Dennis Kane’s Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog

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Mike Bossy Does It Well, Alex Ovechkin Doesn’t May 17, 2008

Watching Henrik Lundqvist get yanked in Sweden’s 5-4 loss to Canada in the World Hockey Championship reminded me of something. Lundqvist speaks English with no accent whatsoever. At least that’s what my ears have heard in the couple of interviews I’ve seen of the Ranger goalie on TV.

Speaking perfect English is an amazing thing when it’s not your mother tongue. It’s very admirable. Some European NHL players have mastered it. For most, of course, it’s impossible.

Detroit’s Swedish star Nick Lidstrom speaks English almost perfectly, but you can detect that Swedish tongue in there just slightly. And it’s a little more so with Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson. You can definitely here the Swedish way of talking in their speech, although their English is excellent.

But not at all with Lundqvist. In those two interviews I heard, he could’ve been the guy in the pool hall, Or the Canadian goalie in the beer league. I need to hear more from Lundqvist. I’m curious about this.

The NHL Russian guys’ English is basically all the same, ranging from pretty good to lousy.  Alex Kovalev speaks English pretty well, with the obvious Russian accent,  but Alex Ovechkin is still a work in progress, and Evgeny Malkin is only beginning. Igor Larionov, on the other hand, spoke excellent English back in the days when Soviet players couldn’t play over here, and so had very little exposure to English. Somehow, though, he got great at it.

Larionov even snuck away from the Russian camp to Wayne Gretzky’s parent’s house in Brantford during the 1987 Canada Cup and partied with all the Canadian guys.

Remember the 1972 Summit Series? We got the odd interview with some of the Russian players including Valeri Kharlamov, and they were interviews using an interpreter. But at the end, the few Russian players managed a meek “thank you” in English, and it was both surprising and wonderful.

The Finnish players pick it up pretty well, like Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, but you can hear the Finnish accent in there, even though their words and grammar are perfect.

The Czechs, it seems, have a little bit of a harder time of it. Jaromir Jagr’s English is terrrible, after all these years in North America. Tomas Plekanec, however, looks promising as a speaker of English. But the Czechs, like the Russians, use their throats and tongues differently, so there’s many English words they’ll never master properly.

Some of the English guys speak French really well. I can’t learn French, but they speak it with almost no accent. Mike Bossy wins by a landslide on this front.

Henri Richard was so quiet in the early days of his career, that when Toe Blake was once asked if Henri could speak English, Blake replied, “I don’t even know if he can speak French.”

French guys like Daniel Briere, Martin Biron, Vincent Lecavalier, Mario Lemieux, and Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault speak English with only a trace of an accent. It’s very impressive.

It’s just a good thing there’s no heavy-duty Scotsmen in the NHL. Their accent can be thicker than lumpy gravy. I worked with a Scottish guy in Calgary who had been in Canada for years, but he could talk to me for fifteen minutes and I wouldn’t have a clue what he was saying.

Compared to this guy, Alex Ovechkin sounds perfect.

 

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Would Dave Nonis Really Like Cabbagetown? May 16, 2008

Dave Nonis might want to think twice about accepting the General Manager position from the Toronto Maple Leafs Leafs. And the Toronto Maple Leafs might want to think twice about offering the General Manager position to Dave Nonis.

Nonis has had about three interviews now with Leafs brass, so all concerned is definitely interested. But if one were curious, one would ask, “why would Dave Nonis be an upgrade from John Ferguson Jr?”

Dave Nonis is fine, intelligent man. I was at a talk he gave a few years back in Powell River, and he came across as a genuine, smart, young up-and-comer in the hockey world. He even gave away a bunch of primo Canucks luxury box tickets to lucky people. I wasn’t one of them.

But Dave Nonis’ downfall in Vancouver was that he believed the team there was basically a contender, with only a few minor moves needed to complete the package. And because he believed that in Vancouver, he’ll lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to nowhere fast.

Nonis couldn’t see at all that the Sedin twins are not fabulous stars, but only good, solid, non-stars who will probably never become anything more than that. Guys like Luc Bourdon and Nolan Baumgartner haven’t panned out for him and became more Manitoba Moose than Vancouver Canucks.

 He was a guy who seemed almost shy to make any kind of move at trade deadline. His biggest feat, landing Roberto Luongo, happened only because Mike Keenan in Florida didn’t like the all-star goalie and gambled on Todd Bertuzzi becoming a force with the Panthers, which he didn’t do, and Alex Ault doing a fine job between the pipes in place of Luongo, which he didn’t do either.

Nonis came out smelling like a rose for this trade, but indeed, he has never been the second coming of Sam Pollock. Now Sam Pollock! There’s a guy the Leafs could’ve used at some point over the years.

Nonis may have believed the Canucks were a contender, but newly-hired GM Mike Gillis doesn’t. And therein lies the difference between Nonis and the new guy.

So why would the Leafs want Nonis? After firing Ferguson, this would be a lateral move, not an upgrade.

TSN bigshot experts figure it’s a way to lure Brian Burke out of Anaheim. But for Chairman of the Board Larry Tanenbaum and President and CEO Richard Peddie, it could be better to get a less-than-crusty guy like Nonis or Ferguson, as it would be less a headache for them. Brian Burke or Scotty Bowman wouldn’t stand for the shit that would be hurled their way. 

And anyway, are the Leafs about winning, or just about making large wheelbarrows full of money for all concerned, especially the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the majority owners of the Leafs?

Nonis is a smart guy, so he probably already knows all this. But he wants to stay in hockey, and he’s out of work right now.

But if he was the top guy, he’d be fed to the lions in Toronto, which basically means his bosses, who like to play a hands-on role in Toronto.

 He, like Ferguson before him, is too nice a guy for this job.

Note:

Canucks fans might cry foul at the criticism of their Canucks here, and I know what they’re going to say. Injuries, they’ll explain. The Canucks were decimated with injuries. Otherwise, they would’ve been a contender this year.

BC has always grown really good pot.

 

 

 

And All Along I Thought Winnipeggers Were Nice May 15, 2008

Geez, I thought people in Winnipeg were nice people. But it turns out they’re no different than a couple of people in other cities. Surprisingly, some Winnipeggers don’t like the Habs.  I don’t understand it, but it’s the way of the world, I suppose. Who would’ve thought?

So I say to these Winnipeg Hab-haters, may one of your smaller mosquitos land on your head, pick you up by the hair, and drop you into a haystack with a pitchfork in it.

Here’s what I mean.

Recent letters to the Winnipeg Sun:

 

From GM Ross.

This message is directed to the most overrated, over-hyped and probably whiniest bunch of sore losers, along with their fans. To the Montreal Canadiens: Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, good riddance. And take your homer referees with you. Ole, ole.

 

From Jeff Morris:

Nigel Gauvreau needs to calm down and take a look outside the real world (Mail Bag, May 3). No one cares about Montreal winning the Cup, and all Habs fans have to show for during the past 15 years is that they nearly burned down the city when they beat Boston. Since the same thing happened back when Rocket Richard was suspended, that’s nothing new. Besides, at least the Leafs are looking for a GM who will turn them into a Stanley Cup contender.

 

From Chris Maher:

 

The best thing about the Montreal Canadiens being knocked out of the playoffs will be not having to listen any longer to the Chairman of the Carey Price fan club, CBC’s Greg Millen.

Don Cherry got ripped for pulling for the Leafs or Bruins, but at least if you’re annoyed with Grapes’ views, one has to hear him for only a few minutes at a time.

But Millen goes on for 60 minutes about the Canadiens goalie and his great positioning and rebound control and seems to be over the top with gushing compliments on simple wrist shots from the blue line.

Even without high-definition, one could see the No. 31 Habs sweater under his CBC blazer.

Don’t get me wrong, Price is a great young goalie with potentially a great future ahead of him, whom 29 other teams would covet. But Millen, having been only an average NHL goaltender himself, seemed to be living vicariously through the young Montreal netminder. And when Price began contributing more and more to the Canadiens’ losses and eventual elimination, Millen only then realized the real star of the series was the Flyers’ RJ Umberger, a fourth-line player who almost didn’t crack the playoff roster, and then began to sing his praise deservedly.

Someone help me out here?

Does Ole, ole, ole, when translated mean, “hey Mats Sundin! We see you didn’t come to Montreal and are there any good tee-off times left?”

 

(Note from Dennis: What the hell does the last two sentences mean?)

 

 

Ted Lindsay Means Well, But Vlad Konstantinov Was No Bobby Orr Or Doug Harvey May 14, 2008

I’m sorry, but Ted Lindsay’s 82 years old now, and so some of his reality must have packed it in. Vladimir Konstantinov was a better defenceman than Bobby Orr?
Sorry, Ted. No one was better than Bobby Orr.
And he says Doug Harvey was the greatest ever before Konstantinov but didn’t have the bodychecking ability Konstantinov had?
Sorry again, Ted.
Harvey could not only bodycheck with the best of them in an era when bodychecking was much more prevalent than in the modern game, but players from the other original five teams knew they’d better not mess with Harvey because he was big, strong, mean, and an amateur boxer.
Good for Ted Lindsay for testifing during the accident lawsuit. He means well. But Konstantinov was no Bobby Orr, and no Doug Harvey. These two controlled the game. Everyone else comes in second.
The following are excerpts from Lindsay’s testimony, published in the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. 

