Hab at heart: André Ducharme

Posted on 28 May 2016 | Comments Off

André Ducharme, a key member of Rock et Belles Oreilles (RBO), was part of a group that left a mark on the Quebec television scene that is reminiscent of the dominance displayed by the Montreal Canadiens teams of the 1980’s. We sat down with the talented comedian - who remains an integral part of the Quebec media landscape today - to learn more about his passion for hockey and the Canadiens. How long have you been a Habs fan? I’m nearly 55-years-old, so I can clearly remember the dominant Canadiens teams of the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s. However, since those dynasty teams of the late 1970’s – the ones with the likes of Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt – were so dominant that I basically became less interested in hockey. It was obvious that the Canadiens were going to win; the real question was what the final score would be? I was just a teen at the time, so I had other interests outside hockey at the time to keep me busy. But looking back, I’m shocked at how I let myself miss all those great years. I would watch the playoffs but that was about it. Now that I follow the team more regularly, it infuriates me just thinking about missing all those games! What is your fondest Canadiens memory? AD: The 1986 Stanley Cup. That’s probably the memory that I hold closest to my heart. In 1986, we were on tour with RBO and spent a lot of time watching games in our hotel rooms. I remember when the last game of the Stanley Cup finals rolled around, we were performing in Shawinigan. When we weren’t on stage, we were huddled around a black-and-white TV watching the game. At one point, Yves Pelletier missed his queue and didn’t come out on stage because he was too obsessed with hockey. When the Canadiens won the cup, I headed right back to Montreal with one of my friends to see what was going on in the city. It was in full out riot; the famous riot of ‘86. We were just going out to have fun, but then the next thing we knew there were police everywhere, it was crazy. I lived it, I was there. We didn’t participate in any wrongdoing, we were just observing but we saw people smashing windows and stealing equipment with police everywhere and there were even cars turned upside down that were on fire. It was nuts. Are you still a big hockey fan today? AD: Yes, I love watching games whenever I can. I'll make sure to head out to see some games when I’m traveling abroad. I saw the Kings play when we were in Los Angeles, I saw the Panthers when we were in Florida, and I saw the Lightning in Tampa Bay. I like to see how hockey is played in different cities, because it really is very different everywhere you go. In Florida, it is quite surreal to see guys playing hockey in 30 degree weather with Palm trees in the background and everyone walking around in shorts. Who was your favorite player growing up? AD: In 1986, it was Mats Näslund. I identified with the smaller players. When anyone complains about having too many small players, it enrages me. Today I would have to say Brendan Gallagher. If I was a hockey player, I’d play exactly like Gallagher does. Where is the most unusual place you’ve had to tune into a game from? AD: When we’re on tour, it becomes a whole event. The most unusual place is in our dressing room during shows. You’re almost hoping to finish your scene so you can go see the rest of the game on TV. When we were on tour during the 1986 finals, a lot of the games required overtime to settle the score so they ended very late. Often, we’d finish the show and the game was still ongoing. We were really glued to those playoff games. During our show’s intermission, we’d tune into the game. We might be mid scene but hockey was always most important. Wherever we’d hit the road to play a show, the TV and the hockey game were a necessity. Is there a certain atmosphere in the theatre when there is an important Canadiens game on the same night? AD: Oh for sure. And what often happens is you will be in the middle of an important sketch and then all of the sudden you might catch the score of the game. If there is a goal, you have to announce it to the crowd, Even if you are in character, then you’re character must be the one to deliver the good news to the audience. Have you met some of the players over the course of your career? AD: Guy Lafleur is probably the one player that impressed me the most, he guest starred on Tout le monde en parle a couple times. I also met Jean Béliveau. I lived in two houses away from Mr. Béliveau in Longueuil for two years. I never really tried to speak to him though, because I was too star-struck. I would often see him outside in the neighborhood when pushing my little one in the stroller. So, I’ve said hello to him while he does his yard work, but he did me a favor by not trying to extend the conversation further. I chatted a bit longer with Guy Lafleur. It’s pretty funny because there are some hockey players – especially the older players – that recognize us because they are fans of R.B.O. There is a mutual respect but nobody really talks about it because you are too nervous. It’s quite comical actually. I was told – and I hope it is true – that there are players in the league outside of Montreal who were asking for copies on VHS tapes because they didn’t have access to our show. Which player would be the best candidate for Un souper presque parfait? AD: I can’t speak to their culinary talents, but in the spirit of François Pérusse’s show La Tite-chambre, I’d love to see Vincent Damphousse on the barbeque. Now that would be fun to see! Interview conducted by Vincent Régis. Translated by Jared Ostroff

