Dennis Kane’s Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog

Changing Daily, And Full of Stuff You May Or May Not Remember

Psychedelic Pucks, Ilya Kovalchuk, And Gary Bettman’s Erotic Dreams May 18, 2008

Ilya kovalchuk scored in overtime against Canada to give Russia the gold medal in the World Championship.

Wasn’t Ilya Kovalchuk The Man From Uncle’s cool sidekick?

Remember when Kovalchuk, in the World Junior’s a few years back, skated in on a breakaway to Canada’s empty net and waved one arm as he went in?

I’ve always wondered why someone hasn’t smashed their stick across his face since then in payback for such a showboat move.

In other news:

Did you know that Versus TV is thinking about bringing back the tracking puck? Remember it? It was around for a season back in the 1980’s, or maybe it was the 1970’s, when NBC, or ABC, or CBS, decided that American fans couldn’t see the puck very well, so these pucks had a coloured flare on it on TV for these blind Americans.

It was horrible, distracting, and ridiculous. A survey at the time showed that Canadian hockey fans couldn’t figure out why any of this was necessary. The common consensus was that Canadian hockey fans had no problem at all seeing the puck, so why couldn’t Americans?

I read back then that when one of these pucks went into the stands, ushers went looking for them and made the fans give them back because they cost over $200 each.

People still make jokes about these tracking pucks. And now they might be coming back. Imagine.

In other news:

Pittsburgh has taken out the Philadelphia Flyers in a lopsided 6-0 game in a lopsided five-game series. Good riddance to the Flyers.  Flyer fan Frank the Tank says the Flyers are the most exciting team in hockey.

So all we need now is for Detroit to finish off Dallas so we can see Crosby and Malkin take on Datsyuk and Zetterburg.

Anyway, it’s summer, and I’ll watch if it doesn’t get in the way of me going to the beer store, or working, or cutting the lawn, or playing with the cat. I’m still recovering from the Habs.

Cripes, where are those damned Expos?

Pittsburgh and Detroit are exactly what Gary Bettman has dreamed about when his wife rolls over and goes to sleep.  Wouldn’t want a Canadian team in the final.

Heaven forbid. 

And the blog carries on.

 

My Unusual Connection To The World Hockey Championship May 10, 2008

I saw the Canada-Germany game today from the World Hockey Championships, and Germany was not dancing with the stars. Not by a long shot, getting pummelled by the Canadians 10-1. Tournaments like this don’t really start to heat up until the Germany’s and Latvia’s etc. are long gone and the big boys come out to play.

I have my own personal story regarding the World Championships. I was in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2000, the year the tournament was held in this beautiful Russian city. I was having a bit of a rough time in my life and I was considering staying there if I could find an English-speaking job. My future wife was there, and I was torn between leaving and staying.

I made my way to the office of the St. Petersburg Times, the city’s English language newspaper, and asked to speak to the editor.

The editor looked at my resume, then mentioned that the World Championships would be in the city later in the spring, and if I was interested, they would retain me to cover the tournament for them.

My return ticket, however, was for long before the tournament started, so I did some hard thinking and politely declined his offer. It would’ve been a great opportunity, though.

If I would’ve stayed, I would have lost every worldly possession I owned back in Canada, and that was a lot of stuff. My kids, although grown, were in Calgary, and I didn’t want to be the eight thousand miles or so away from them.

And Russia is no picnic. Not even close. To be there for any length of time is so difficult I can’t even explain it.

But I came close to accepting his offer. And if I had, I not only would’ve lost everything I owned in life, but I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now.

I did get married to my second wife there, though.

 

Sure There’s Interest In The NHL Playoffs. You just Have To Go Looking. May 8, 2008

The NHL conference finals begin tonight when Dallas clashes with Detroit, and tomorrow, when Pittsburgh and Philadelphia get at it. I’m sure there are still a few fans left who care.

Folks on the Canada’s west coast stopped watching hockey more than a month ago, when their Vancouver Canucks imploded and missed the post season.

Folks in Alberta got a few games of excitement in before the Flames bowed out to San Jose, but Edmonton fans could’ve cared less about that anyway.

Folks in Ontario started checking out cricket and full-contact knitting a long time ago, when the Leafs and Senators did what they do best, and that is look feeble when spring rolls around.

And Habs fans in Quebec and elsewhere are still recovering from the disappointment of not seeing their team march on toward the big prize. (me, for example).

A few people in Nova Scotia will continue to watch because local boy Sidney Crosby is still at it.

Fans in Russia will have to work hard to see their boys Evgeny Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk perform because if you’ve ever been to Russia, you’ll know what I’m talking about when it comes to getting games on TV.

Fans in Sweden will see Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterburg, but only if they set their alarm clocks for the middle of the night.

Probably, though, hockey fans in Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Finland are more excited about the World Championships than they are about round three of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And people in the US don’t like hockey, or at least that’s what I keep hearing. You know, on the popularity lists we hear about from time time based on TV ratings, hockey is just after badmonton, bowling, ping pong, tiddly winks, and marbles in most states.

However, Philadelphia has their big-time fans. I know this because I heard from most of them during the Montreal series. Pittsburgh fans will also like what they’re seeing, as do folks in Detroit and Dallas.

