Playing on

Posted on 27 July 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Alexei Emelin didn’t have much time to reflect on the 2015-16 campaign once it came to a close. That suited him just fine. Less than a month after the Canadiens downed the Tampa Bay Lightning in their final regular season game of the year on April 9, Emelin was competing for his native Russia in the World Hockey Championship on home soil. It marked the fifth time that he’d sported his country’s colors at the annual event, and the fourth time he’d managed to secure a medal. This time around, Emelin helped head coach Oleg Znarok’s squad come out on top in the bronze medal game with a 7-2 victory over the United States in Moscow. “It was good to just play again and focus on other things. It was a very exciting tournament for me because we were playing in Russia. Every tournament is more and more experience and a new challenge. We wanted to play against Canada and we wanted that gold medal, but it wasn’t a bad result,” said the 30-year-old defenseman, who was fortunate enough to have his parents in attendance for the duration of the tournament in the nation’s capital. “I was happy to see them because I usually only get to spend time there once a year. I know everyone had a good time.” Since then, Emelin has spent the better part of his summer in Montreal with his wife, Valentina, and two daughters, Lesya and Mila. He recently returned from a four-week stay in South Florida, though, where he trained alongside Alex Galchenyuk, who typically spends his offseason in the Sunshine State. “We were doing a lot of work there together in Fort Lauderdale at a gym [Chamber Fitness] that’s pretty close to my place. We also went running and played football. I think it was better to train together than to train by myself. It made things a lot easier mentally,” said Emelin, who was eager to incorporate some new material in his offseason workout routine this year at the state-of-the-art facility. “I wanted to try something different. Maybe it will pay off. We did a lot of explosion and speed work. Alex pushed me and I pushed him. It was nice to have my wife and kids with me there, too.” That work, in addition to the work he’s currently putting in daily at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, will ultimately be put to the test at the end of August when Emelin heads to St. Petersburg, Russia for training camp with his World Cup of Hockey teammates. “It’s very exciting. I think it’s a bigger tournament than the World Championship because all of the best players in the world are going to be participating in it. It’s like the Olympics, just with different rules,” said Emelin, who could potentially be patrolling the Russian blue line with Andrei Markov when the squad opens the tournament on September 18 against Sweden at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. “I don’t mind the early start to the year with the World Cup. I’m looking forward to playing. We have a very good team.” When Emelin is finally back with the rest of Michel Therrien’s troops to begin his sixth NHL season, he’ll have a few new faces to get to know in the locker room. He’s already familiar with one of the Canadiens’ newcomers, though, having spent his fair share of time playing with and against fellow Russian Alexander Radulov over the years. “I played with him a lot because we’re the same age. We played together on the Russian National Junior Team. We won gold at the U18 event and two silvers playing U20. We also played against each other in the KHL, and we met many times in the playoffs,” recalled Emelin, a fan of Radulov’s qualities both on and off the ice. “He’s a very good guy, very smart. He has good hands and good moves. He’s quick and tough to play against. He changes direction every second. He’s also a leader in the room. I think he’ll help us, especially with the power play.” On a personal note, the Canadiens’ No. 74 is looking to be more productive offensively after failing to light the lamp last season and generating just 12 points – matching his lowest point total since 2012-13. “I want to score some goals this year. I know I need to do my first job, which is defense and playing physical, but if I have the chance to join the rush, I will do it to help out on offense,” concluded Emelin, who was held without a goal for the first time in his NHL career. “Every season is a new challenge. I worked even harder than last season because we lost and didn’t make the playoffs. That means that we needed to change the work we do to get back there.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Take two