The call of a nation

Posted on 27 May 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Alexei Emelin received another vote of confidence from the brain trust of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia. After being left out of the list detailing the first 16 players named to Team Russia for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey back on March 2nd, Emelin can breathe a little easier after hearing his name called as one of seven players added to bolster Russia’s roster on Friday morning. “It’s always an honor to be picked for the national team,” said Emelin, “I’m very happy to have the opportunity to represent my country.” The Habs hard-hitting rearguard joins a highly-skilled Russian squad that features a familiar face in fellow blue-liner Andrei Markov. While only time will tell if bench boss Oleg Znarok will pair the two long-time friends together, the chemistry between the two is certainly undeniable. “He is such an experienced player – with his baggage in the NHL as well as in international tournaments like the World Championships and the Olympic Games.”, said Emelin about Markov, “His experience will be a big asset for our team during the tournament.” Despite not hearing his name called during the first wave of selections, Emelin was confident that the World Cup remained a possibility given his strong performance at the recent World Hockey Championships in Russia this last May. “I wanted to make the 23-man roster: that was my goal. The coaches didn’t name me in the first wave of sixteen players, and that is their choice. I kept working on what I could control, and I’m glad I did what it took to be named to the final roster.” “I think my performance definitely helped them decide,” said Emelin when asked about this spring’s World Championships, “I wasn’t picked in the original 16 so I feel like the World Championships were a chance for me to show the Russian coaching staff what I could do and the style I can play. As a team, we didn’t accomplish what we had hoped, but I believe I played well.” The Habs bruising blue-liner, who most recently added a bronze medal to his resume at the World Hockey Championships, will be suiting up for his 10th appearance on the international stage. While he’s become a mainstay on Russia’s blue-line, the bruising body-checker still swells with pride each time he receives the call to action. “No tournament is alike. This will be a new tournament that I have never participated in, so I’m particularly excited about that. It will be a new challenge and I’m looking forward to living these new experiences.” Emelin may be accustomed to giving his teammates an easier ride in practice, but come tournament time, all allegiances fly out the window. While the World Cup presents an opportunity for Emelin and Markov to reunite, the competition also offers a rare glimpse of fellow Canadien teammates going head-to-head. “Such is the hockey world sometimes. In hockey, your friends are the people you share a dressing room with. We [my Montreal teammates and I] will be friends before the game and friends after the game, but on the ice, there is only the puck. No one has friends on the ice,” noted Emelin, who is set to square off against longtime teammates in Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price and Max Pacioretty during the World Cup, which runs from September 17 to October 1 in Toronto, Ontario. Vincent Cauchy and Eugene Gusman are writers for canadiens.com.

Presentation of the fifth edition of the Hockey de Rue – Together for the Kids Tournament

Posted on 27 May 2016 | Comments Off

PRESS RELEASE MONTREAL (May 27, 2016) – On May 29, the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation and the YM-YWHA in collaboration with National Bank are presenting the fifth edition of the Hockey de Rue – Together for the Kids street hockey tournament. The event, which has already raised over $1 million since its inception, will benefit underprivileged kids and will once again include the participation of the Montreal Canadiens Alumni in a Legends game, in addition to Habs team mascot Youppi! For the third year, with the help of corporate sponsors, seven youth teams from the BLEU BLANC BOUGE communities will play in their own tournament. “National Bank has a long tradition of supporting the communities it serves and often partners with key players to do so. The Bank is proud to support the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation and the YM-YWHA for the fifth edition of the Hockey de Rue "Together for the Kids" tournament. Through our efforts we are able to offer kids a brighter and healthier future,” said Pierre Laboursodière, regional vice-president, sales and services, personal banking, Central Montreal. “What’s interesting about Hockey de Rue is that it’s an event where adults and children are active in raising funds for the growth of activity programs both through the MCCF and through the YM-YWHA,” said Robert Oringer, Honorary Chair and co-chairman of AMG Medical. The Tournament will be played in Côte-des-Neiges across five rinks on Westbury Avenue in front of the YM-YWHA. Teams will play in two divisions: Recreational and Competitive - with amazing prizes up for grabs for the tournament winners and the top fundraisers. For more information, please visit the Hockey de Rue Tournament website www.hockeyderue.com. About the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation The Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation is determined to provide a better and healthier future for children in need. Since its inception in August 2000, the Foundation has donated over $20 million to 697 charitable endeavors throughout the province of Quebec working for the well-being of underprivileged children. The Foundation fulfills its mandate in two ways: first, through a unique flagship project – the BLEU BLANC BOUGE program - which consists of building community refrigerated and multisport rinks; secondly by providing financial support to organizations whose projects and programs enable children to adopt healthy lifestyles by being more active. About the YM-YWHA The YM-YWHA (the Y) provides quality services to promote the social, cultural, recreational, physical and intellectual needs of over 10,000 members, users and guests. The organization reaches out to all age groups, focusing on children, youth and young adults. The Y encourages health and wellness by offering membership subsidies to underprivileged kids and their families to stay physically active and connected. With a policy of “no one denied access” regardless of ability to fully pay, the Y removes barriers and provides access to services designed to help youth reach their potential.

