Mini -Break


Hello!

Thanks for stopping by and checking out one of the funniest and sanest Canadiens’ web sites …

Since the beginning of last season, with the exception of a couple of days here and there – I have written pretty much seven days a week on the Habs.

That is more than any of the guys who cover the team for the Montreal Gazette and most online web sites! (I could write three times a day and never catch up with the French media.)

I need a break.

I will be back in a short while. By the time Gomez scores a goal – wait, Ill be back sooner than that! With the latest news in my down-to-earth, funny style.

Thank you for supporting me and please check the archives – there are quite a bit of stories to keep you busy for a few days.

See ya soon …

Rick

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A Hospital Visit


The boy was nine – about to turn into a hockey player.

The minor leagues eluded him. The doctor told him ‘no sports’ until the ears were healed. What the physican meant was no team sports where competing meant an opportunity to get drilled by testosterone.

The swamp in front of his home was the training ground for an NHL career. The rink up the street – an opportunity to watch and learn while the older kids skated circles around him. The cold, a rite of passage …

The dark – haired boy begged his father for the missing pieces. The armor – the equipment required to arrive on the doorstep of the hockey hall of fame.

Citing wisdom, the Dad refused. “A boy grows fast”. He would say. ” Equipment such as elbow and shin pads do not. At the time of the doctor’s green light, the equipment will be bought …!”

Wistfully, with a heart as heavy as a puck in a jacket pocket – the lad continued his way down the frozen rink of adolescence.

The following week, once a long and dreadful day of school was completed; the prebuscent student discovered a package upon his neatly pressed sheets. A white plastic bag contained a treasure. Gifts to make a young hockey fan richer than his wildest dreams …

Placing the wrapping aside recklessly, the boy’s eyes widened at the sight of what his soft hands held. Like a beacon atop a stormy ocean, a brand new Montreal Canadiens sweater grew larger than life in his outstretched fingers.

His heart grew proud that day …

Along with the sweater, his sweater … a pair of Canadiens’ hockey socks matched his dreams with perfection. The sizes larger to fit his growing body for at least three years.

The first chance, the first non – school day, the boy pulled the same coloured socks that Maurice Richard wore onto his thin legs. The Jersey, the famous red, white and blue Jersey – came next. A Canadian Tire bought hockey sweater transformed into the very same one a certain Beliveau wore when netting his 500th goal.

The cereal went down quicker that morning. The voice of his Mom – a distant sound from a shore wintered by visions of frozen ponds.

Unlaced laces lagged behind like an old blind dog on a hunting trip as the boy raced through the doorway into frozen steps. The cold wind – blowing snow into his eyes and through to the vestibule built by men. People who may have played hockey as well; once upon a time …

The rink was filled, complete with all ages of fans. The original six, the Philadelphia Flyers – represented by boys, men and legacies. Some watched, others played. Most toyed with the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘could have beens’ that circled their brains like Gretzky on a powerplay.

The boy, quickly and erringly placed his skates to his feet with soft reckless abandon. Off came the jacket. The famous CH logo pointing the way. The red, white and blue socks matching the crest every step.

Combined with blue mittens, blue hand-me-down hockey pants and a Canadiens tuque; the boy fit nicely with the scrimmage taking place.

Standing by the net, discussing stragedy with teammates older than he – the boy looked into the distance.

It was too late.

A puck, a missile – a foot above the ice and travelling very fast, struck the soon-to-be ‘boy wonder’ in the shin.

Hard. Dead on.

Pain so intense – so lifelike, shot through him like a fiery stick piercing a marshmallow. Sweat, cold and dizzying – felled Guy Lafleur’s prodigal son as an ax would a six month old tree.

Clouds, the colour blue and faces black and white – focused their attention to the youngster as the ice became his new found bed.

Moms, Dads and ambulances were called. Blood replaced white ivory – coloured ice. Ice replaced blood – coloured socks. Shaking with shock, tears frozen in time, the adolescent continued his journey on broken dreams. Limb – shattered.

Operation. Cast. Holding back the energy of the rink, the passion and desire brought tears daily.

One day, one boring day when the mind wandered to dangerous places – a man woke the boy with a nudge. A poke check of reality. The man told of tales of the not so long ago past. A leg, a hockey playing leg, shattered not once – twice. At the cusp of stardom …

Hard work and devotion healed that man’s leg. Hard work and devotion healed that man’s soul. Enabling a career to start and finish with accolades beyond a boy’s biggest hopes. A happy ending to a story started in the grip of hell.

Three years later. A trilogy of seasons as a classroom. The boy, the swamp skater, the patient – the fan of the Canadiens de Montreal; represented his town at the highest level possible. He received a trophy. A symbol of dedication to hockey and perseverance.

As the years passed into adulthood, the boy whose shin was broken by the very thing he wished to spend his entire life chasing, wondered …

What would have happened to him if Serge Savard had not broken his leg?

Twice …

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Shane Doan; The Missing Link


The road to success has been bumpy for Phoenix Coyote captain Shane Doan. A howling good time? Not really ..