Lindsay delivers emotional testimony at Konstantinov/Mnatsakanov lawsuit

Posted by George James Malik May 12, 2008 17:33PM

The Detroit News’s Paul Egan says that Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay testified that Vladimir Konstantinov was perhaps the best defenceman in hockey when he was injured in a limousine crash that’s resulted in a federal lawsuit by Konstantinov’s family and the family of Sergei Mnatsakanov against Findlay Ford Lincoln Mercury, which the Konstantinov/Mnatsakanov suit alleges had defective seat belts:

May 12, Detroit News: “He was the greatest machine in the world,” Lindsay told the jury of five men and three women. Today, “I see this vegetable and to me it just kind of makes me sick (compared) to what was the greatest hockey player in the world. It’s a shame.”Lindsay said he continued to work out in the Red Wings weight room following his hockey career and became good friends with Konstantinov and other team members.

He described Konstantinov as “a gifted person,” a skilled bodychecker who was a magnificent skater and had the ability to go up ice and act as a fourth forward and still get back across his own blue line in time to defend.

Lindsay said Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadiens was the greatest defenseman he ever saw before Konstantinov, but “Doug didn’t have the gift of Vladi with the bodychecking.” The only other defenseman he compared Konstantinov to was Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins, whom Lindsay said was a great skater who again was not as physical as Konstantinov.

Lindsay said he understood the chauffeur had been unable to keep the limousine on the road. “People like that, they should be shot,” he said.

 

The Detroit Free Press’s Bob Swickard confirms:

May 12, Detroit Free Press: Hockey Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay testified today that the Red Wings easily could have won at least two — and perhaps five – more Stanley Cups if Vladimir Konstantinov hadn’t been disabled by 1997 limousine crash.”That’s how good he was,” Lindsay, 82, told a federal jury in Detroit considering a claim against Findlay Ford, the Ohio dealership that sold the limo to a metro Detroit company.

“There was none better,” he said, adding that Konstantinov topped even the legendary Bobby Orr as a physical body-checking defenseman.

“He was best in the world. No doubt about it”,” Lindsay said

 

Malkin Blasts Away For Pittsburgh. He Must Have Heard About Bobby Rousseau. May 13, 2008

When Pittsburgh star Evgeny Malkin skated in alone and surprised everyone by blasting his slapshot by Flyers’ goalie Martin Biron from only about ten feet out, I knew it was time to pull out my old scrapbook.

It was circa 1965, and Montreal speedster Bobby Rousseau, a slapshot specialist and off-season golf pro in Ste. Hyacinthe, Quebec, was awarded a penalty shot one night in a game against Boston.

Rousseau grabbed the puck at centre ice, took it just inside the blueline, and to the surprise of everyone, including his coach Toe Blake and Boston goalie, Bruce Gamble,  wound up, fired, and scored.

Has a penalty shot or shootout goal ever been scored from so far out? I doubt it.

So when you see breakaways next year, or all the shootouts and penalty shots, ask yourself why the players don’t just tee up and blast away every so often. The goalie is not in the least expecting it.

Like Malkin did the other night. And like Bobby Rousseau did those many years ago.

 

 

 

Mike Ribeiro Two-Hands Detroit Goalie. Maybe He Was Using Sidney’s Stick. May 12, 2008

It’s an interesting study, this Mike Ribeiro.

Let’s first start in the here and now, and work our way backwards.

 

In game two against Detroit, Ribeiro, the Dallas Stars offensive threat, while skating past the Wings’ net, received a butt-end from Detroit goalie Chris Osgood. Ribeiro then turned around and gave Osgood a two-hander across the chest of Osgood. It was, for lack of better words, selfish and stupid on Ribeiro’s part.

 

Now let’s back up a little. Ribeiro was an underacheiving forward for the Montreal Canadiens, and was sent packing to the Dallas Stars for defenceman Janne Niiniman and 5th round draft pick, and he blossomed into a big point-getter and an important piece of the puzzle in Dallas.

 

Habs critics had a field day with this. Gainey was an idiot, they cried. How could he make such a bad decision to practically give Ribeiro away and now the guy’s a star in Dallas? What a mistake Gainey had made, they decided.

 

But Gainey traded him for a reason. There was talk that he was a person who helped separate the dressing room into cliques. He was a yapper on the ice who never backed up his tough talk.

And the instance that showed me he was no Montreal Canadien came when they did a close up of him one night in a game against Pittsburgh, and the the Habs were losing by a goal late in the game. And was Ribeiro all business and focused on the task of tying the game up? No. Instead, he skated over to Sidney Crosby and asked him if he could have one of his sticks.

 

To me, this is no Montreal Canadien. The Rocket and Doug Harvey would be rolling over in their graves about this Crosby stick thing.  Jean Beliveau, I’m sure, never asked Gordie Howe for his stick in a closely-fought battle. Toe Blake would’ve benched him for a month if he did.

 

I was glad when Ribeiro was traded. And I could care less how many goals he went on to score with Dallas. He was never going to be a Montreal Canadien, plain and simple.

 

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.