Posted on 26 July 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – After completing the Chicago Marathon five years ago, Julie Petry wasn’t planning on signing up for another long-distance running event again. While Petry, the wife of Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry, was one of 35,670 participants to actually cross the finish line on October 9, 2011 following the 26.2 mile trek around the Windy City, the Houston native suffered a small setback along the way, injuring her leg. That ultimately cost her valuable time, and led to a disappointing finish given all the months of hard work she’d put in to prepare for the grueling road race. As a multi-sport athlete who’d been a four-year letterwinner in field hockey, lacrosse and basketball in high school in Southeast Texas, before moving on to play field hockey at Michigan State University, it was a particularly tough pill to swallow. That’s all behind Petry now, though, and she’s currently training to give running another go. This time around, the 27-year-old is gearing up to run the Oasis Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon in Montreal on September 25 – and she won’t be doing it alone. In conjunction with a program she championed called Extra Mile Allies, Petry and 15 other women will all be pounding the pavement in two months’ time to raise funds for the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation and the Julie and Jeff Petry Foundation – both of which support underprivileged kids. In this case, the funds allocated to the JPFoundation will go to S.A.Y. Play Center in Detroit, a first-class multipurpose facility that serves the academic, social and physical fitness needs of youngsters in the area. Those ladies taking on the 13.1 mile challenge alongside Petry include fellow Canadiens players’ wives Angela Price, Katia Pacioretty, Alyssa Flynn and Stefani Pateryn, spouses and girlfriends of players from several other NHL teams, and Canadiens staffers, too. “I still work out pretty regularly, and one day months back I was on the treadmill and I was thinking that I needed to commit to something to really challenge myself again after having a baby. I’d always been training and competing for something my whole life. I thought about a half marathon, and the wheels just started turning from there,” said Petry, who gave birth to the couple’s first child, Boyd Jackson, on August 8, 2015 in Michigan. “It was during the time where I was trying to get back to normal, back into shape after having Boyd. I thought about doing something that could benefit my own personal health, but also help others by giving back. I wanted to see if any other girls were interested in doing it with me, and the response was really great. So, we created the team, Extra Mile Allies, and everyone committed to raising $1,000 each for charity before the race.” With the help of Canadiens strength and conditioning coach, Pierre Allard, Petry and her teammates were provided with a training program that began back on June 6. The program called for runs three times a week – on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday – with the mileage rising incrementally as time went on. The fourth week of every month, however, would generally be a recovery week and the mileage would decrease. Beginning on August 1, the Extra Mile Allies will begin a new interval training program that will take them all the way up until race day. That means that they’ll generally be mixing running, walking and jogging together every time out, a common practice in training for long distance races. For Petry, getting back into training mode has certainly been an adjustment. Unlike when she was competing in the NCAA ranks, the added responsibility of being a mother to a soon-to-be one-year-old can make finding time to adhere to a running regimen somewhat more complicated. “Jeff leaves super early in the morning for workouts. He’s usually gone by 6:15 a.m. to get to the gym by 7 a.m. and get all warmed up. If I want to get my run in before the heat of the day, I have to be out there at 5 a.m. It’s still dark out at that hour, but I’ve been doing it because it’s the only way I can get my work in. It hasn’t been easy. It’s hard to get up when that alarm clock goes off,” said Petry, who has been steadily getting her running mojo back, tough as it may be. “Running is way more challenging post-baby. One thing is trying to get my mental state back to when I was in college and competing with that really strong mindset. The mental part has been the most challenging aspect so far. Positive thinking really is half the battle.” Fortunately, the Extra Mile Allies are all in this together, and they’re experiencing the inevitable highs and lows of training at the same time. Even though the majority of them reside in different cities – especially in the offseason – Julie is doing her best to rally the troops and keep morale up online. “I’m sending out check-in e-mails from time to time just updating the girls about the race weekend in September. Everybody is kind of holding themselves accountable, though, from what I see,” said Petry, who is enjoying seeing her teammates’ progress in posts on various social media platforms. “All of these girls are my friends, so we’re sort of keeping in touch on Snapchat. We’ll all post things when we’re running, and you know everyone’s going to do what they have to do to be prepared for it. Social media is such a common thing now, so it’s like we’re checking in with each other without really knowing it.” Jeff has also been a huge help with Julie’s training efforts, too, doing the best he can to work around his training schedule to spend some extra time with Boyd while she works out. He’s even running with her from time to time when a cardio day is on the menu with his summer program as well. “He’s super committed to being there if I can’t make it out to run at a certain time and I need to get the miles in later in the day. He makes sure to be home to watch Boyd. When he’s able to come with me, he’s definitely supportive and he pushes me to not stop and keep on going a little bit further before I walk again. I’m definitely going to avoid walking if he’s right there with me,” said Petry, who met her future husband while the pair was both in college playing for the Spartans. “We like training together. I don’t train to the extent he does, obviously, but when he’s focusing on cardio, he’ll go for a couple of miles with me and then do more speed-related stuff when we’re done. I know when he's back on the ice more religiously, he'll be gone a lot more and I might have to switch things up and bust out the jogging stroller. But, I'll be ready for it.” While training for the half marathon has been anything but a walk in the park, Petry is adamant that it’s all worthwhile. At the heart of the initiative is a commitment to charitable endeavors which have long been near and dear to both Julie and Jeff’s hearts. For Julie, that adds extra some extra special meaning to taking on a challenge of this magnitude again. “When we were both at MSU, the athletic program there is very involved with local charities. All of the teams do something. I think it was instilled in us there, that giving back to your community is important no matter where you are. You can make an impact. Then, in Edmonton, it was the same thing. That’s where it took off for us. In Montreal, we have the same feeling,” said Petry, before expanding upon her involvement with S.A.Y. Detroit in Michigan, the state the couple has officially called home since 2012. “Detroit is a city that needs so much help. Now that we have roots there, it’s even more important to us. The second we walked into the Play Center, it really hit us and we felt a strong connection. It’s all just added motivation for the race. The money is going to good causes. We’re doing this for the kids.” Eight weeks remain before the Extra Mile Allies put on their running shoes for real and test their collective metal, but Petry simply can’t wait to see everyone come together at the starting line on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. It has all the makings of an exceptional weekend for all involved. “I think it’s going to be surreal, especially seeing some of my friends that I haven’t seen for over two years. They’re coming to Montreal from all over the place. It’s going to be super fun and exciting, and there'll be a ton of adrenaline,” concluded Petry, who will train in Michigan for the remainder of the summer before returning to Montreal with Jeff and Boyd as the season approaches. “I think it’s going to be my vision come to life. We’re going to run together, walk together, and experience something really awesome. At the end of it, we’re all going to be super proud. It will be quite the accomplishment.” To donate, visit Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