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All that skating, hitting and leading like a true captain should is about to change. Hopefully for the better as Doan is poised to change addresses.

The fresh Phoenix air will be replaced by the – not – so – fresh breeze off of the St. Lawrence seaway. American hot – dogs exchanged for Quebecois – tortiere pie. Seats filled by hockey students dealt straight up for twenty thousand ‘professeurs’.

Shane Doan is on the verge of becoming a Montreal Canadien.

The Alberta native is a free agent after seventeen years in the NHL. The father of four is a devout Christian man whose parents ran a Christian camp called Circle Square Ranch in Halkirk, Ab. To this day, the thirty- seven year old forward writes bible verses on his hockey sticks.

Montreal is a good fit. Doan can take up residence in St. Joseph’s Oratory high atop Mount Royal. Watching the Habs practice from such a viewpoint, can only invite the spectre of Richard to point out Therrien’s foibles.

Doan, the former Winnipeg Jet – is also the second cousin to Montreal netminder Carey Price. The principle suspect in Doan’s open- mindness to all things Canadiens.

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Hab G.M Bergevin has utilized the off- season, his first as a Hab – to construct a team which will be tougher. Between the boards and between the ears. Doan – a two time gold medalist at the world championships, a captain at that level and also in the NHL, fits the criteria for a Bergevin -led squad.

Winning is in his family’s blood …

Price has won everywhere and has been named most valuable player on every team he has played including the Habs ( Molson Cup ). Shane’s first cousin is Catherine Lemay Doan, a two- time Olympic gold medalist in speed skating. Although Catherine is related through marriage – it goes to.show, members of the Doan family love winners …

So does Bergevin.

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By adding Doan to his team, the Montreal G.M is surrounding underachievers like Rene Bourque and Scott Gomez with hard-nosed, don’t quit personalities.

Captain Gionta can skate with a little less pressure to poke the Bourques of the world. He can concentrate more on scoring goals.

Having another captain will do that …

Galchenyuk’s Top Ten Reasons for Signing a Three Year Deal


The Habs’ third pick in the 2012 draft, Alex Galchenyuk, has inked an entry level – three year deal with Le Club de Hockey.

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With little trepidation, the Russian agreed to the deal for several reasons.

Here now are the top ten;

10. Heard the strippers in Montreal are much better than in Sarnia.

9. Are you kidding? Miss a chance to play with Scott Gomez … ?

8. The colors red, white and blue add a fiery dimension to his normal placid complexion.

7. Three words; Awesome skate sharpener!

6. Where else can you buy premium Russian vodka until 11pm every night?

5. ‘You say tomato – I say tomate!’

4. Always wanted to get up close to a black hockey player …

3. Driving Montreal roads; A ‘new’ challenge!

2. Heard Youppi is really Tretiak in disguise.

And Galchenyuk’s number one reason for signing with the Canadiens?

1. His Mom told him to …!

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Old Pros – Tales of Hilarity …


I recently purchased a book. Yes – I can read …

The book in question is Brian McFarlane; From the Broadcast Booth. It is a treasure to be able to laugh out loud when a book, any book, sits upon your lap. McFarlane ‘s tales do just that.

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The arrangement of the book is special in itself. McFarlane – in one section, spins stories of the encounters he has had with various hockey folk over the years. That is not unique. If my dog could write ( or spell ), he too would knit yarns of the many sports personalities he met along the way.

What makes Brian’ s pages jump out is the way he introduces legacies. He writes to people like Gretzky ( Walter and Wayne ), in the form of a letter. A personalized thank you note which includes all their accomplishments shrunk into a short but thorough report. All the letters contain interesting facts. Things a hockey fan wants and needs to know.

The most entertaining aspect of McFarlane’s life in broadcasting, are the characters which became accessible through his choice of work. McFarlane devotes an entire section of stories told directly through the mouths of hockey babes.

NHLers – stars and not, career minor leaguers and all types of management types; regurgitate ‘drop -dead laughing out loud’ anecdotes from their colorful pasts .

George ‘ the Chief’ Armstrong, the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs was once at a party. A fan had asked him to sign a shirt, a stick and several other pieces of memorabilia. So much – Armstrong said to the overzealous fan; ” I bet you would like me to sign your ass as well …!”

Much to Armstrong’s surprise, the fan replied; “Would you?”

The fan turned around and dropped his drawers. Armstrong grabbed a thick black marker and wrote; ‘Johnny Bower’ as big as he could across the Leaf fan’s glutemous maximus.

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This book contains many, many smiles and chuckles. How about the minor leaguer who started a fight with his coach; Gerry McNamara, during the course of a game!

McNamara’s team came to his defence and tossed the player onto the ice. If that was not bad enough, the team received a ‘ too many men on the ice’ penalty for good measure.

McFarlane ‘s book is filled with laughter and heartwarming stories.

Bobby Orr taking him to visit a sick children’s hospital as the Bruins’ star made his weekly pilgrimage. All because McFarlane was having a ‘bad day’. Once the author witnessed the sick and dying children, Orr asked; ” So – how is your day now … ?”