Road to the NHL: Mike Condon

Posted on 25 May 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Mike Condon’s road to the NHL was long and winding, but key pit stops helped to pave his way to hockey’s highest ranks. As someone who’s had to prove himself time and again throughout his career, the 26-year-old knows how close he came to seeing his NHL dreams disappear with every unexpected twist and turn. Perhaps that’s why the soon-to-be sophomore netminder is so quick to make certain that he doesn’t take people like John McNamara – one of his former coaches in Belmont, MA – for granted. “John was an enormous part of my road to the NHL. He’s the one who coached me on my first travel team. Without him, I’d probably be flipping cheeseburgers somewhere. I owe him a lot,” joked the Princeton graduate, who surely had options outside of hockey thanks to an Ivy League degree in political science. “My minor hockey career wouldn’t have taken off unless I made that first travel team with John as my coach. My situation was far less than ideal at the time. I definitely couldn’t picture myself playing in the NHL one day, especially since I wasn’t even playing in the top league where all the best kids my age played.” As Condon himself noted, if it wasn’t for McNamara taking a chance on him as an unproven adolescent, who knows where his road would have taken him? “When I first met Mike, he came to try out for one of my teams when he was nine or 10 years old. He was just one of the many high caliber netminders that came to try out, but I didn’t know a thing about him. At the time, we only took one goalie, so it was really tough to narrow down the competition,” explained McNamara, who could easily have let Condon go unnoticed amongst the crop of hopefuls on site. “It might sound odd, but what set Mike apart was the fact that he already looked like a professional. He probably wasn’t that much better than the other goalies skill-wise, but his positivity and maturity really did set him apart from the rest of the competition.” Having to prove yourself over and over again isn’t an easy task, but the son of a Massachusetts State Police trooper has always possessed the mental toughness to stand tall when faced with adversity. “His father chases bad guys in the Violent Fugitive division, so even as a kid Mike always conducted himself the way a Massachusetts State Police trooper would. It was always very important for Mike to be a good teammate and a good person,” said McNamara, referencing the young goaltender’s strong sense of character and moral fiber. “I probably coached him for 10 years and maybe 500 games, and I never once saw him place the blame on anyone else or criticize a teammate.” When none of the 30 NHL teams called Condon’s name after his junior season with Belmont Hill High School in 2008, Condon could have given up. He didn’t, though, electing to persevere instead. Upon learning that his former protégé had been rewarded with the chance to continue his hockey career with Princeton University - one of the world’s most prestigious institutions - McNamara was filled with pride. “To play college hockey, you already have to be in the top 2% of all kids that play youth hockey in the United States. So, it honestly wasn’t something that we really talked about. We were really just focusing on getting better each day and Mike epitomized that,” recalled McNamara, who stressed that making it to the NCAA ranks was just the start of another important test. “It was no cakewalk for him at Princeton. He had to battle it out against other highly recruited goaltenders for four straight years.” Condon remained steadfast in the pursuit of his goal, even when no NHL team showed interest after his time at Princeton came to an end. After his final collegiate game in 2013, Condon’s unshakable determination was on full display as he read through the ECHL and AHL transaction logs daily to see if there were any recent injuries that would give him a chance to take advantage of a last-minute job opening. “Logic would say that the odds weren’t in his favor. Some teams might be willing to give a college amateur a one or two-game tryout. I remember Mike’s agent saying that he sent his name to every team in the two leagues and only two teams responded,” said McNamara. When his only chance at continuing his hockey career appeared to be all the way across the country in California with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign, Condon’s commitment never wavered. He posted a 3-1-0 record along with a 1.48 GAA and a .943 save percentage which caught the attention of several AHL teams. That’s when the Houston Aeros – the former AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild – decided to take a chance on the undrafted goaltender when injuries left a vacancy between the pipes come playoff time. Houston might not have hoisted the Calder Cup that year, but the short tryout was enough to catch the attention of Rick Dudley – the Canadiens’ senior VP of hockey operations who first spotted Condon in 2012-13. Based on the joint recommendation of Dudley and Canadiens goalie consultant Vincent Riendeau, the Habs opted to sign Condon to his first entry-level NHL contract on May 8, 2013, just four days after his season in Houston had wrapped up. The part of Condon’s story that fans are most familiar with begins with his strong performance at training camp in Brossard. That was enough to compel the Canadiens to take a chance on giving him the No. 2 role behind Carey Price. Evidently, the combination of ambition, composure and mental fortitude that Condon embodied ultimately convinced Marc Bergevin & Co. to take a chance on the Holliston, MA native straight out of training camp. By the end of his first NHL season, Condon – who was most recently called upon to represent the United States at the 2016 IIHF World Hockey Championships - had played in 55 games. He became the third-most utilized rookie netminder in Canadiens history, trailing only Ken Dryden (64 in 1971-72) and Gerry McNeil (70 in 1950-51). He also posted a 5-1 win over the Boston Bruins in the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium on New Year’s Day in front of family and friends aplenty. What the future holds for Condon may be uncertain, but it’s safe to say that he’ll always have McNamara in his corner. “It’s surreal to turn on Canadiens games on TV and see Mike in net. But, when I look at Mike, I can tell that he’s still that same exact kid that he was back in Belmont Hill. I see the exact same mentality and personality. He’s very respectful and kind to everyone he meets. You want to see guys like him succeed. I know he’s in the big leagues, but I think of him more as a human being than a hockey player,” concluded McNamara. “I grew up in Boston my whole life, but if Mike Condon is playing, then the Canadiens are my team.” Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com

After the Gold Rush

Posted on 25 May 2016 | Comments Off

After the Gold rush MONTREAL – Brendan Gallagher will remember spring 2016 for a long, long time. While an untimely ending to the 2015-16 season left a bitter taste in the mouths of many of the players in the Canadiens dressing room, the Habs fearless forward was given the chance to extend his season thanks to an invitation to represent Canada at the 2016 World Hockey Championship in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia. “It was an incredible experience to be able to head overseas and surround myself with so many great players. I learnt so much just from watching the guys prepare themselves for games,” disclosed Gallagher, who tried to soak up everything he could learn from the likes of Taylor Hall, Corey Perry, Derick Brassard and Matt Duchene. “Our group really bonded well. We were always together throughout the tournament, either at the hotel or at a restaurant. We had a really great time. Since those first few days in Prague, we’ve really pulled together as a group the past three weeks.” That extra time spent together paid off as the Gallagher and the united Canadian squad only suffered one defeat in the entire preliminary round – which came at the hands of the Fins – before going undefeated in the medal round to earn a place on the podium for the 26th time and their second consecutive World Hockey Championship gold medal. “We knew heading into the finals that whichever team we drew as an opponent would be a tough test. But getting a chance to get our revenge against Finland was great. Our coaches adapted our game plan to address what went wrong in the previous loss,” noted Gallagher, who was excited for a shot at redemption after being held off the scoresheet in a 4-0 loss by a then undefeated Finish squad just a few days prior. “We had a great team and we were able to execute the coaches’ game plan perfectly from start to finish.” Well, almost perfectly… "We celebrated twice! (Laughs) Matt Duchene scored an empty-netter with less than a second remaining in the game, so we all jumped onto the ice too early. We had to find and put back on all of our equipment, just so we could drop the puck and celebrate officially. It was pretty funny,” laughed the always jovial Gallagher, who concluded the tournament with a crop of five points in ten games. “The post-game celebrations didn’t last as long. The game only ended around midnight and those of us from the Vancouver area had to leave at 3am.” Time overseas afforded Gallagher the opportunity to socialize with ‘temporary teammates’ and build relationships that would otherwise seem unimaginable; especially with rival and counterpart Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins. "We play similar roles with our respective teams. The only difference is that our teams are in direct competition. It is going to be harder to hate him especially after playing with him and seeing what he can do on the ice,” shared the Habs energetic winger. “We had never really met before this tournament. The first time was actually back in Prague. We kind of just looked at each other and started to laugh and shake hands. We then sat down and chatted. It is a relationship that grew during the tournament; I was probably with him more than anyone else on the team. We played a lot of table-tennis with Max Domi. We are all competitive so they were some pretty fun and intense games. Canadiens fans can rest assured that this does not mean the two will be so friendly when the puck drops to open the 2016-17 season. “I guess we’ll still be friends by the ring presentation ceremony later this summer, but after that we’ll fall right back into work mode,” jested Gallagher, who gave himself a few short days off to recover from jet lag before he leaps right back into off-season training. Ready to admit that it was his first taste on the top of the podium in his professional career, the 24-year-old right winger stressed how badly he wants to experience that same sensation in Montreal. “This season was very frustrating for the fans, the team and for myself especially with all the injuries I had to deal with. Even though we came up short, every one of us in the room was looking for answers. To go overseas and experience being a champion was really special. At the same time it is a tournament that I never want to participate in ever again because I have my sights on a bigger prize” acknowledged Gallagher. "The sensation of throwing your equipment in the air with your teammates just seconds after becoming a champion is truly unique. Winning gold just made me want to be able to that in Montreal even more.” Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Jared Ostroff

