Scott Mellanby? Never skated alongside Guy Lafleur …
Rick Dudley? Never partied at Pete Mahovolich’s parents’ home as a teammate. Mahovlich made the rounds. Dudley and the ‘Little M’ may have crossed paths and rum and cokes somewhere as acquaintances.
Marc Bergevin? Not even an entrance into the Canadiens’ storied dressing room. Three hockey playing men; three non – Habitants.
On the dreaded day in 1995, when former team president Ronald Corey appointed Steve Shutt, Yvan Cournyoyer, Mario Tremblay and Rejean Houle to run the Montreal Canadiens – things were never the same since.
Amid a rah – rah press conference, a ‘garbage goal’ skater, a ‘roadrunner’ and two lunch pail plumbers were expected to resurrect a franchise that did not require resurrecting.
Just two short years removed from a Stanley parade, Houle et al were called in to ‘save’ a squad which commenced the season a (tongue-in-cheek) horrendous 0- 4. This on the heels of the team missing the playoffs for the first time in twenty- five seasons. For Jaques Demers, the writing was on the wall even if he could not read it.
Houle, the G.M, and Tremblay – the coach; had no experience in either position. Still, the bleu, blanc et rouge blood which pumped through their veins; enough to instill victory to their former club. Add the inexperience of assistant coaches Cournyoyer and Shutt – the worse foursome at any golf tournament around the NHL.
That tenure set Le Club de Hockey Canadien further from a parade than an eighty – two year old man with no patience. Players came and went amid so much panic, it’s a wonder the fire alarm did not summon the emergency workers daily. Add the fiasco with Patrick Roy – the Habs were going downhill and quick …
Same old Song and Dance
In years since, the Habs have tried in vain to bring in fresh faces. Attempts have been made with the likes of Vigneault, Therrien, Julien and Jacques Martin. Upstairs – Andre Savard attempted a coup and had moderate success. The common denominator of all these hockey people? French Canadians and Hab fans from the past.
When this did not work, back to the familiar ‘ex – ‘Hab’ drawing room.
Carbonneau and Gainey were on the right track. A first place finish in the Eastern Conference for the first time in twenty years. Then, something funny happened away from the old Forum. The team (corporation), realized millions could be made with a centennial celebration worthy of kings. Everyone could get rich, the organization would receive attention and a chance to display feathers like a hockey – playing peacock.
Along the way, the team was forgotten …
A kindergarten class requires a teacher. If not, paint will adorn the walls and the sandbox will smell awful funny. Gainey and Carbonneau’s crew lost without the Skipper. Somewhere, Carbonneau lost his way also and was dismissed by Gainey.
Enter a Gauthier with ties to the French. Enter a Martin with ties to the Gauthier. A repetition worthy of not repeating. Plus ca change … Plus c’est la meme chose!
A New Beginning
Serge Savard, a man wronged by Corey in 1995, was given a shot at redemption. New owner Molson, a virgin at hockey affairs… Serge or – ‘Le Senateur’, brainstormed with the boss. In Savard’s views, hockey first – language second. By hiring Bergevin to run the show – an English ‘sheep’ in French clothing. Savard is savvy. Savard knew ex- Quebec Premieres Parizeau and Bouchard attempted to rally the French away from Canada while sending their kids to the States to learn. In English.
By hiring Bergevin, a response to the French call of duty. By hiring Bergevin, an insight into the real hockey world – en Anglais.
Rick Dudley – an Englishman straight from Toronto. Scott Mellanby – an Englishman straight from the land of Halak. The new coach … ? Straight from the land of versatile knives.
For all intensive purposes, Hartley is English with enough French to order breakfast and not be laughed at in La Belle Province’s La Belle Province.
Bob Hartley never skated with Guy Lafleur either …