These ‘behind the scenes’ events give the reader an insight into hockey before the days of million dollar contracts. A time when players could be themselves and not have to take ‘press courses’ from the NHL.

It was also a time when a man’s word meant something. Look no further than a passage where McFarlane’s adulation of Dick Irvin Jr. shines through like an old forgotten beacon in an ocean of hockey history. McFarlane was responsible for Irvin’s first job in hockey.

From the Broadcast Booth is a fun read for a hockey or sports fan. Three hundred pages turn as easy as Wilf Paiement Sr. beat up an entire village of lumber workers.

Can you read …? I hope so!

P.K Subban – Three Years; 3 Million?


P. K will sit down next week and discuss his future.

What to name his new hamster? How to get away with sporting a Bruins’ jersey with the name Malcolm on the back and not get caught? Should a BlueRay player be purchased?

Pressing questions which require pressing solutions.

No mesdames et monsieurs. It is a bit more complicated than that. Mr. SUBBAN, along with his agent, Don Meehan – will be deciding whether or not Subban will continue to add revenue to the Canadiens’ banque account.

How about a Weber- type deal? P.K. in a Habs ‘ uniform for 15 years for 45 million. Sound good …! The mathematical challenged may require help on this. That would be three million a year. Good for now but not later …

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Malcolm? M.K.?

A lot can happen in fifteen years. Subban may lose his virginity for example. Look at OvechkIn. Women decrease abilities on the ice while increasing abilities in the bedroom. One French – Canadian woman, a femme fatale, its all over for the Ontario native.

P.K. could also lose his mojo – the hockey mojo. His desire may shrink to the size of a replica puck on the desk of a Tony McKegney fan. The wrong end of a fight, the wrong end of a slapshot or the wrong end of a Carey Price high – five may send Pernel Karl skating to the waiting arms of his Mom – Mrs. P.K.

The long contract is a silly idea.

Sign a player, any player – to a three year deal tops. Following the time it takes for a sperm to become an entity worthy of the ‘ terrible twos’ – evaluate and then re – sign if warranted.

Marriages are for life. Marriages, sixty – four percent of the time are not for life. Why in the name of Robert G. Orr should hockey contracts end differently. Ask the Islanders how breakfast is working out each morning with Dipietro …?

Subban should get 3 – 3.5 million a season for three seasons. Once the outcome of this test in futility has been determined, sit down and buy the more nature P.K a cup of coffee.

Then, discuss his future …

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And Now for Something Completely Different …


I had accepted my Mother’s impending death yet nothing prepared me for the morning she went blind.

It had been three weeks since I learned the terrible news. My Mom – aged 83 , was diagnosed with Pancraetic Cancer.  This was the fourth time this terrible disease had been diagnosed in the poor woman’s body.

The first time was a  year following the death of my Father when I was twelve years old. Cancer had been discovered in her intestines and an operation was scheduled to remove a section of them in order to sustain her life and in effect – her mothering duties of me. It was not until six years later –  I learned the profound effect this incident had on my life.

I recall following my Mom as she was wheeled on a gurney into the elevator . A ride that would inevitably carry her to a successful operation or – her death at the age of fifty – four. I was informed by someone – this was as far as I could go. Beyong this point was for the doctor , nurses and whoever was involved in the surgical procedures. Here I was . A  twelve year old boy , less than a year removed from the sudden death of his Dad , left standing alone in a hospital corridor as the door of an elevator commenced closing on what could very well be – the final time I saw my Mother’s face alive.

As my eyes met hers – words exited my mouth that may have surprised my Mom and the orderly that was helping her. Instead of saying  ‘ I Love You ‘ or  ‘Don’t Worry Ma …’ or anything that was remotely appropriate  – I gazed into the eyes of the woman that gave me life and I said ..” Fuck Off !’

At the age of eighteen , following  years of walking around hating everyone – especially my Mom and Dad , I decided to visit a councellor. Deep  inside I knew – something was wrong.

My Mom had survived her battle and for the ensuing eight months – I was the model kid. The chemotherapy was intense , chasing hair from her head and instilling extreme vomiting on this poor woman. I had no option but to cook , clean and take care of many daily operations around the house . Each evening – my duties for the day done , I would place my head on my Mom ‘ s chest to ensure  she was still breathing .

All of this in a time while dealing with school and all the peer pressures that are inevitably included in a twelve , soon to be thirteen , year – old boy.

Once my Mom  recovered – I became the biggest A * * hole walking …

The ensuing years brought school suspensions , extreme drug use and emotional abuse towards my Mom and any girl I became involved with. One day – I woke up and decided that  I needed to speak with someone.  Pronto ! If not – I was going to land up in jail or subjected to a life of alcohol or drug abuse.

It did not take long. Three or four meetings was enough to exorcise the demons within.  Seven words were all that was required to ease my pain. Seven elementary words from the mouth of a trained professional that altered my life and removed one hundred pounds from my shoulders !

Once I parlayed my experiences to her amid shouting , crying and general carrying – on ; the woman that I owe a gratitude of debt – looked at me and said ; Of course you are mad – you were taking care of your Mom when SOMEONE SHOULD BE TAKING CARE OF YOU !