The masked rookie reigns supreme

Posted on 24 May 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – The votes have been cast, the ballots have been counted, and only Mike Condon is left standing. As both an NHL rookie and a first-time Play of the Year nominee, pundits weren’t sure just how far Condon could go in this year’s bracket. However, after learning the tricks of the goaltending trade behind reigning league MVP Carey Price, the 26-year-old Massachusetts native ended the regular season armed with five entries into the 2015-16 competition. His golden ticket to the POTY finals came in the form of a jaw-dropping diving save on Boston Bruins forward Ryan Spooner during the 2016 Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. The stop was made even more spectacular by the fact that it came with just one second remaining in the second period. Though the victory was sweet, the road to POTY glory wasn’t easy. For example, a tough first-round matchup against fellow netminder Ben Scrivens set up a second-round showdown against, interestingly enough, Condon himself. Fortunately, he showed why he’s been applauded time and again throughout his career for his mental toughness. He went on to survive the dreaded Condon vs. Condon battle in round two. Though he only played 12 games during the 2015-16 campaign, Price was a serious threat to capture the POTY trophy for a third consecutive year. A battle of the blue-paint highlighted round three as Condon and Price went head-to-head with the rookie coming away victorious. In the semis, the fans voted once again and helped Condon take down Alex Galchenyuk to reach the POTY finals against Alexei Emelin and his explosive bone-crunching hit on Paul Stastny of the St. Louis Blues. In the end, nearly 60 percent of voters believed Condon’s cross-crease steal was this season’s Play of the Year. With that, a new king has been crowned for the 2015-16 season! Sources say that Condon has no plans on retiring undefeated and will definitely be looking to pile up highlight-reel saves for the 2016-17 POTY bracket. Congrats, Mike!