The other side of the mic with… Chris Nilan

Posted on 25 July 2016 | Comments Off

When hockey players decide to hang up their skates, their desire to stay connected to the sport they played and were so very passionate about since childhood, is still as strong as ever before. Some end up working directly with their respective teams, while some decide to work on the other side of the microphone as TV or radio analysts. Many Habs alums now cover the Canadiens in one way or another, and we caught up with a few of them to learn more about their transition to the media. This week, Chris Nilan shares his path to working for TSN Radio 690. Take us through the process of you ending up working in media. Was it you or the network that really got things going? CHRIS NILAN: It started a few years ago when I was doing hits on Mitch Melnick’s show. I was living in Oregon back then and I was watching the games. He’d have me on to talk about it the next day on his show. During that time, we chatted a few times about doing more on the radio. A little after that, I moved back to Montreal and I met some people at TSN Radio and they saw I was serious about it. They first gave me an opportunity on the show, Habs This Week, and I continued appearing on Melnick in the Afternoon. Eventually, they made a change and I got the opportunity to have my own show. I’m very grateful that they had faith in me and they were willing to give me a chance even though a lot of things had happened to me in the past. A lot of people aren’t willing to do that. Did you ever think you’d be on the other side of the microphone and that your role would be reversed? Do you enjoy it? CN: Yes and no. I always had fun doing interviews during my career. But, did I think I would be conducting them one day? Not necessarily. It was a nerve-wracking experience at the beginning because you have to do a job as well as be effective and informative. It took me a while to get used to the radio business. A lot of people think you can just talk away, but it’s much more than that. Even if I knew that, I’ve never been as nervous as the night before my first show. What did you think of the media during your playing days? Has your opinion of them changed now? CN: It’s like anything, you have certain guys you trust and that you feel more comfortable with. My perception of the media world was and still is the same today – they can’t help the team win. They can only hurt a team, and it’s the same today. I’m not going to help the Canadiens. I can be as gratuitous and nice about the team as I want, but it won’t matter. I can say negative things about the team and it still won’t matter. I’m not going to help them. Will it hurt them? Maybe on the public side, but people have their own opinion about the team. I think I’m more than fair because I understand what the players are living since I’ve been on that side. I keep that in mind when I talk about players because I’m not there to put them down. The one thing that bothered me when I was a player - and it still bothers me today – is when a guy doesn’t work. If the guy doesn’t work, I’ll let him know. I understand that guys can’t be on top of their game every night, but a great player and a great coach once told me that you can have a bad game once every 10 games. That’s eight games a year. The rest of the time you better be on your game. That coach was Jacques Lemaire. Is that too much to expect? I don’t think it is to expect them to come to work every night and give their best. How do you find analyzing or breaking down the way your former team plays? Is it tough to be impartial? CN: I guess I’m not as critical because I know what it’s like to make mistakes and to screw up. I also know what it’s like to play well and have everything go your way. I’ve always been a Canadiens fan. There’s nobody – and I mean nobody – that has more loyalty and love for this organization than me. I challenge anybody who played here to come close to mine. Yes, I have to comment on the team, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see them do well and it doesn’t mean that I’m against them. Do you think all former athletes really do make good broadcasters and analysts? CN: Not necessarily. There are a lot of people who never played the game that I think understand and can explain what’s going on. They might see the game differently from what I do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t understand it. Listen, who am I not to respect that? While you were still playing, which city’s journalists did you like the most and like the least? CN: There wasn’t one in particular, maybe Boston because I was from there and I knew some of the characters. But, there wasn’t a city where you were more under scrutiny than right here in Montreal. Like I said, there was some who were fair, and there were some people who had a dagger as a pen. What is the most embarrassing question you’ve ever been asked during your playing days? CN: Here’s the deal. There’s nothing anybody can ask me that will embarrass me. Have I heard some stupid questions? Yeah. That’s why when I do interviews now, I try to put myself on the other side and I ask myself what questions I wouldn’t want to be asked. I try to keep it simple. I’m no Dan Rather and I don’t want to be one. I’m not there to reveal any secrets or scoops. I just want to be myself.