In the ensuing years – I resorted back to my self and took care of my Mom as much as I could as I grew from boy to man. We had numerous discussions and endured more hard times. Occasions that including the re – appearance of her Cancer twice – once in her lungs and the other , her colon.

Together , along with my dog Barney – we became a close knit family. A loving feeling that I did not feel until years later when my own children – Francesca and Owen were  born.

I came to realize that this woman , a lady that survived one heart attack , a partial paralysis , seven miscarriages , three cancers , the death of her thirty – six year marriage and a horrible teenage boy – was not going to give up very easily.

When the doctor informed her of  the Cancer in her Pancreas and her ultimate fate – my initial reaction was one of non – chalance . Nothing had ever stopped my Mom from carrying on , dancing on tabletops and enjoying life ! I was not worried in the least . In fact – on my Father  ‘s deathbed , it was he who had informed my Mother that she would live to the ripe age of 107. A number that had become mystical as the years passed and Mom overcame many obstacles.

This time – upon visiting my Mom in the hospital , I saw something that turned my heart into sadness.

The ‘ light ‘ in my Mom’s eyes had been extuinguished. I knew there was no more fight in this woman . She was tired and I accepted that. Me -much  more than my four older Sisters and Brother , much more than her new husband of four years and much more than any friend she spoke to – was well aware of the pain and suffering that this lady had endured. I lived with her day – to – day.

As she lived her remaining days in the hospital amid many vistors and well wishers – I saw her every morning and every night. Never in my life had I felt so useless as I watched my Mom slowly descend into nothing. Morphine became her best friend as the pain derived her of  everyday pleasure. I. V replaced the pleasures of real food as her system rejected the doctors attempts at feeding her.

Still – she was my Mom and as I sat with her each moment that I could – I carried on as if nothing was wrong. I asked her advice and I spoke of my daily activities as if life were normal. I was not going to let my Mom know that I was in pain. I saved the tears for the waiting area each and every time I visited. After all  – I had never seen her cry !

It was the sixth day of  September. One day before my  fortieth Birthday when my Mom, Constance Hilda Holnbeck Keene lost the use of her eyes.  The diabetes that had entered her life five years earlier was the victor in this woman’s latest battle. Words cannot explain the sadness , the anger and the helplessness I felt that morning – four days before she passed away.

I recall sitting at home that evening and probably , for the first time in many years – wished that my Dad were alive. I felt so alone as a single man . I had just been  seperated one month earlier and was fighting in court to see my two young children – aged three and four.

My Mom was buried one week later…

Her body laid to rest amid mixed emotions. Her suffering had passed yet mine was just beginning. The woman that had been my sparring partner , the nurse to me as I to her , my confidant , my friend and enemy , my Father – was gone for good.

I had said everything I pretty much wanted to over the years . I apolgized numerous times for my bad behavior. I had made amends and told her many times in her final years – how much I loved and appreciated her.

Hey Mom …?

Thanks for the signed Birthday card on my fortieth Birthday! Even though you never saw it – I always will …

Love ,

Rick  xo

TSN 990; The Voices of Reason


As most hockey and sports fans are aware, the city of Montreal is in danger of losing its only English language sports radio station.

A fact which treds on the road of prohibition of the language and civil liberties in this town.

Mitch Melnick – a man who has fought and created a station that not only gives a voice to English sports fans in this province, it allows him and his colleagues to provide educated and street – smart views that only anglophone Montrealers could provide to the listeners.

The French stations such as RDS, maintain a monopoly on hockey and although they provide great coverage of the beloved Canadiens de Montreal, their views stem  from the legacy of the Rocket, Beliveau and Lafleur. The French culture‘s views on the team.

Within this scope of talent, there lies the Blakes, the Harveys and the Robinsons. The English legacy which countered the French etoiles so elegantly.The Pollocks, the Bowmans – the Irvins.

Add the long and predominantly English heroes which passed and blocked their way to stardom with the Alouettes, the 99.9 percent of all the adored Montreal ExposTSN 990 is the link to the past.

A time when sports transcended the language barrier. Eras when the coach of the Habs had to win and not worry about ordering Sheppard’s Pie in French.

Melnick et al provide a more balanced, just way of gazing at the pastures of sports in this city.

French broadcasters and some of the French – Canadian fans have driven the Habs into a rusty garage filled with soiled rags of the past jaded with mis-informed views of the team’s successes and history.

Who should be removed from the airwaves?

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They Tore Down Paradise and Put up a Parking Lot …


No more plaques, no more statues, no more teachers’ dirty looks …

The profs in question will be shoving their disconnected looks the Habs ‘ way instead.

For a franchise whose image lies somewhere between Jeffrey Dahlmer and Mario Tremblay, the announcement of the team tearing down Centennial Plaza in lieu of a condo project is suspect. Sketchy …

Not only are ‘ the corporate Habs ‘ ripping up a celestial cemetery, the accountants are subtracting the hearts of the many fans who aided in the construction of the plaza – brick by brick …

According to Molson – the bricks, bought by fans with personalized messages to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the
team’s final Cup win … ( digress shall we ), will unequivocally be placed in storage until further notice.