Hab at heart: Martin Petit

Posted on 20 May 2016 | Comments Off

Les Boys, Alex Kovalev, Maurice Richard… The ties between Martin Petit, the hockey world and the Montreal Canadiens are endless. Whether it’s in his work as a stand-up comedian, actor, script writer or simply as a fan, the 47-year-old has always supported the CH. We had the chance to talk to Petit about his past in Quebec City, his relationship with the man affectionately known as “The Artist,” and Stanley Cup parades. How long have you been a fan of the Canadiens? MARTIN PETIT: I have to admit that I haven’t always been a Canadiens fan. I lived in Quebec City during the last few years I was at elementary school. Those were the glory days of the Stastny brothers, so those were good times to be a Nordiques fan, too. That was my first attempt at being a Nordiques fan, but regardless of everything going on around me I couldn’t really put all of my support behind them. It was good to be a Nordiques fan during the years of Michel Bergeron. Social pressure also had something to do with it. I still walked around with a Canadiens jacket that my mom bought me, though. She picked it up in the early 1980’s, right in the middle of the Nordiques frenzy. I definitely lost a few friends because of that. Was your room filled with all kinds of Canadiens items growing up? MP: I wasn’t really someone who’d try to get my hands on Canadiens gear or try to meet the players. On the other hand, in fifth and sixth grade I was a big card collector. I had a huge collection. I had a little bit of a Paul Houde side to my personality. I knew way too much about players I’d never seen play before. Did you play hockey as a kid? MP: I wasn’t very good, so I never really had the hockey bug as a kid. I had the chance to live out some of my bigger on-ice moments when I acted in Les Boys II and we made stops in arenas all around Quebec. I had some spectacular experiences, even though they were somewhat staged. So, it’s really something you developed later in life… MP: Yes, but I realized that it’s never too late to experience those types of emotions. When I scored goals in the Les Boys tournaments, I still felt chills after scoring in front of 5,000 people – even if the goalie was told to let the pucks get by him. The crowd was crazy. It doesn’t even compare to being on stage and performing. That’s fun, but scoring a goal is even better… even if everybody is moving out of the way to let you go ahead and score. Which Canadiens player was your childhood idol? MP: I grew up in the 1970’s, so I saw Guy Lafleur play. I was fascinated with him. I was also a fan of Steve Shutt. I mainly pretended to be those two guys when I played street hockey. Back then, good players would stay with one organization a lot longer than they do now. That was fun. You had the time to love and hate players. I was fascinated by some lines, too. They generally stayed together longer than they do now. There was time for them to develop nicknames. The same thing happens today, but by the time people come up with one, the line has been broken up. What’s your favorite Canadiens memory? MP: I was at the Forum when former Habs were honored for the 75th anniversary of the team. I was one of the many, many people who gave Maurice Richard a standing ovation that went on forever. I remember Aurele Joliat falling on the ice after tripping on the red carpet. Everybody was there. It was very emotional. I didn’t have the chance to see Maurice Richard play, but we all felt that everybody wanted to show their support for him. It was the kind of applause I’ve rarely seen in my life. It was a special moment. Have you experienced similar moments at any point in time? MP: Well, a little bit later I had the chance to eat at La Binerie Mont-Royal with some very special company right beside me. It was Maurice Richard. It was like I was transported back in time to the 1950’s. He was there all alone, having pea soup. He was retired and just enjoying his time. Did you talk to him? MP: No! I told myself that he was just sitting there quietly having pea soup. It was the same for me. I didn’t want to stop the magic of the moment. It was such a nice moment. I wanted to keep it going. I didn’t want to disturb him and have him question who I was. It wouldn’t have changed my life at all. I just really enjoyed the moment. The pea soup was as “vintage” as it gets that day. Any Stanley Cup memories you’d like to share? MP : When the Canadiens won their last Stanley Cup, I was with Claude Legault and Michel Courtemanche in a sports bar on Saint-Laurent watching the game. When it was over, we went to Sainte-Catherine Street to celebrate. When we realized that things were getting out of control, we turned back. One of our friends kept on going right down to the Forum. He knew an RDS cameraman over there. When he arrived at the parking area, he went over to greet him. A security guard thought that he was there on business, so he let him pass. He ended up on the Forum ice all by himself and he picked up a Kings water bottle. He heard some noise coming from the players’ room. All of the old-timers were there with the current players and the Stanley Cup. He went in and got his jersey signed by all of them. When he called us the next day, we didn’t believe him. We realized that we should have kept on going with him! (Laughs) We know you’ve got a pretty busy schedule. Do you still manage to get to the Bell Centre? MP: Over the last few years, I’ve had the chance to at least get to the home-opener. My kids are getting to the age where we’re going to have more fun coming to games. I’m really looking forward to having them experience it, too. Aside from the Bell Centre, what do you think would be the best place to watch hockey? MP: I’d really like to see the Canadiens play on the road. I’ve seen a game in Toronto. I’d really like to go to Boston. Seeing them win a playoff series in Boston would be incredible. To what extent are you paying attention to Canadiens games when you’re on stage performing? MP: In the playoffs, I’m the first one who wants to know the score. It’s pretty common – especially during the playoffs – for us to tell people the score at the intermission or when we start up again. You’re not really surprising people today, though. They’ve all got their cell phones. But, there were years when it was like we were really doing them a public service. It won’t happen during shows, though. People are very respectful. Now, let’s talk about your adventures with Alex Kovalev. Where did that idea come from? MP: The producer, Louis-Philippe Rochon. He knows the person in charge of Alex’s foundation for kids. In talking with Alex, we learned that it’s the type of thing he would like to do. My producer told me that. I was in the midst of creating Les Pêcheurs and there were still some episodes left to put together. I knew exactly what I was going to do. It only took five minutes to come up with it. I was going to integrate Patrice Robitaille into the script, and put a Nordiques fan and a former Canadiens player up against one another. I could basically make two dreams come true with one move. I spent three days with Alex Kovalev and I made Patrice Robitaille turn his back on his team. How much fun was it to work with a guy like him? MP: It was nerve-racking. You can convince an actor to do something by giving them money and an interesting role. I was really hoping that the role was interesting because for him the money wasn’t really going to make a big difference in his life. (Laughs) I was more worried about the long days on set, which can sometimes be boring. People were all speaking French around him. He was quiet, just observing things. At one point, I was even worried that he’d get into his plane and head home. We would’ve had a big problem if something like that happened… Finally, I realized that he enjoyed watching others. He’s an analytical guy. Talking to him about his approach to hockey, that’s how he played, too. He’d watch the other guys to see their tendencies and their moves so he’d be able to beat them. He’s very perceptive. Last summer, he still wanted to come back and play for the Canadiens. Which of you two was more intimidated by the other? MP: I’m not someone who’s intimidated by that type of person. In Les Pêcheurs, it intimidated me more to play a guy like Claude Meunier. He was my childhood idol. When a guy like Guy Lafleur sees me and reaches out to shake my hand, it’s special. My eight-year-old self comes out a bit. I didn’t have that kind of relationship with Alex. I have a great deal of respect for athletes, but any stress I was feeling was more about the quality of the show and making sure that he felt comfortable. It still impresses me to see guys like that. They have a unique make-up. But, he was in my world, so it was up to me to take him by the hand and have him skate along at the same pace as everybody else. It was a funny feeling. He was so simple and modest. We got along really well. Did he show you his fun side? MP : He has such a good straight-face. When we started out, we didn’t really know it. He’s a hockey player. He’s also Russian. Then, we realized that he was really funny. He made us laugh a lot. The beauty of it all is that we didn’t know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised. He also surprised us at the wrap party. I organized it at my chalet and suddenly we saw him come out of nowhere. He just showed up like that a month-and-a-half after filming. All of the technicians were laughing. The fact that he was coming back for the third season was the real cherry on the top. If you could invite any Canadiens player to be featured in Les Pêcheurs, who would it be? MP : It would definitely be P.K. Subban. He has such great charisma on camera and a good sense of humor. He’s a guy I liked right away as a player. I was instantly amazed with his game. On top of all that, he’s got undeniable qualities on screen. He’s a good communicator. He has attitude. He’d fit perfectly on Les Pêcheurs. Interview conducted by Vincent Cauchy. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.

