If it were that simple – Rejean Houle would be running the show …
It appears to be a new fad.
Bash Geoff Molson, bash Pierre Gauthier and bash the iconic Montreal Canadiens.Why …?
The reality of the situation is that Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey before – are and were two GM’ s trying to ice the best team possible. Have they made mistakes ? Bet your bleu, blanc et rouge bottoms they have. Are their misdemeanors more devastating than other teams in Bettman’s league of nations ? Aside from Detroit and maybe San Jose – not really.
The Montreal Canadiens are a symbol of hockey supremacy. They represent all that is supposed to be good in sports and life. They bring people back to a simpler time. A time when hard work, skill and devotion brought the ultimate prize. The players that skated under the banners that multiplied with each passing season gave relief. A reason to live for not just Quebecers yet people from all walks of life. If a wife left a husband or visa versa , there was always the Montreal Canadiens to warm their broken hearts.If a man lost his job and had trouble feeding the kids …there was always the Montreal Canadiens to distract his troubled mind.
If the diminutive Yvon Cournyoyer could not only compete yet shine in a league of giants – there was hope for an otherwise hopeless situation. In a harsh environment, when the -35 temperature stops the car from running …the Montreal Canadiens are there to curse, cheer and decrease the stress. If Maurice Richard could net fifty goals in fifty games – a broken radiator is not that big of a deal. If the famous number 9 could lead his team to victory – time after time , the possibility of becoming a foreman in an assembly plant seems real.These scenarios are not far-fetched or even sporadic.They continued for seventy-five years and set the bar very high for a hockey team.
As the years and hockey seasons progressed – the Canadiens have had to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings. Gone are the days when the team had the rights to French Canadian boys who grew up with Stanley Cup stars in their eyes. Gone are the days when hard working men played every shift as if it were their final one. Players today are not afraid of losing their jobs. If Mike Cammalleri had played in the fifties, sixties or even the seventies – he would have thought twice before voicing his disenchantment. Why ? Not because he would be afraid of losing his post with the greatest hockey franchise. His brain would have stopped his mouth for fear of being blackballed in a sport that used to be filled with integrity and loyalty. A group of men that instilled the proper etiquette. Kids looked up to their behavior and if their deeds were dastardly – an entire generation would learn and grow into the same type of ‘misfits’. Which is indeed what has happened .
A Honourable Trend
Guy Carbonneau was on the golf course after a disappointing exit for the Canadiens. Tired of the omnipresent francophone press and wanting to be Greta Garbo-esque, the former captain desired to be left alone to think his thoughts. Carbonneau was human . When a photographer invaded his personal space – Carbonneau did what most people might do. He flipped the ‘oiseau’. Gave the finger to the soul sucking paparazzi. In any other city or sport – Carbonneau’s actions would have been scolded and that was it. Because it was Montreal and he represented a class organization – Guy was thrown away like an empty case of Molson. Was it the proper thing to do ? Hockey wise no. For the good of young children and what the organization represented – you bet your $250.00 tickets it was. Nothing was bigger than the CH. That was and continues to be the one common denominator of the Montreal Canadiens.
Chris Chelios was not traded to Chicago because he was a bad hockey player. Chelios was dispatched to the windy city because of his off-ice antics. The Habs set the bar high yet it did not mean for their players to get high at the bar. Mike Ribiero was sent away for the same reasons as were Pierre Dagenais and Jose Theodore. Carbonneau ( not quite bright) was allegedly dispatched once again as coach from the team because of his off-ice philandering with the likes of Komasarek,Higgins and O’Byrne to name a few. It does not matter how big you are – the history and public images of the team are much bigger.
Some would say this is hypercritical. After all, the highest scoring point getter in franchise history – Guy Lafleur, was a noted partier. Some would say it is hypocritical because the Canadiens , as most corporate entities , are psychopathic in their business transactions. The entire basement of the Bell Center is reportedly filled with centennial souvenirs that were over estimated in the team’s attempt to rake in the mighty dollar. Want a commemorative Jean Beliveau diaper for your small child ? Le Centre Bell is the place to go. Ask the proper questions and you may just get one cheap. Yet can you blame an organization that wants to accumulate enough money to compete in a league of millionaires. The Habs have been penalized by the high tax dollar in the city, the province and the country. Instead of a thank you note from the city of Montreal for bringing tourists and notoriety to the city – the team instead having to pay enormous sums of money so the crooks in city hall can bring their son-in-laws to the game. Now that’s hypocritical.
In these days of salary cap madness , me-generation players and endless distractions, the Montreal Canadiens try very hard to hold the flame high in a world that is getting nuttier by the day. The people who bash the Canadiens beyond the everyday criticism of daily transactions and questionable moves are hurting. A Boston Bruin fan , a Winnipeg Jet fan or an office worker in Japan who follows hockey on his laptop are in pain.
No one wants to see a symbol of greatness suffer. The world mourns when Superman has been weakened. A collective gasp echoes through an audience of movie patrons if the Joker has Batman down for the count and seemingly ‘dead’. There are those who sincerely hate these Superheroes as there are Montreal Canadien haters. One thing that remains constant – the villains come and go yet Superman and Batman live to fight another day.
In the first round of the 1992 -93 playoffs , the Canadiens were down 2 -0 to the Quebec Nordiques. The situation seemed as hopeless as it does now. It was not just Patrick Roy, John Leclair and Eric Desjardins who won the organizations 24th Stanley Cup. It was the energy that accumulated throughout the hockey world as ‘everyone’ cheered for ‘Rocky’ to get up.
When there are that many people sending karma into the air – it is hard to keep a hero down.
It is … that simple !
Hockey Writers, Habs Eye on the Prize and Knuckles