Was there a disclaimer involved in the sales receipt when the partisans parted with their pennies to purchase pieces of the plaza? A note stating the bits of nostalgia written from the souls of people from Gaspe to Chilliwack can be moved by the Club de Hockey Canadien …?

If yes – cool!

If the response is no, nada – ‘watcha talkin’ bout Willis?’ – then, in the words of the disco band Shirley and Co.; ‘Shame, shame, shame – shame on you! ‘

Well – watcha goin’ to do?!

The Canadiens used to be the hockey equivalent of ‘ Hey Jude ‘ , ‘Stairway to Heaven‘ or ‘ Satisfaction’. Publicly anyways.
In the days of the typewriter, before the internet made porn a cause for divorce – all the seedy and suspect business or hockey decisions were kept in secrecy.

Guys like Red Fisher were the sole bearers of bad Habs’ moves. More times than not – the news was kept behind closed penalty box doors. If guys like Mr. Fisher wanted access to the team, anything out of the ordinary was kept out of the ordinary press if Fisher wanted to keep his privaleges privileged.

Times have changed. Soooo much!

Loyalty,tradition and honor has been jettisoned from the ship of society so often, the ship sails on filled with greed as the captain and inconsiderate as the first mate.

The majority of the men whose numbers hang from the targets of so much love and adoration at Le Centre Bell, skated a different ice surface. A mirrored canvas, a reflection of a different time. They painted historic statistics with paint brushes filled with the true colors of red, white and blue.

Not the dollar store purchased acrylic colors which the modern – day team has utilized far too often in the past ten years.

The University of Montreal Hockey, the glory and the tradition of the franchise appears to have closed.

School’s out. Forever …

Diaz, Defence and Daigneault


Your Montreal Canadiens are bottom heavy.

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When and if training camp commences in September, the team will have so many defensive ends – fans just may think an Alouette football practice is underway.

Subban, Markov, Emelin, Bouillon, Gorges, Kaberle and newly – inked Diaz. Seven … er, six defencemen (if you count Kaberle … ).

Add Tinordi,  Beaulieu, Ellis and St. Denis and a whole lotta draft picks and riff – raff attempting to make the big club. Plus new off- ice personnel such as Patrice Brisebois, Sylvain Lefebvre and J.J. ( Dyno -mite ) Daigneault; the Habs could quite conceivably tie every game 0-0.

If Price is at his best – it should be difficult for opposing teams to score. If Price is at his best – it should be difficult for the Habs to score!

What else is new …? Yadda, yadda , yadda …

The top line consisting of Cole, Desharnais and Pacioretty is filled with what- ifs.

What if
– Cole’ s spectacular season was an aberration?

What if – Pacioretty’s surge had everything to do with proving himself and not about consistency?

What if – little David Desharnais’ feints and follies were videotaped into the minds and hearts of big opposing defencemen everywhere?

Truth be known, one season does not an Anderson, Messier and Gretzky make. Worried yet …? How about a second line of scoring …

Last season, Captain Gionta was not playing well before his bicep was torn like something from a Freddy Krueger movie. Rene Bourque skated  as Krueger himself and Scott Gomez played as if chased by Krueger / Bourque. Either that or Scott was a victim of too many pennies in his pockets wearing him down.

See any goals on the Habs’ horizon? Maybe – yes. Probably – hmmmm …

The remainder of the forwards such as Prust, Moen, Blunden. White, Armstrong, and Plekanec* will be;

A) Hitting people all over the rink
B) Beating people all over the rink
C) Spending the majority of the time in the penalty box or

D) All the above.
* Plekanec does not fit into any category at the moment. His bewilderment of last season not conclusive. Waiting for the Gauthier bugs to clear …

Goal scoring comes in the form of potential. Leblanc, Gallagher, Eller and Galchenyuk. The former – the best bet and the latter – a longshot for this season. Gallagher? Somewhere between the middle and Hamilton. Eller? BETWEEN Leblanc and Gionta to give the team a ‘LEG’ up on the new season …

Or

Place Galchenyuk on a line with Gomez and Gionta – a triple ‘G’ line for marketing bliss. How about the ‘G’ Spot line?

As the story goes and for lack of a better finish …

Your Montreal Canadiens are bottom heavy. As long as it is not the bottom of the league …

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Bernie Nicholls; King for More than a Day


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Bernie Nicholls and daughter McKenna

Golf is much sweeter with a Stanley Cup in your bag. A championship ring eases the swing as well …

This is how former Los Angeles King player and current L.A Kings coaching consultant Bernie Nicholls feels. In a phone conversation from a golf course in L.A – Nicholls could not be happier as he prepares for his day with the Stanley Cup.

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” I get the cup on the 1st of August. I am taking it to my hometown of Haliburton, Ont”. Says Nicholls as he directs his buddies on the course. ” I am planning to spend the day with my Mom, Dad, brother and Stanley. We are taking the cup to my minor league rink. The local papers and tv stations will be there along with hundreds of people I have forgot I knew!” He laughs.

Nicholls career is no laughing matter.

Drafted in the seventh round by L.A in 1980, 73rd overall – Bernie’s transition from a scoring sensation in junior to the big leagues was relatively easy.

” My first season, I had Jimmy Fox on my left wing and several players including Darryl Evans on my right. Jimmy and I played together for six or seven years. We had some real trying seasons in L.A but a lot of great memories.”

Jonathan Quick and Nicholls

One of those memories was the first time Bernie played against his hero; Bryan Trottier of the New York Islanders. It was during his rookie season.

” I was a huge Islanders fan and they came into Los Angeles to play a game. I had every member of the team sign my stick. I still have that stick and Bryan and I are good friends. He’s such an awesome guy!”

Following two seasons of 41 and 46 goals,including a one hundred point season, Nicholls discovered himself playing on a team with Wayne Gretzky following the blockbuster deal with Edmonton. During the 1988-89 season, Nicholls became one of only eight players in the history of the NHL to score 70 goals. His 150 points the same season, places him among only five players who have reached the same plateau.

” People assume I played on a line with Gretzky – and that is why I scored all those goals.” Says Bernie. ” Luc Robitaille was my left winger and Dave Taylor was on my right most of the year. I played with Wayne mostly on the penalty kill and scored eight goals. Playing with Wayne anywhere gets you points!” He laughs.

Just as the Kings were about to shed their sad – sack image, Nicholls was traded to the Rangers in 1990 for Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom. Two players who contributed to L.A’s 1993 Stanley Cup run. Something which Nicholls does not regret.

” I had great years in L.A!” I got to play with the greatest player in the game. How can I look back and be angry or sad?” He says.

Nicholls was in his second season with Edmonton when Nicholls’ former team, the Kings, took on the Canadiens for the Cup. It was an Oilers career which got off on the wrong skate.

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Bernie’ swife Heather was pregnant when the former Kingston Canadian was dealt from New York to Gretzky’s former squad following three years in the Big Apple. The then 29 year old was exchanged along with Louie LeBrusk and Stephen Rice for another legend; Mark Messier. Nicholls refused to report until he knew his wife and soon- to- be twins were fine.

” I think the fans were understanding of me wanting to stay with my wife. ‘Slats’ ( Sather) was not happy at the time but we had a good run in the playoffs. We made it to the semi- finals so he ( Sather ) was a little more forgiving.”

The one regret Nicholls has of leaving New York was missing an opportunity to play with Mark Messier. A player most everyone in hockey holds in very high esteem according to the L.A King record holder for goals in a season.

” Wayne was a quiet leader – the ‘lead by example’ type. ‘Mess’ was both. Vocal and led by example. The two were great in their own ways.”

A two year Oilers stint led to an encounter with another legend. This time, the icon was behind the bench. Nicholls was traded by the Oilers to New Jersey for Zdeno Ciger and Kevin Todd on Jan.13 , 1993.

Jacques Lemaire was my coach in New Jersey. Obviously coming from the Canadiens’ system – Lemaire knew what is was to be a winner. Jacques taught me to be a complete hockey player. I learned how to play both ends of the rink”.

Being in the Devils’ system, a defensive one, did not stop Nicholls from being himself.

” Lemaire adapted to me and I to them.” Says Bernie. “It was a win – win situation. Any team including a defensive one needs offence.”

Bernie left the Devils just prior to the team winning a Stanley Cup. Marking the third time Nicholls exited a team prior to success. At no time did he think he was jinxed.

He signed as a free agent in Chicago in 1994-95 and two seasons later with San Jose . It was with the Sharks, Nicholls decided to complete an almost twenty year career in 1998 – 99. A career which did not include hockey’s most coveted prize. A career which ended with 1209 points in 1127 games.

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Little did Nicholls know – his dream of winning a cup would be realized twelve years after he retired. Until this past season, Bernie had been working at the family hunting camp along with his Dad and brothers. The camp is in Haliburton, his home town. It is also where Nicholls resides with his wife and two kids; daughter McKenna and son Flynn.

Just after Christmas, with hockey forever in his blood, Nicholls decided to contact Darryl Sutter – the Kings’ new head coach. Nicholls had skated for Sutter twice before and developed a great relationship.

” The team had just finished a ten game homestand and were embarking on a three game roadtrip. I joined then as a special teams advisor on that trip. Darryl asked me what I thought when we returned to Los Angeles. I enjoyed it and was hired on the spot.”

Nicholls’ job consists of working with guys who need to hone their skills.

” I worked with Doughty and Martinez on their shots. Staying before or after practice to just kinda discover things they forgot. ”

The main difference between the young players of today compared to when Bernie was young? Size, strength and speed. Bigger, stronger – faster. Aside from that, hockey players are still hockey players.

According to Nicholls – today’s players still have the same passion and ‘ win at all cost ‘ mentality he and his peers toted back in the day. The only difference; lack of respect …

” These headshots and blindside hits are deplorable!” Says Nicholls.” Some of the guys don’t care about each other. I think Brendan Shanahan is doing a great job with cracking down. The only thing I think is that a stiffer number of games for a suspension should be handed out. Torres for example. This guy is a repeat offender. I would have been happy if Shanahan had given him a fifty game suspension. I think that plus hefty fines are the only way to deal with dirty hits.”

Bernie agrees with coaching being a huge part of a player’s progress and cites Darryl Sutter as an example;

“Sutter does not believe in cheapshots. It is not part of his make-up. He instills this mentality with his team and look at the results. Not one guy was suspended on the Kings this season. ”

Nicholls also believes in players taking responsibility for their actions.

” Eric Lindros is a perfect example. You cannot skate through the middle with your head down and expect not to get drilled. Scott Stevens was doing his job. He did not warrant any penalty for those hits.”

Another player Nicholls does not believe warranted any punishment was the Bruins’ giant defenceman; Zdeno Chara.

“Zdeno Chara should not have been suspended for his hit on Max Pacioretty a couple of seasons ago.” Says Nicholls.
” It was an unfortunate accident. If the hit happened on the boards and the stanchion was not there – it would have been a normal hockey play. Unfortunately for the kid’s (Pacioretty) sake – he was severely injured.”

Is the Los Angeles coaching staff surprised by the Stanley Cup victory? Not at all says Bernie .

” We came together during the season. A feeling of togetherness. When we met Vancouver in the first round – we had nothing but confidence. We beat them the last two times we played them and look what happened … Once we got going – we were good. We beat the hell out of them!”

Nicholls maintains a combination of ‘ peaking’ at the right moment plus Jonathan Quick’ s ability to keep them in every game – were large factors in the Cup victory.

” We never doubted. The young guys got nervous a few times – like when we got closer to the cup. It was normal but we prevailed.”

The only Kings’ alumni who joined Nicholls in the celebration was Jimmy Fox. A former player who still works with the team. Nicholls’ biggest supporter and fan of the team was his twenty year old daughter – McKenna.

” She’s a huge Kings’ fan and was by my side every step of the way. It was awesome to have her with me – very special!”

Nicholls’ son Flynn is not a hockey fan nor did he play the game which his Dad excelled at. Flynn is an avid guitar player and is enrolled at film school.

Perhaps Flynn should get out the camera and film his Dad, Mom, sister, uncles and grandparents on August 1st. He could chronicle what should be a heartwarming moment for the entire Nicholls clan.

Once Bernie finishes golf of course …

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Photos courtesy of Bernie Nicholls.

Robinson. What’s Up with That?


Larry Robinson is swimming with Sharks. Literally …

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The hall of fame defenceman, the man who as a boy skated the Ottawa river to school, has been hired as a defensive associate in San Jose.

Does this mean the Sharks, the Buffalo Bills of hockey, will finally win a championship? For Canadiens’ fans – sadly, the answer is probably yes. Did the team miss an opportunity to develop young defencemen such as P.K Subban and Nathan Beaulieu? It all depends on the reasoning behind the decision or lack thereof.

If Molson of the legacy type, has opted to utilize his brain and drive the non – glorious route to a future Stanley Cup parade – more power to him.  The Habs have had more than their share of flat tires driving the bumpy road of past successes.

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If Bergevin and his ‘cone of silence’ partners have decided the team needs hockey decisions to replace money – making ones, Robinson’s non employment is a way of saying ; ” Thanks but no thanks!” In other words – bad timing!

A proper hockey decision requires proper hockey personnel. The hiring of the latter should be priority number one.

Alas.

Ca c’est Montreal . Ici c’est l’ endroit ou le Quebecoise veut rester libre. Charles de Gaulle, tragically, cannot coach.

On the tail of a dismal season,  following public relation and hockey disasters, the Habs can ill afford to stumble further from the hearts of the faithful.  No Shutts or Cournoyers allowed in the house which Corey assembled. Robinson, one of the most talented of former players – as a coach, is one of the members on the banned list. Sad but agonizingly so.

One of the greatest defencemen in the history of the NHL, the fellow who coached a defence squad to the finals in New Jersey last season – is the best guy for the Habs right now.

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P.K Subban, Emelin, Diaz and up and comers such as Tinordi would grow in leaps and bounds under Robinson’s tutelage. Imagine Tinordi. A boy growing into his awkward limbs. Something a Robinson knows all about. Who better to hold the glove of Mark ‘ s son as he skates to a potential hall of fame career. A career which may veer toward the AHL sans Robinson.

If Bergevin held a meeting with Larry and opposite philosophies parted the bleu, blanc et rouge waters – it is something which cannot be altered.

Hab fans hope the decision to hire Daigneault in lieu of a man whose number hangs very high at Le Centre Bell is the right one. Or else …

Bergevin will be on an island surrounded by angry partisans. Fans hungry for a Stanley Cup.

Sharks …

Please check my other site; Rick Keene’ s Music Scene. Thanks!

Eller; Deuces Wild!


The pieces of the puzzle are connecting nicely in Montreal. Too bad Therrien is the one in charge of piecing them together.

My bad.

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A chance should be given and Therrien may be a different guy than before. By Christmas, the red, white and blue tinsel will either be on the floor or in the tree.

The latest present given to Hab fans by Santa Bergevin is a two year deal for Lars Eller. No Grinch, no Max the dog at the great Dane’s place come December 25th.

WHO is this guy? A non – partisan of le club that Corey destroyed may ask over a cup of tea? Eller is a very talented man – boy who is having a devil of a time fitting into his body. That’s who …

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Strong and gangly, Mr. Eller of the four goal type – is desperately seeking to ditch Susan in lieu of Samson. In other words, the soft player emerges intermittently with the tough Lars. A normal event for a young man attempting to join the big boys of the NHL.

Flashes of brilliance are overshadowed by the Eller who wants to have fun. Hockey, at this level should not be fun. Not in the lazy, selfish way guys in Eller’s age group strive for.

Growing pains are what the fans are witnessing first hand. Not unlike the three seasons it took Guy Lafleur to shed his helmet and his Thurso childhood. Eller is a lot like Mats Sundin – appearance wise and talent wise. Eller is tougher than Sundin and possesses heart. Something Sundin sadly swerved to avoid on the hockey assembly line.

The Dane’s blonde hair frames a face fresh as a baby’s bottom. In two years,  the face has been spanked. The face has been put through some of the rigers of hockey North American style. So far – the son of the Ellers has held his own. All the while climbing each experience rung of a Canadien ladder. Imagine how many points he would have had last season if the team had not been in turmoil.

If a proper coach had coached him properly, at this stage of the game – Eller would not be puzzling.

Obviously, Bergevin believes he needs this piece. Or else Eller’s four goal game complete with a highlight spin-er-ama would be just a part of Canadiens’ lore.

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Have a nice day …

Instinct


In the days of Toe Blake …

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When the Habs were winning championships more often than an overweight man or woman ventures to the fridge for a midnight snack. There were no video reviews. One coach was able to control his players. Goalies, defencemen and the privaleged puck masters had to fend for themselves.

The Rocket through to Lafleur in the seventies did things successfully with a feeling. A gut instinct which made them rise above the hackers and dime-a-dozen players who attempted to thwart their desires of passion and victory.

Instinct was the biggest possible weapon toted through battles large and small.

What stops a man from stealing when he is hungry? Is it fear of the law or something else? Conscience plays a big role part of the time. A regal upbringing in the crown of adolescence. Yet there is something else which shakes the foundations of his moral compass.

Instinct.

Collectively, the city of Montreal, known for its hockey mad denizens, oozed a loud groan when the news of Michel Therrien as the new head coach of the Habs hit the media outlets. Did the majority of the fans not like Therrien’s haircut? Maybe his appearance on RDS ruffled a few fashion feathers? Know what?

None of the above.

When a sound similar to a chipmonk being run over by a mini – van is emitted from the mouths of hockey babes in under a second, a thought process of an Einstein is not taking place.

Ted Williams is not hitting the ball here. It’s Babe Ruth strolling to the plate and smashing common sense right down the throat of Marc Bergevin. Over the fence and into the cheap seats. That is where instinct has landed.

Molson et al do not take up residence in the cheap seats. The ball is too far away to see the scuffs of reasoning. The pine tar excess known as ‘ streetsmarts’.

The guy on the street, the man in the sewers and the gentleman who runs his minor hockey team know. Their brains hardwired to delete the nonsense from their hard drives of life. No grey areas when it comes to red and blue lines in hockey.

Michel Therrien will be relieved of his duties as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens before the team wins another Stanley Cup.

Like the days of Toe Blake …

Price, Armstrong, Prust, Bouillon and Jack Todd is an Idiot!


As I wrote …

The Habs are getting tougher with more character. Perhaps Bergervin read what I wrote a couple of days back. When will people start listening to me.

– Once the Habs’ two first lines are established, watch out. On this team – noone will push them around anymore. Galchenyuk and Leblanc should start the season together. For once, the brass of this storied club, must allow rookies to play without benching them.

– Let Eller fly. Allow the young guns to be themselves. That’s how you learn. If a guy like P.K screws up – that’s his problem to fix. If the Habs don’t like his style, well, they should not have drafted him in the first place … Emelin was a rookie, he screwed up. How many times was he scolded and prodded in the press?

– What a moron Jack Todd is. What morons this city has when it comes to hockey.  It is unbelievable how many are criticizing Price’s signing. For three years now, Carey has played on a team where the goals for per game have not ventured above 3.00. Price’s average has been around and below 2.50. Place Rinne, Quick or Halak on this team and their collective spirits would have sagged also.

If a goalie’s team sags on offence, it is difficult for a goalie to come up with ‘ big saves’.  Why should Price or anyone else give 100 percent when management kept dropping the ball and running the team like the three stooges on crack cocaine.

– Nice to see Bouillon back. The Habs made a mistake by letting him go. Now if only Leclair and Chelios could still play …

– JJ Daigneault? LOL

Bergevin’ s coaching choices are suspect. Um ….Robinson and Roy? 

Just saying ….

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