Big-league success

Posted on 19 May 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – “Every 24 hours the world turns over on someone who was sitting on top of it.” That quote still resonates with Jeff Petry’s father – former major-league pitcher Dan Petry – today, long after his retirement from professional baseball back in 1991. Those words were featured on a sign in Hall-of-Fame manager Sparky Anderson’s office in Detroit where Dan spent the majority of his 13-year playing career that included helping the Tigers claim their last World Series title 32 years ago. The message of modesty within that saying is something the 57-year-old tried to share with both Jeff and his eldest son, Matt, as they entered the world of competitive sports while growing up in Michigan. It’s one of many virtues the one-time All-Star wanted his boys to internalize early on in their lives and apply both on and off the playing field – or the ice rink, for that matter. “I wanted them to understand the importance of always being humble. In any kind of sports, but especially professional sports at the highest level, games are very humbling. When you get there, everybody is good, everybody has skill and talent. That means that you have to outwork the next guy. If he runs a mile, you have to run two. That was the biggest thing I tried to get them to understand,” said Mr. Petry, who also sported the colors of the California Angels, Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox while posting a 125-104 record, pitching 2,080.1 innings and striking out 1,063 batters along the way. “Ultimately, it all comes down to what you have upstairs. I remember when I was coming up through the minors, I used to look at other guys and say – ‘How am I ever going to make it? They have way better stuff than me.’ But, it’s about self-confidence. How do you think? What’s in your heart? What’s in your gut? When you take that punch, can you get back up? On top of being humble, those things matter most,” added Mr. Petry, a California native who still calls the Great Lakes State home. With those lessons in mind, Jeff went on to make his NHL dreams a reality. He chose hockey over baseball in the latter stages of high school, electing to leave Orchard Lake Saint Mary’s and forego his senior year to join the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers and work with head coach Regg Simon in late 2005. Dan still recalls a conversation with Simon confirming that big things were on the horizon for Jeff in the not so distant future. “Regg and I had some long talks when it came to Jeff leaving high school and making the jump to the USHL [after beginning the year playing Little Caesars AAA hockey locally in Detroit]. Jeff wanted to do this and we agreed. That season, Jeff was named an All-Star and Regg called to ask if we’d already picked a family advisor. We hadn’t, and he told us to get one because there were a lot of scouts who were calling and showing interest in Jeff. Then, he was drafted by Edmonton that summer [in June 2006],” said Mr. Petry, a firm believer that Simon played a significant role in helping Jeff eventually get to where he is today. “I knew that it was all because of Regg showing faith in Jeff and getting him on the team that this was happening for him. That’s where Jeff got a really good chance to make it, playing with guys like Trevor Lewis, Kyle Okposo and Matt Read. That was a very, very special time, travelling around the heartland of America and improving his game,” added Mr. Petry, who saw Jeff win a Clark Cup title in his first year under Simon’s tutelage, before securing multiple honors in his second season, including a second All-Star nod, being named Defenseman of the Year, and capturing the Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year Award, too. Fast forward to March 2, 2015 when Jeff was acquired by the Canadiens at the trade deadline after spending four-plus seasons in Edmonton. He instantaneously went from an Oilers squad that was among the league’s poorest teams to one of the top contingents in the NHL. Dan hadn’t been to Montreal before Jeff was dealt, so making the trip to Quebec to see him play over the last two seasons has been quite an eye-opening experience. “When Jeff scored a goal in the playoffs [in the second round against Tampa Bay] and the Canadiens’ goal song came on, it was just chills from head to toe. I’d never heard the song ‘Le but (Allez Montreal)’ before, so I really had to listen to the lyrics to try and understand them. Seeing Ginette Reno sing the anthem was special also. That really hit me last spring,” said Mr. Petry, who also took in the Canadiens’ home opener last October at the Bell Centre against the New York Rangers. “The passing of the torch was beautiful. I was standing there with tears coming down my face. I used to watch the games on CBC and I saw the pre-game festivities with the ice lighting on fire and the kids skating around with Canadiens flags. To see it in person – and being in a city I’d heard so much about with the Expos, the Olympics, the different language and the culture – was all a little overwhelming.” Overwhelming in a good way, that is. Dan was ecstatic when Jeff elected to remain in Montreal for the foreseeable future by signing a six-year contract with the Canadiens through the 2020-21 campaign last summer. At the time, Jeff and his wife, Julie, were expecting their first child, Boyd Jackson, who was born a little over a month after the long-term deal was done. After spending some time in Montreal during the Habs’ last playoff run, Dan believed the city was a good fit for the young couple and his grandson. “I remember telling Jeff that one of the things he does have to factor in is that whether they were having a boy or a girl, that by the time that contract was over their child was going to be on the road to being bilingual. Think about what a wonderful start to their life that was going to be, the ability to speak a different language and live in a city with so much history. In all honesty, his time in Montreal was so special, I don’t think he had to think too hard [about signing],” said Mr. Petry, who wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Jeff and Julie one day spend their time in Montreal year-round. “I told my wife, Christine, that down the road if they do come back, it may just be for little visits and short periods of time because I think they’re fully entrenched there. We may have to make some more trips to Montreal in the summers to see them, which is fine by me. It’s so intriguing there.” While Jeff’s hockey-related accomplishments are well-documented, away from the rink the Canadiens’ No. 26 has also managed to catch his father’s eye time and again in recent years, especially when he graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in June 2014, seven years after first enrolling at the school to patrol the blue line for the Spartans. “The thing I’m most proud of is Jeff getting that degree. I didn’t go to school before playing baseball, so when my playing career was done, I was like – ‘Now what?’ You’re still a young person and your options are pretty limited. You have to do something. Yes, you can stay involved in the game, but it would be nice to have something different to fall back on. I admire him for finishing. I know it took him a lot to do that. It’s something I didn’t achieve, so it makes it even more special,” said Mr. Petry, who admits Jeff’s growth into fatherhood has also been fun to watch since it also brought back a lot of good memories of the talented rearguard as a youngster. “From Day 1 right after Boyd was born, Jeff embraced being a dad. He jumped right in with all of the diaper changing and bathing. You see that and it reminds me that Jeff is still my little boy. That never leaves. They’ll always be your son or daughter. I’ve had to do a lot of changing where it’s – ‘Oh my gosh, this is real life here. First, there’s the marriage part, but then there’s Jeff being a father now, too.’ I’ve loved all of it,” added Mr. Petry, who is thoroughly enjoying being Boyd’s grandpa. Dan has also switched NHL allegiances since Jeff joined the Canadiens , and he’s got the gear to prove it. Jeff and Julie made sure of that last Christmas when they gave him all the requisite clothing items from Tricolore Sports to be a Canadiens supporter through and through. He’s even added several Habs items to a piece of personal sports memorabilia in his home that is particularly near and dear to his heart. “Years back, when they demolished Tiger Stadium, I bought my locker. I have some baseball stuff down there, but now Jeff got me a white Canadiens jersey and then Mr. Molson gave us home jerseys on the Father’s Trip last November. Those are hanging in my locker, along with a scarf that we got on opening weekend. So, it isn’t only a Tigers locker anymore, it’s a Montreal Canadiens one, too,” said Mr. Petry, who would love to add one more coveted souvenir to his collection at some point down the road. “Every summer, before Jeff starts any season, we all head out for a nice dinner and we say – ‘Have a good year and stay healthy,’ but we also say ‘Hey, go win the Stanley Cup.’ There’s a lot that goes along with that, obviously. I would love to have a picture taken of him with his Canadiens jersey on and me with my Tigers jersey on with the Stanley Cup and the World Series trophy together. There's never been a father-son combination of baseball and hockey before, let alone World Champions, so we’d both absolutely love that,” added Mr. Petry, an assistant coach at Orchard Lake where Matt – a former pitcher at the University of Michigan – heads up the varsity baseball program. “Here in Michigan, people always ask you about winning the World Series. They never forget. It’s just a special thing that happens when you’re a champion.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