The Last Word: Josh Duhamel

Posted on 25 July 2016 | Comments Off

Having made his mark on both the silver and small screens, as William Lennox from the Transformers movie franchise, and Danny McCoy from the popular TV series, Las Vegas, Josh Duhamel – also the husband of Grammy?winning singer, Fergie – is undeniably a man of many talents. In his most recent role, the North Dakota native stepped into the cleats of former Expos pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee in his portrayal of the colorful southpaw. We sat down with the 43-year-old actor just a few weeks after a visit to Montreal to discuss everything from his latest flick to his on-ice allegiances. What was your reaction when you were first offered the role of Bill Lee in Spaceman? Were you already familiar with his story? JOSH DUHAMEL: Yes, I was actually quite familiar with the story of Bill “Spaceman” Lee since I’ve been a big sports fan my whole life. I used to collect baseball cards and all that kind of stuff growing up. But it wasn’t before I started doing a little bit of research that I really grasped who he was as a person, what he stood for, and what he’s gone through. Was Bill exactly what you envisioned when you first met him? JD: I didn’t actually get to meet him until about two weeks into the shooting of the movie and it wasn’t a very long shoot. I’ve read so many stories about who he was, and what he was like in Boston and then in Montreal. He was pretty iconic. To meet the man in person was just amazing. He’s one of those people whose mind is always working. He’s got funny anecdotes and jokes for each and every situation and he’s got some of the best stories you will ever hear. He’s most certainly a man of the people. He would show me how to throw different pitches and would even take batting practice with the team. He was just a regular dude who loves to socialize. The story of Spaceman starts right after Bill left the Montreal Expos in the early ‘80s. Being a baseball guy, were you aware of Montreal’s rich baseball history before arriving in town? JD: I thought I knew quite a bit, but I guess I didn’t really appreciate just how big of a baseball city Montreal is. The Expos had some really great teams. It wasn’t the fans’ fault that the team left the way it did. It came down to an ownership issue and money came into play more than anything. It’s really a shame. You were in town for the games hosted at the Olympic Stadium earlier this season; do you think the Expos could make a comeback one day in Montreal? JD: After attending one of those games and witnessing for myself just how much Montrealers love their baseball, it gave me hope that they can get a team back. I think the city really deserves an MLB franchise. I honestly think they deserve a team more than a lot of the cities in the U.S. It’s pretty obvious that some of those teams can’t get enough fans to come out to fill those seats. It’s similar to hockey in a sense. I often find myself asking, ‘Why is there a team in Arizona? A lot of people don’t even know much about hockey over there.’ The same thing goes for a lot of the Southern cities in the United States. What did you think of Montreal in general? Did you have time to visit a little bit during your short stay in April? JD: I finally got the chance to visit Montreal for the first time in April. I’ve been meaning to visit this beautiful city my whole life. It’s beautiful, literally. I don’t know if you notice since you live here every day. Montreal is one of those cities that everyone talks about, like San Francisco or Paris. Everyone will tell you you’ve got to visit Montreal. Any plans to come back before the movie comes out in August? Will you bring Fergie the next time? JD: I don’t know. I hope so. I don’t know what the plan is yet for the premiere of Spaceman. I’d love to get the chance to see it in the summer. It only started to get warm when I was there. I’ll be working on the next Transformers movie in June. We’ll see. You’re actually from French-Canadian descent, correct? Did people expect you to speak French because of your last name while you were here in Montreal? JD: My dad’s side is from somewhere right around Quebec City. I don’t know much about our family’s French-Canadian heritage, but neither does my dad. I asked him recently about it and he wasn’t too sure. It feels like we’re a band of misfits since there’s not a lot of history about us. (laughs) Maybe you guys could help me out with finding more about all of this? You mentioned baseball cards, but we heard you also used to collect hockey cards when you were younger. Are you a big hockey fan as well? JD: I grew up in North Dakota and it’s all about hockey up there. I played a lot when I was younger. I got tall and skinny around grade 8, though, and I had to make a decision between hockey and basketball, and I ultimately chose basketball. You’ve attended a few Kings games; should we assume that’s your team? JD: I root for both the Kings and the Wild. I miss the Minnesota North Stars, but at least we’ve got the Wild now. Minnesota without hockey doesn’t feel right. Any chance we can convert you? We already have a few Hollywood personalities in our fan club… JD: (laughs) Well, I can definitely appreciate the history of the Montreal Canadiens. It’s one of the best dynasties in the history of sports. Fans in L.A. have been spoiled the last few years with two Stanley Cup parades in their backyard. Did you celebrate the Kings’ victories accordingly? JD: Of course. Those were fun teams to watch. It sort of goes against my theory, but hockey is important to people in L.A. Maybe I’ve just been living here for too long, but [Wayne] Gretzky put hockey on the map in L.A. and made it visible. There’s a large contingent of Kings fans in the city, and they really love their hockey. It was an incredible experience to witness the Kings win the Cup, but it doesn’t compare to what it’s like in Canada. I was in Vancouver a few years ago when the Canucks made it to the Cup Finals and it was on a totally different level. It doesn’t even compare. Having starred a few years ago in the series Las Vegas, which was filmed in Nevada, do you think hockey will be a hit in Sin City? JD: It baffles me that the NHL goes so far south. I just don’t get it. I think the popularity of the sport would increase if they kept it to cities where people love hockey. For whatever reason, they don’t seem to take that into consideration when they’re trying to expand the game. It makes me wonder why a state like Wisconsin doesn’t have a hockey team. It would be a great market for an expansion team, and more importantly, the cherry on top is that we can name the team the Green Bay Puckers! (laughs) It was just announced that you’ll reprise your role of Lieutenant Colonel Lennox in the next installment of the Transformers series, after appearing in the first three movies. Are you planning to show Mark Wahlberg, who played the leading role in the fourth movie, who’s the man in charge back on set? JD: (laughs) I was anxious to get back at it in Transformers. I’ve known Mark for a number of years and he’s a really humble and cool dude. I have nothing to prove to him. He’s Wahlberg, man. Yeah, I’ve done a couple of these movies before him, but I look forward to mixing it up with him and having fun. You couldn’t ask for a better, more regular guy to spend the summer with and make a movie. How much did you enjoy taking part in Spaceman? We’ve been used to seeing you in much bigger Hollywood productions over the years like Transformers. JD: When you compare shooting a movie like Spaceman to a film franchise like Transformers, you are talking about two completely different animals. In Transformers you have giant budgets, the latest technology, cooperation with the U.S. military and all this amazing stuff going on around you. Whereas with Spaceman, we had a really confined budget, there were no dressing rooms, and I was changing in the back seat of my car. (laughs) But there’s something I love about the small movie experience because it really becomes a passion project. You really have that mentality where you say: “We don’t have much, but we’re going to make the most of this.” I’m so proud of this movie and what [director] Brett Rapkin did with what was available to us. I just think that people are really going to enjoy the movie and I was really happy to hear that Bill loved the movie. I got texts after the screening that Bill had tears in his eyes after the movie and that was the greatest compliment I could have ever received, especially when you’re playing a guy with so much charisma and so much personality. He’s got that stigma of being a crazy man. He got the nickname “Spaceman” for a reason, but he’s actually a brilliant, brilliant dude. He’s a truly unique individual who isn’t afraid to fight the system. My goal with the movie was to really try to humanize him as much as I could and still keep him as sort of upbeat and quirky as he is in real life, without making him a caricature. I think we accomplished just that. I’m really proud of the movie. Catch Josh in Spaceman, which hits theatres on August 19, and keep up to date on all of his upcoming projects on For real-time updates from the man himself, follow him on Twitter @joshduhamel. This article, written by Hugo Fontaine, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 30 No. 5.