Detroit is a big-time hockey city, and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have a long and healthy history of the game.

Dallas is a curious one, though. This is football and basketball country. And barrel racing. But somehow, a couple of hundred thousand Texans embraced the game of hockey.

Of course, hockey’s been around for years in Texas, mostly in the form of minor league teams like the Dallas Blackhawks and Austin Ice Bats, or the Houston Aeros of the long-defunct World Hockey Association. So love of the game is there, but how much?

I suppose, when you think about it, when you have a state with a population of 22 million, you’re bound to find a couple of hundred thousand hockey fans, many of whom go to actual games.

Even when the rodeo’s on.

FOOTNOTE:

I know exactly that’s there’s rabid fans in New York state. Faithful reader (which I appreciate so much)Danielleia in Buffalo, for example, loves her Sabres. And years ago, I mentioned the Rangers on a subway in New York City, and some guy who thought I was saying bad things about his team wanted to punch me out.

( I wasn’t saying bad things about the Rangers. I only said I wouldn’t mind going to a game. You have to be careful on New York subways.) 

 

 

No Room For Alex. Wow, Those Russians Must Have Some Kind Of Team. May 6, 2008

Former 1980’s Russian player, Vyacheslav Bykov, who now coaches Team Russia, told Alex Kovalev through a text message that there’s no room for him on the team which is now in Canada for the 2008 World Hockey Championship.

No room for one of the best forwards in the NHL. Too slow, said the text message. Those Russians have been a barrel of laughs since 1972.

With the Russians, it’s always something else than what the official party line says. They’re masters at being cagey. The years they dominated NHL teams, particularly in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, they politely said they were here to learn from the pros, which was almost laughable. They have a history of manipulating on-and-off ice officials. In 1972, they made sure Canadian food went missing when Team Canada was holed up at their Moscow hotel. They awoke Canadian players in the middle of the night with telephone calls. And they’ve held a gun to Hockey Canada’s head for more money on more than one occasion throughout the years. 

There’s always a questionable agenda, and some unsavoury activity, when it comes to the Russian hockey family.

Why wouldn’t Alex Kovalev, one of the smartest, shiftiest, magical talents in hockey not be invited to play for his home country? This guy should not only be on the Russian squad, but should be captain.

He’s not slow. Or if he’s slower than the chosen players on Team Russia, then they must be lightening-fast. It must be three lines of Alex Ovechkin’s, and Valeri Kharlamov risen from the dead. It must be the KLM line reincarnated.

Kovalev has probably upset the Russian Ice Hockey Federation somewhere down the line. Maybe he’s spoken too much about how great it is in North America, because by all accounts, he loves it here. Heck, he doesn’t even want to be called Alexei anywhere, but simply Alex.

It’s possible he’s critized the Russian way of doing things from time to time. Kovalev has never been one to keep things bottled up. And the Russian hierarchy certainly has long memories. Kovalev has probably never towed the line. He would’ve made a great hippie in the 1960’s. 

If Alex Kovalev can’t make this team, then Teams Canada, USA, Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic don’t stand a chance. These teams will be too slow. Like Kovalev.

I don’t particularly want Kovalev playing in the World’s anyway. He’s 35 years old and needs to rest his weary bones after the long and stressful season of being a leader and star with his Montreal Canadiens. I want him fit, healthy, and renewed for next season when the Habs take a more serious stab at the Holy Grail.

It’s bad enough that Andrei Markov will be joining the Russian squad. He hasn’t been 100% healthy lately, which showed drastically in the playoffs, and this tournament better not set him back. He needs to be firing on all cylinders, along with Kovalev, when October rolls around.

 

 

 

Holy Smokes! More Fascinating Facts! What A Blog! March 26, 2008

Fascinating Fact #1.  It’s just what I always suspected. Patrick Roy is a moron.

Fascinating Fact #2.  In the early 1940’s the Montreal Canadiens were bringing in less fans than the senior league Montreal Royals. The Habs were averaging only about 1500 people in those days.

Fascinating Fact #3.  Guess what changed in Montreal? What caused fans to go from 1500 to 12,000 in only a few years?  Two words – The Rocket.

Fascinating Fact #4.  And guess what completed the growth of fan attendance, from 12,000 in the late 1940’s to regular sellouts at the beginning of the 1950’s. It was the signing of Quebec senior hockey hero, Jean Beliveau.  

Fascinating Fact #5.  Mickey Redmond, who played right wing for the Habs from 1967 to 1971, has been battling lung cancer since 2003. He says he’s feeling fine, thank God. Redmond was also a member of Team Canada during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Fascinating Fact #6.  Redmond was involved in a major deal halfway through the 1970-71 season when the Habs traded him to Detroit for Frank Mahovlich. Montreal also sent Guy Charron and Bill Collins, along with Redmond, to Detroit.

Fascinating Fact #7.   1950’s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin used to eat glass, and also wrestled bears. And once, while at raining camp in Victoria, BC, Bonin broke his thumb during some horseplay off the ice. He kept it a secret from Toe Blake, then during the next practice, pretended to hurt his hand on the ice and kept himself from getting into hot water with Blake. It worked.