Montreal Canadiens-Themed Restaurant by HMSHost Unveiled at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport

Posted on 19 May 2016 | Comments Off

PRESS RELEASE MONTREAL — Now taking centre ice at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport is Avenue des Canadiens, a new full-service dining experience by global restaurateur HMSHost. Inspired by the beloved local NHL team, the Avenue des Canadiens grand opening was celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony by a perfect matchup of Montreal Canadiens executives, as well as HMSHost and Aéroports de Montréal representatives. “Avenue des Canadiens perfectly embodies our renewed offering at Montréal-Trudeau and our commitment to offering a truly Montréal experience, rather than something generic,” said James Cherry, President and Chief Executive Officer of ADM. “This restaurant is part of our two recently opened commercial areas that will significantly expand our commercial services available to passengers, and we are delighted to welcome such a strong brand and symbol to our airport.” Avenue des Canadiens features a true hockey fan experience. The bright and lively restaurant and bar pay homage to the great heritage of the Montreal Canadiens. Guests will feel the excitement of the game around them, with distinctive Habs décor, colours, and memorabilia throughout as hockey sticks and pucks align the walls from floor to ceiling, along with oversized pictures showcasing the team’s storied past. With a menu designed in collaboration with the chef team from iconic Montréal restaurant Joe Beef, guests can enjoy dining options available all day, along with an assortment of authentic team merchandise for sale in the adjacent retail store, making Avenue des Canadiens the perfect stop for travelling fans. Guests are never far from the action on the ice—large televisions surround the bar area where they can gather to take in the game while relaxing with a drink from a broad selection of beers, wine, and crafty cocktails. “We are extremely excited to partner with Aéroports de Montréal and the Montreal Canadiens to bring travellers and fans this unique dining experience that centres on Montrealers’ love of one of the most successful franchises in NHL history,” said HMSHost Vice President of Business Development Stephen Douglas. “HMSHost looks forward to welcoming Montréal travellers with great food, a fantastic atmosphere, and overall excellent guest experience.” “As an organization we take pride in being part of the Quebec and Canadian heritage as one of the most storied franchises in professional sports and as such we are delighted to reinforce the bond that new and existing Canadiens fans have with the club as they walk through Pierre-Elliott Trudeau Airport. Hockey plays such a large role in our lives, it’s inspiring to know that travelers will get acquainted with our game and our team,” said Montreal Canadiens President and CEO, Geoff Molson. The Avenue des Canadiens menu features some craveable chef-inspired dishes including pre-game appetizers such as Smoked Salmon À La Russe and Habs Parfait De Foie Gras. Main selections feature rotisserie cooked baby back ribs, strip steak, pan seared arctic char, and a signature Club 1909 rotisserie chicken sandwich. Younger travellers have a dedicated menu with kid friendly options, including the Mini Youppi!, a small smoked meat sandwich named after the beloved Montreal Canadiens mascot. All travellers can top off their food game with a dessert menu that offers, Pouding Chômeur with blueberries, maple syrup, and soft serve ice cream, among other sweet options. For early morning travellers, try the Power Play, a Habs favourite, with three eggs any style, a choice of three meats, Joe Beef-style breakfast potatoes, toast, and baked beans. For a lighter breakfast, go for a Light Practice consisting of a bowl of seasonal fruit, a choice of mint or maple syrup, and strained yogurt. Avenue des Canadiens also features a dedicated to-go area perfect for travellers with tighter timeframes to conveniently pick up drinks and freshly prepared food on the way to their flight. Located in the Domestic Terminal of Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, Avenue des Canadiens is open from 4am to 10pm daily.

A historic victory

Posted on 19 May 2016 | Comments Off

MONTREAL - Twenty years ago today, Michel Therrien, Francis Bouillon and the Granby Predateurs compelled a new page to be written in the QMJHL history books. The city of Granby, Quebec was swept up by the winds of change during the 1995-96 season. After Jean-Claude and Georges Morrissette took control of the Bisons - Granby’s Quebec Major Junior League franchise - the brothers decided that the team required a renovation. First came a new team-name, then a complete overhaul of the logo and team colors followed shortly thereafter. But the most important change for the new look Granby Predateurs came behind the bench, where the brothers had the perfect person in mind for the job; Michel Therrien. The same head coach that the Morrissette brothers had hired just a few years earlier to run the Laval Titans. Therrien wasn’t the only export coming over from the North Shore, as the bench boss was followed closely behind by a few of his former Titans, including the reliable rearguard Francis Bouillon. Given the closeness of their preexisting relationship in Laval, Therrien did not hesitate long before electing his trusted 20-year-old blue-liner as team captain. In fact, both coach and player can vividly recall a particular meeting before the start of training camp where the fiery coach gave his new captain a significant assignment. “Michel told me, 'Frank, you're going be my new captain and you will be the first since Guy Lafleur to bring the Memorial Cup back to Quebec.'” It was a very special and touching moment. In saying this, he expressed that he had confidence in me. That is pretty challenging in itself. That conversation will remain etched in my memory for the rest of my life,” tells Bouillon, who played under Therrien throughout his four-year career in the QMJHL and once again when the pair reunited for stints with Fredericton and Quebec City in the AHL before ultimately reaching the pinnacle together with the Canadiens in the NHL. "It was a vote of confidence and he caught me by surprise with it. I was a leader with the Titans so by the time I arrived in Granby I was already a 20-year-old veteran. He knew he had a lot of talent in Granby, but he wanted me to bring in that winning attitude that I had developed back in Laval. Michel’s biggest strength is being a motivator. That’s why he’s always been behind the bench of winning teams.” With a talented lineup in place, the Predateurs supplemented their arsenal with a couple reinforcements acquired through transactions made during the regular season to further strengthen their roster. The additions of future-Canadiens Georges Laraque and Benoit Gratton brought new components to the lineup that quickly acclimated to their new environment. The new arrivals would help lead Granby to a regular season championship and a memorable playoff run that culminated with a President’s Cup victory. Despite the Predators’ accomplishments, the ultimate prize of a Memorial Cup title was still up for grabs with the Peterborough Petes, Guelph Storm and the Brandon Wheat Kings standing in their way. As this was not his first taste of the CHL’s top tournament, a more seasoned Therrien entered the tournament well prepared from his previous experience just two years prior. “The owners and coaches had their sights set on one thing and one thing only, and that was the Memorial Cup. I remember a year with the Titans – my first as a head coach – when we made it to the finals but ultimately lost. We were all very disappointed, it was almost as if we had never even made the playoffs in the first place,” recalled Therrien, who suffered a 5-3 loss at the hands of the Kamloops Blazers in the final game of the Memorial Cup finals in 1994, in front of their fans on home-ice in Laval. Armed with a better psychological attitude on the ice, the Predateurs had arisen with a new mentality, ready to end more than a quarter century Memorial Cup drought for the QMJHL. Concluding the preliminary round with two wins in three contests and a plus-7 goal differential, the surprising team out of Granby quickly showed they were not impressed with the rest of the competition. "I remember talking to other players from Quebec who went to the Memorial Cup before us and they maintained that they choked despite having a team capable of winning it all. On our side, we were well prepared both mentally and physically. So we were confident that we had all the elements needed to win," continued Bouillon, who notched two points in four games during the tournament. "We wanted to establish a new reputation – so that teams from Quebec don’t arrive at the tournament with the anxiety of being expected to be unsuccessful. This reputation was hard to shake but we wanted to show people that we were prepared to do whatever it takes to win.” The task wasn’t easy for the Predateurs. After securing their spot in the finals, the Predateurs had a rematch against the Peterborough Petes – the tournament’s host team - who had defeated Therrien’s squad by the score of 6-3 just a few days prior. With the Peterborough Memorial Centre packed with Petes fans, it was obvious that the odds were stacked against Granby. However, despite a multitude of factors working against them, the visitors laughed in the face of adversity and surprised the hockey world with a convincing 4-0 shutout victory. While the Peterborough faithful were left speechless by the final score, the Predateurs couldn’t contain their excitement. After all, the Predateurs not only completed the mission that was initiated nine months earlier, they ended years of championship drought in Quebec. To date, only six other teams from the QMJHL have ever managed to lift the Memorial Cup trophy since that memorable evening on May 19, 1996. “The first image that comes to mind from that victory is seeing Francis Bouillon crying on the bench. We spent four years together before we finally reached that ultimate goal,” recalled Therrien, who has since been elected into the QMJHL Hall of Fame 19 years after his dream season in the Eastern Townships. Winning the Memorial Cup proved significant as Therrien was promoted into the professional ranks within two years. “I was constantly surrounded by hard working and determined people that paved the way for the 1996 Cup run, but most importantly it also helped break the inferiority complex that Quebec clubs experienced when they arrived at this tournament.” Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Jared Ostroff

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