Talking tennis

Posted on 23 July 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Tomas Plekanec caught the tennis bug long before making North America his hockey home. He actually picked up the game as a youngster in the Czech Republic after watching some of his country’s tennis heroes make a name for themselves on the international stage. Now 33, the Canadiens’ centerman has fond memories of time spent rallying with his friends for hours and hours on end on clay courts around the Kladno area. “I started playing when I was nine or 10 years old. I played a lot. Sometimes, I’d spend mornings and afternoons out there playing and having fun. Back then, there weren’t any computers or any other distractions to keep you from playing sports outside. There were just plenty of courts to play on in my hometown all around the city. We also played when I was still in the Czech League as part of our training sessions,” recalled Plekanec, who enjoyed watching the likes of countrymen Petr Korda and Karel Novacek strut their stuff against some of the other top players in the world. “Basically, I just watched tennis on TV and I liked it from the start. Guys like Korda and Novacek played so well back in the day. I never took lessons, so I tried to learn the game by myself. I’d watch matches, and then go out and try to play. I wasn’t really big on technique as a kid, but I can play. I’m not saying I do everything right, though,” added Plekanec with a laugh, who was a big fan of the Davis Cup event growing up, a title the Czechs have claimed on three occasions, most recently in 2013. These days, Plekanec generally restricts his tennis playing to the summer months. He hits the hard court once or twice a week after his on and off-ice workouts at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. It’s a routine the 11-year NHL veteran has stuck to for years during the offseason, noting that it has played an important part in keeping him sharp over the years. “It helps, big time. Besides the cardio side of it, there’s a lot of hand-eye coordination involved, obviously. That’s so important in hockey. And, when you’re playing against someone who’s on the same level or better than you, you’re reacting to their moves and you really have to think out there and focus. You want to put the ball in the right spot on the return, or serve it to the right spot, so it forces you to play smart,” explained Plekanec, a firm believer that playing a variety of sports can ultimately benefit your play in the one you generally practice the most. “The skills involved in tennis can translate to the ice. It’s also fun and good competition. You want to get better and you want to win.” Speaking of winning, Plekanec’s favorite player to watch, Roger Federer, knows a thing or two about that. But, it isn’t just the world No. 3’s 17 Grand Slam singles titles – and 88 overall singles crowns – that impresses him the most. “I’m a huge Roger fan. It’s not just about the way he plays, though, it’s the way he handles himself as a person, how he presents himself. His interviews are really, really good, too,” praised Plekanec, who is also a supporter of current Czech ATP World Tour stars Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek. “I really like watching players who play a smart game, use drop shots and go to the net. I like them more than guys who just play baseline tennis and try to win off rallies alone. Roger uses his head to beat his opponents instead of just overpowering them.” Three years ago, Plekanec travelled to the US Open in New York to see his first tournament in person. It was an eye-opening experience for the two-time Olympian, who was fortunate enough to be introduced to the beauty of live tennis at one of the finest tennis facilities in the world. “I loved it so much. I didn’t know what to expect because it was my first time, my first experience. The atmosphere [at the USTA National Tennis Center] is incredible, with all of the people walking around in that huge place in Flushing Meadows, NY. It’s something I won’t forget,” said Plekanec, who hasn’t yet had the opportunity to attend the Rogers Cup in Montreal because it typically falls when he’s back in the Czech Republic with his family ahead of a new season. “Having been there, I’d say the US Open is my favorite tournament to watch. I watch it in a different way now. But, Wimbledon really is special, especially with it being played on grass.” While Plekanec’s regular playing partner is his friend, Mauricio – who also provides him with some key pointers every now and again – he’s also gone up against the likes of former teammate Roman Hamrlik, now a Montreal resident, too. “He beat me. He’s a good tennis player,” cracked Plekanec, who suited up alongside the now retired Czech rearguard between 2007 and 2011. “All of these old school Czech guys who are over 35 play tennis really well. It’s a very popular sport overseas. It doesn’t look like any of the guys in our locker room now are into it. They’re all into golf.” Plekanec’s eldest son, four-year-old Matyas, has taken a liking to tennis, though. Admittedly, that caught the pivot by surprise – in a good way, of course. “My son plays a lot. He really likes it. It’s nice to see him playing. I was actually surprised by how much he enjoys it,” concluded Plekanec, whose youngest child, Adam, is still far too young to be picking up a racket at one year of age. “He’s improving every day, playing with the kids. The most important thing is he’s having fun.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

One-year, two-way contract for Bobby Farnham

Posted on 22 July 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announced on Friday that the team has agreed to terms on a one-year, two-way contract (2016-17) with free agent Bobby Farnham. A native of North Andover, MA, Farnham started last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins before being claimed off waivers by the New Jersey Devils last October. The 5-foot-10, 188-pound right-winger registered eight goals and 10 points, amassed 97 penalty minutes, and dished out 93 hits in 53 games in the NHL in 2015-16. A graduate of Brown University, Farnham began his career in the pros in 2011-12 in the Boston Bruins organization. Shuffling between the ECHL, AHL and the NHL ranks with the Bruins, Sharks and Penguins’ affiliates over the last few years, the 27-year-old forward has played 64 career NHL games, collecting eight goals, two assists and 121 penalty minutes. -