Fascinating Fact #8.   Two NHL players who were notorious for treating rookies on their own teams badly were Steve Shutt and Dave Keon. Shutt’s reasoning was, “hey, it happened to me so it’s gonna happen to them too.” 

Fascinating Fact #9.   Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago.  It was found last year in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

Fascinating Fact #10.  This is the seventh installment of Fascinating Facts. 

Fascinating Fact #11.  Did I mention that Patrick Roy is a moron?

 

St. Louis Wins In A Shootout. Grrrrrr. S**t, F**k. March 19, 2008

For two and a half periods tonight, the Montreal Canadiens would have had a hard time beating Byer’s Bulldozers Orillia Midgets circa 1965. (with a smallish but speedy Ralph Backstrom-type right winger).

And it the end, it bit them hard as the lowly St. Louis Blues, full of Canadians and Americans, waltzed into Montreal, full of nothing, and came away with a 4-3 shoot-out win.

I knew the sleeping with the wives, the paying of bills, the shoveling of the sidewalk, the washing of dishes, the visits from the in-laws, the catching up on phone calls, the diaper changing, the grocery shopping, the praise from strangers on the street, was gonna effect the play of the team. I had a feeling Montreal might suck tonight.

And in general, they did.

Their passes were off, their shots missed the net, they fell down often, they ran into each other, they looked confused, they were out of sync. And sadly, Halak was mediocre. It was just a bad night. And most of all, it was two important points slip, slidin’ away.

It’s no wonder the Soviet National teams of the ’60’s, ’70’s and ’80’s were so good. Everything was in sync because when they weren’t playing house, they were holed up in camps living together, eating together, playing soccer, working in gyms, and practising on the ice.

Of course they hated it and wanted to lynch coaches Bobrov and later, and especially, Tikhonov, but the results were there. No wives, no snow shoveling, no phone calls, no mother-in-laws. Just hockey.

But of course that won’t work nowadays. Not in the NHL, anyway. But I want to know why teams come out flat like the Habs did tonight. Why was everything out of whack? What causes this? Should the Habs hire Viktor Tikhonov?

You could say they took the Blues lightly because St. Louis has twenty points less than Montreal. But every game now, as I’ve said before, is a huge game for Montreal. So taking a team lightly doesn’t cut it. It has to be the wives.

Next up, Thursday in Boston. Out of the house, on a plane, into a hotel, eat group meals.  Price is probably back in goal.

They’d better win this one. It’s important.

And one last thing. I have a photo of Bobby Rousseau in the early 1960’s scoring on a penalty shot by blasting a slapshot from just inside the blueline. Everyone now tries the fancy stuff. Why don’t they just move in and fire away. Goalies are human.

 

Life In The Russian League Would Be A Good Life For players Like Grabovski March 11, 2008

When recently called-up forward Mikhail Grabovski got his shorts in a knot about not playing and ran into the arms of his agent, it possibly marked the beginning of the end for the young Belarus centreman as far as becoming a real player for the Montreal Canadiens. After his hissy-fit, coach Carbonneau did absolutely the right thing by not dressing him for the LA game.

But surprisingly enough, at the time at least, the young guy played the next night in Anaheim. And as it happens, he set up Alex Kovalev for a really nice goal, and also lost nine of ten faceoff draws. But it turns out he only played because Tomas Plekanec had the flu.

And next year, he could see lots of ice time in the Russian Super League.  

You see, here’s the thing about this Russian league. I’ve been to a handfull of games in Russia since 1991, and back then, players’ yearly salaries there amounted to what Ryan O’Byrne and the other rookies left as a tip in Tampa Bay. It was mostly bus rides, not planes, silly old Soviet hotels, and not much in the way of adulation from fans. And not only that, when the games ended, players from both teams hung around centre ice and shot the shit, which I found really bizarre.

But it’s different now by a country mile. And not just hockey, but Russia in general. Gone are lineups into little food shops for some cheese and a loaf of bread. Now it’s modern malls with food courts, and fast food, fast cars, and fat cats abound. Someone who’d been away from Russia since 1991 and just came back wouldn’t recognize it.

And so it’s filtered down into hockey. Players now in the Russian League who were making $200 a week not that long ago, are now signing million dollar contracts. Where once they were living in old and decrepid Soviet housing, they now have swanky condo’s.

So for guys like Grabovski and other young players from Eastern Europe, playing near home, knowing the language, eating food they grew up with, is a wonderful alternative to the NHL.

Don’t be surprised to see the number of Russian players and those of nearby countries slowly dwindle from the NHL as life in the old country continues to improve.

Maybe it’s best for Mikhail Grabovski. Although he’s small, he’s got lots of raw talent, but to play in the NHL, your head has to be screwed on properly.  Not being happy about not playing is one thing, and is actually appreciated by coaches and teammates. It shows you need to play, to help the team. It sucks not to play. 

But when you bolt the team and run to your agent, it’s different.

It also really bugs me about the “agent-father-figure” thing. Am I wrong to believe that these agents are there for the money, the healthy cut of the player’s salary, not because they’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart?