceremony, but all she did was say a couple of things and have us sign something, then she left as quickly as she had come in.

The wedding party stood there looking at each other, wondering what to do next, and eventually our friend Katia lined us up, stood behind the pulpit, and married us properly. It might not have been official, but it was way better than the official version.

Afterwards, we all headed to a great club just off Nevsky Prospekt called Money Honey, in the heart of St. Petersburg, where a rock band was playing and Russians danced all over the place.

A year later, in Powell River, we got married again, at the Moose Lodge, where, once again a rock band was playing and people danced all over the place.

Luci is my second wife and is the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s been a great twelve years.

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Habs Restaurant In Russia

In the winter of 2000/2001 I was in St. Petersburg, Russia, and while there Luci and I heard about a restaurant in the inner core off Nevsky Prospekt called the Montreal Canadiens Restaurant, of all things. So one day we went for a long walk and found the thing. We went in, looked around, made reservations, and came back later.

A good time was had by all, the food was good, singers on stage sang Russian songs, dancers danced up a storm, pictures of players like Frank Mahovlich and Guy Lafleur  hung from the walls, and the vodka didn’t burn at all going down. The place was slightly expensive, but when you find a place called Montreal Canadiens Restaurant in the middle of Russia, it has to be done, right?

Not long before we were there, a group of NHL greats, while on tour in Russia, had booked the place and partied there, and the manager was as proud as punch to show us the autographed stick he got from the old pros. He handled it like it might shatter at any minute.

I have to give it them, they tried hard, but I think it’s been long closed. I seem to recall we were the only ones there, and all this cabaret stuff going on which must have really added to the overhead. The servers wore hockey jerseys, as you can see, and really didn’t look all that enthusiastic about having their picture taken with me. Frank looked pleased though.

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