Remarkable run

Posted on 22 July 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – It’s hard to believe the Canadiens Hockey School is wrapping up its 10th year on Friday. Since ushering in its inaugural class in July 2007 in Pierrefonds, QC, thousands of youngsters have been privileged to learn the fundamentals of the game and hone their skills with the help of some of the top local instructors in the business – and meet many of their hockey idols along the way, too. What started out as a week-long camp with 100 participants all those years ago, has steadily grown into a three-week program that now welcomes approximately 700 boys and girls aged 7 to 14 from all around the world to the Bell Sports Complex every summer. While the majority of attendees in 2016 hailed from all across Canada and 20 U.S. states, youngsters also made the trek to Quebec from as far away as Great Britain, Switzerland, and France. China, Thailand, Norway, and Italy were also represented in the past. Last year, the Canadiens Hockey School reached new heights when organizers Stephane Verret and Angelo Ruffolo took the program overseas for the very first time. Leysin, Switzerland and Beijing, China were proud hosts, affording kids in Europe and the Far East who might not otherwise be able to attend the school to do just that. Interestingly enough, the Leysin Sport Academy will play host to another 200 Canadiens Hockey School campers for two weeks beginning on Sunday, July 24. Verret and Ruffolo couldn’t be prouder of the way the project has grown over the years. The progress has been nothing short of astounding, and seeing brand new ideas come to life every June, July and August has been quite rewarding. “It’s been unreal. Time has really flown by. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years already. We basically started with a blank sheet of paper. Seeing everything fall into place and the progress we’ve made since 2007 is a big accomplishment. We’re proud to be a part of it every single day. It’s a real honor,” said Verret, the Canadiens’ manager of youth hockey development. “The fact that our camp is recognized across the globe means a lot. That’s why we always want to step it up and push the envelope every year. It’s just amazing to see how far things have come. The standard and quality of the camp is very high.” And, that’s really what keeps youngsters coming back summer after summer. Verret and Ruffolo have seen countless campers take lessons learned from their experience at the Canadiens Hockey School and put them to good use when they hit the ice for real with their respective teams. Canadiens prospect, Simon Bourque, for example, is a product of the program dating back to that first group in 2007. Since then, others have followed suit. “We basically saw a lot of kids grow up with us. Many of them are playing high-caliber hockey now or are headed in that direction, whether in the QMJHL, the OHL, going the college route or playing in Europe. Seeing that is very rewarding and a real testament to the instruction that we’re able to provide, in addition to the incredible coaching they get with their regular teams. Playing a part in their success is special,” said Ruffolo, the Canadiens’ senior coordinator of business development and events, who, along with Verret, also takes great pride in seeing campers’ personal growth as time marches on. “A lot of our former campers are now a part of our staff, and many are on their way to becoming successful in their chosen professions. It’s so nice to see them reach their goals, whether on or off the ice.” The presence of Canadiens players and prospects – both past and present – has certainly contributed to the uniqueness of the camp experience. Always willing to lend a hand, those fortunate enough to sport the CH for real have readily pitched in to spend some quality time with the kids whenever they possibly can. “It’s always fun. I put myself in their place and I know I would enjoy meeting an NHL player, too. When I was younger, I remember meeting Mike Ribeiro when he was playing with the Quebec Remparts. It made a real impression on me,” said David Desharnais, a regular visitor to the Canadiens’ Hockey School since debuting with the club in 2009-10. “Making the effort to be there with young kids can stay with them forever, just a few words here and there can be very memorable. It’s a good experience for them and I like being there.” Meanwhile, newcomer Andrew Shaw was on site on Monday to hit the ice with campers to kick off the third and final session of the summer. He was essentially sporting the bleu-blanc-rouge with his full gear on and skating in his new hockey home for the first time. “It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing, going out there and spending time with the kids and helping them learn a little bit more about hockey. Interacting with them is probably my favorite part of the job. You bring joy to their life. You see the excitement in their faces when they first meet you. They’re usually a little quiet at first, but then you get out on the ice and they start warming up to you. It’s nice to give back,” said Shaw, who, like Desharnais, has fond memories of meeting players he looked up to while growing up in Belleville, ON. “The Belleville Bulls used to come to our school all the time and they interacted with us. It was fun to be a part of.” By the time this summer draws to a close, the Canadiens’ youth hockey development department will have achieved record participation for its camps and clinics alike. An estimated 1,000 total youngsters will have taken part in the Canadiens Hockey School both locally and overseas, as well as the second annual Goalie Camp (August 24-26), and the inaugural Canadiens Girls Hockey School (August 22-26), both of which will take place on the South Shore. “The future of all of our programs is very bright. We can’t wait to see what comes next. It’s been a terrific ride so far, and we’re hungrier than ever to keep building on what we’ve established already,” concluded Verret. “The pride we take in our programs and we feel towards our participants is overwhelming. It means the world to us.” Here’s to many more years of success, gentlemen! Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Striving for more

Posted on 19 July 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – David Desharnais has his sights set on being a far more consistent offensive threat next season. With that in mind, the 29-year-old has been hard at work back home in Quebec City for the last two months preparing himself for his eighth year in the big leagues. After putting up 11 goals and 29 points in 65 games during the 2015-16 campaign – and seeing his club fail to secure a playoff berth for the first time since 2011-12 – Desharnais didn’t take too long of a break before getting back in training mode to try the right the wrongs of last season. “I’ve been working out with the same trainer in Quebec City, [University of Laval strength and conditioning coach] Raymond Veillette, for something like 12 or 13 years now. I love the way he does things and his programs. I find that I improve every summer. I always come to training camp in good shape. When it comes time to head back to Montreal in September for camp, I know that I’ll be ready for a long season,” said Desharnais, who works out with teammates Phillip Danault, Mark Barberio, and fellow NHLers Antoine Vermette, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Patrice Bergeron, the de facto leader of the group. Right now, Desharnais is training five days per week, and skating twice per week, too. His workouts typically take place on the campus of the University of Laval at the PEPS complex and at a local Les 3 Glaces facility as well. The Laurier-Station, QC native believes Veillette’s training methods provide the right mix of exercises and drills for the entire group to get the best out of their offseason regimen. “It’s a lot of explosion and cardio work at the same time. It’s a little bit of everything. We’re trying to replicate a hockey shift, so the effort will be something like 30 to 45 seconds. Then, we’ll rest for two or three minutes, just like we would in a game situation. It’s very hockey-specific stuff. That’s what I like. We’ll even do the 400 steps sometimes at Cap-Blanc, and I also do some yoga. I work out hard, but I make sure that I'm well rested both mentally and physically. That's important,” explained Desharnais, who also thoroughly enjoys the interaction that comes with training in a group setting. “They’re all top-rated guys in the NHL, so we have a very, very good group. We all push each other. A guy like Bergeron always wants to take things to another level, so when you see that, it makes you want to do the same thing. We really work well together.” Spending more and more time with Danault and Barberio, in particular, has been something Desharnais has appreciated with a new season on the horizon. It’s given the trio an opportunity to bond on a regular basis while getting their daily work in both on and off the ice. “I’m getting to know Phillip a lot more now that he's with us. He’s a guy who’s dedicated to his work and he’s in very good shape. His conditioning is incredible. He wants to learn. That’s what I appreciate about him. You tell him something and he does it. He’ll be someone who can surprise a lot of people next season,” praised Desharnais, before sharing some additional kind words about another fellow Quebec native. “You see a guy like Mark, over the last few years he’s been up and down between the AHL and the NHL. With him signing his contract, it’s good for his confidence. He knows where he’ll be, with us. He’s a hard worker who wants to do well and has good skills. A lot like Markov, he makes you better when you’re on the ice with him.” The Canadiens’ No. 51 is also eager to meet up with some of his new teammates who were acquired over the summer, all of whom will undoubtedly play an important role in the overall success of the team come the start of the season in mid-October. “I played against Radulov in juniors in Quebec. There was a big rivalry between our two teams. He can change a game on his own and he can really help us. With Shaw, playing against him is like playing against a guy like Gallagher. He tires you out. He’s always in your face. He’s coming from a very good team and he knows how to win. Then, there’s Weber, and when you think about Team Canada and defense, that’s the guy who comes to mind. He’s so hard to play against, so physical, so old school, and he’s got an incredible shot,” said Desharnais, who is clearly pleased with general manager Marc Bergevin’s offseason pickups to date. Desharnais admits to having a very good feeling about the Canadiens' new recruits. After everything that transpired between December 2015 and April 2016 – including his own 17-game absence due to a broken foot – the veteran centerman is eager to suit up with a clean slate and some fresh faces alongside him to right the ship as soon as possible. “We try to forget last season quickly, but at the same time you have to reflect on what happened and make sure you learn from it. We definitely thought about it. In my case, consistency comes to mind. I have to be more consistent to help the team all year long and help to lift the team up when we’re down and struggling,” said Desharnais, who was held without a point for seven straight games on three separate occasions in 2015-16. “We don’t want it to happen again. We know what we’re capable of. The motivation is there. We don’t want to disappoint the fans, especially. There’s nothing like experiencing the playoffs in Montreal. We definitely want to get back there this year.” And, the Canadiens will need Desharnais to be a steady force to do just that, regardless of which line he ends up centering. In short, his expectations for himself in 2016-17 are rather straightforward and precise. “My personal goals go along with the role that I have to play on the team. My expectations being a first-liner were different than when I was a third-line player last season. I just want to be good in my role and play better than the previous year. That’s always been my top priority coming into any new season,” concluded Desharnais, who plans on remaining in Quebec City for the rest of the summer before returning to Montreal come the third week of September. “You can’t expect to put up 70 points on a third line. But, I look at a player like Nick Bonino on the Penguins. He put up 29 points on a third line in the regular season, and then exploded in the playoffs. He was very important to Pittsburgh's success. That’s what I want to be for this team.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

On the other side of the microphone with… Jose Theodore

Posted on 18 July 2016 | Comments Off

When hockey players decide to hang up their skates, their desire to stay connected to the sport they played and were so very passionate about since childhood, is still as strong as ever before. Some end up working directly with their respective teams, while some decide to work on the other side of the microphone as TV or radio analysts. Many Habs alums now cover the Canadiens in one way or another, and we caught up with a few of them to learn more about their transition to the media. This week, we have Jose Theodore, who is an analyst for TVA Sports What motivated you to make the transition into the media world? Was it yourself or the network that made the first move? JOSE THEODORE: At the start of the 2013-14 season, I was still waiting for a contract offer. Since my agent was negotiating with some NHL teams that had interest in me, I continued to train and prepare for the season. But when training camps opened I was still searching for my next career move. That’s when RDS and TVA Sports contacted me. It wasn’t something I had planned on jumping into so immediately, but I decided to meet with the two networks and eventually chose to embark on the adventure with TVA Sports. After you hung up your skates, how important was it for you to remain in the world of hockey? JT: I knew I always wanted to stay involved with hockey after I retired. Even if I did’nt have a job in the NHL, I wanted to stay close. Working in the media has enabled me to do just that and has allowed me to remain a part of the entourage surrounding the Canadiens at the same time. Analyzing the performance of your former team must feel a bit weird, right? Is it difficult to remain impartial? JT: Not really because I've always been a pretty straight up guy. I've never been afraid to speak my mind and say what I think. Yes I played for the Canadiens for eight seasons but I also played with the Avalanche, the Capitals, the Wild and Panthers. My job is to share my experience with the audience and give my honest opinion without bias. Obviously I want the Canadiens to do well and go as far as possible, but it's my job as a former player to approach each subject with honesty and integrity. What was your perception of hockey journalists when you played? Has it changed now that you’re on the other side? JT: As a player, it was definitely difficult to accept being criticized by those who had never played in the NHL, those who never had to make the same sacrifices it takes to get there. As a player it was an aspect of the relationship that I had a hard time accepting. It has not really changed nowadays because people will also always criticize the fact that I didn’t have to go through specific training or schooling in order to do my job. But when it comes to analyzing a game or situation, we former players know what we are talking about. I think that's why the television networks want us. We are not here to steal anyone’s job but at the same time our opinions are well respected. How do you find that the media world has changed since your first began as a player? JT: I do not think it has changed that much. When I played, the players didn’t really have a forum to express their opinions because the social media networks of today did not exist when I first started. If a journalist was overly critical of you in an article, it might come to your attention but it ended there. Today, I'm happy for the players because they have a medium to express themselves and if they disagree with something that is said or written. They can also privately talk to the journalists if they feel the need. I certainly would have liked to have been able to do that a couple times in my career (laughs). I did it a few times but always in private. Nowadays everything is done openly in broad daylight. During your career, which city’s journalists did you like the most or hate the most? JT: When you are in a city like Montreal, there is a media circus of journalists following the team. Every day the topic of discussion in Montreal is the Canadiens. But I also played in cities like Washington where the journalists are much closer to the players because there are only a handful of media members covering the team. They know they cannot afford not to be on good terms with the players. In larger markets like Montreal, the competition between the media is fierce. That can sometimes ignite a hunt for “scoops.” In general, I’ve always maintained a good relationship with everyone I talk to. When you give people your time, they respect you. Hugo Fontaine is a writer for

Back to the future

Posted on 16 July 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Just as Canadiens prospects will be learning the ropes in Laval next year, Michel Therrien did exactly the same thing in the early ‘90s. When the Canadiens confirmed a few days ago that their AHL affiliate would set up shop on the North Shore of Montreal in 2017, it had many people feeling rather nostalgic. That certainly was the case for Therrien, who prior to registering over 300 wins in the NHL, and ranking as the fourth-winningest coach in Canadiens franchise history in addition to being a Jack Adams Trophy finalist, made his coaching debut with the QMJHL’s Laval Titan. “It’s special because that’s where I started working as a coach. I experienced Memorial Cup finals there. I have a strong attachment to the city of Laval. I live on the North Shore, so for me, personally, it’s special,” indicated Therrien, who was an assistant to Bob Hartley for two seasons with the Titan before taking the reins of the team himself in 1993-94. “I find it exciting for the fans in Laval who will have their own professional team. It’s also exciting for Canadiens fans who will have a chance to see our prospects in action. From both a hockey and a business standpoint, it’s excellent for us.” The 52-year-old bench boss enjoyed plenty of success during his two years at the helm of the Laval-based squad. In addition to winning the President’s Cup in his first season as head coach, Therrien also strung together an impressive 91-39-3 record in 133 regular season games and had the opportunity to participate in the Memorial Cup in front of his own fans at the Colisee de Laval in 1994. Interestingly enough, it was during his time with the Titan that he got to know a few players that are still involved in the Canadiens organization today. “To have coached guys like Martin Lapointe and Francis Bouillon was very special. Those are guys who are still in the Canadiens organization, and every time I see them it brings back a lot of good memories,” said Therrien, who was inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in April 2015. “The crowd was really good there. I especially remember Monday nights, when we were the only team playing in the QMJHL. We always had incredible crowd support in the playoffs. Our owners were also extraordinary people. The Morissette family was very involved in the community and we felt the support from everybody. They were all behind us.” While the atmosphere in the Place Bell will undoubtedly be different – with a capacity of 10,000 spectators as opposed to just 3,500 at the Colisee – Therrien believes that the public will respond when the club officially begins playing in Laval in the fall of 2017. He insists that being able to see future Habs on a regular basis will draw many people out to the rink, along with Canadiens staffers, too. “Whether it’s in Montreal or in Laval, I’m convinced that the atmosphere will be the same. There will definitely be a measure of curiosity at the start in terms of seeing what the American Hockey League is all about. They’ll be able to follow our prospects from up close. Our young players will also be able to slowly get used to the idea of playing in the Montreal market,” mentioned Therrien, who is on track to coach his 500th career game in Montreal in 2016-17. “As a coach, I’m going to have the chance to see our prospects play a lot more often. When the team was in Hamilton or even now in St. John’s, it was practically impossible for me to attend a game. We parted ways at training camp and then it was extremely difficult for me to follow their progress. Now, they’ll be in the area and I can attend games more often.” A fan vote is actually underway to find a name for the future franchise and many suggestions have already been offered up. Knowing that the public will have the final say in the end, Therrien admits that he likes a few of the possible choices more than others. “I’ve always liked the names Voisins or Titan. And, when the team was based in the Montreal area, I always appreciated the name – Junior Canadiens. It was a special name,” concluded Therrien, who doesn’t want to influence the vote. “Those aren’t my suggestions, but, in the end, you can’t forget that it’s up to the fans to choose a name.” Vincent Cauchy and Hugo Fontaine are writers for Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.

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