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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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.

 

 

 

Other Thoughts Because Everything’s Already Been Written April 11, 2008

It’s Friday, the day before the big game at the Bell Centre, and for now, all’s quiet on the eastern front. There’s nothing I can say about this series that hasn’t already been said.

But I have to keep things interesting, so I’ll talk about………

I live in an area jam-packed with Vancouver Canucks fans. But I’ve noticed lately that not person  brings up the subject. It’s like the Canucks don’t exist.

At this very moment, Ottawa is losing 2-0 to Pittsburgh in game 2. My only suggestion to Ottawa fans is that cricket might be a fun sport to switch to.

Pittsburgh is now leading 3-0. Ottawa fans might consider moving to Sri Lanka where the cricket is top notch.

The mayor of Montreal doesn’t want Montreal firefighters to display any kind of support for the Habs outside on the station walls. This mayor is either a commy bastard traitor, or a relative of Powell River’s mayor, who wants to sue three Powell River citizens, including one who’s 86 years old, because they criticized him in some letters to the editor.

It’s now 3-1 Pittsburgh. Ottawa fans are holding off packing for Sri Lanka in case a comeback is in the works.

I phoned in sick for today and tomorrow.

It’s 4-2 Philadelphia over Washington. Pretty well the entire hockey world is picking Washington because they can’t stop salivating over Alex Ovechkin. But one man does not make a team.

Can you imagine what Ovenchkin’s two-week paycheque would be? I’m no mathematician so I’m not even going to try, but he probably brings home a couple of hundred grand every two weeks. If anyone’s figured it out, please let me know.  Isn’t it something like 140 million over 13 years? 

Pittsburgh is now only winning 3-2 over Ottawa. Can Ottawa complete a comeback? Can they get their shit together, win this game, wake up the city, make it a series, and even win this series?

Let me think. Stranger things have happened. A 135 pound Japanese guy can eat about 50 hot dogs in an hour, for example.

We’ll know soon whether Pittsburgh made a big mistake by giving up on three good young players for notorious lousy playoff performer Marian Hossa.

Boston coach Claude Julien says that for some reason, Boston doesn’t play their best games against Montreal, and for some reason, Montreal plays their best games against Boston. Hey, whatever works.

It’s now Ottawa 3, Pittsburgh 3. Ottawa fans are scampering back in from outside and turning their TV’s back on.

Philly and Washington are tied 4-4, and the Rangers are beating the Devils again, 2-0.

Oh, the game’s over in Washington. Ovechkin scored with a little over four minutes left to win the game, 5-4. The guy’s got the world by the tail, that’s for sure. See what happens when you get a little nooky?

Pittsburgh just scored with a only a minute left, and with an empty netter, beat Ottawa 5-3. It’s karma, you know, for Senators fans, that they’re going through such misery. Many of these fans used to be good, faithful Habs fans. See what happens?

I barbequed some steaks and burned them because I was writing all this interesting information.

 

 

 

Meet Alex Ovechkin’s New Girlfriend. And Of Course It’s Not About The Money. Don’t Be Silly. February 22, 2008

Alex Ovechkin has a new girlfriend. Personally, I don’t think she’s as hot as Alex Kovalev’s girlfriend (See February 21 post). However, it’s a love story, which is nice. I wonder if she’d still like him if he made 11 bucks an hour?

Alex Ovechkin’s love story


That story can be called “How Alex the Great met Catherine the Great :-)”Pavel Lysenkov, SovSport, Feb. 16, 2008

Meet Alex Ovechkin’s new girlfriend, Katja (nickname for Ekaterina). She is a senior at Moscow Pedagogical University with major in English. She met Alex over the internet. The virtual romance turned into a real one. They met for the first time in real life on February 7, 2008 in Washington, D.C.

Q.: Alex said that you two met over the internet. Could you tell the details?

A: Yes, we met through the site “Odnoklassniki”. I love sports, and I am a long time fan of Moscow Dynamo. I had a friend Anton Shunin, who is a goalkeeper of Moscow Dynamo soccer club. And he had a friend Sasha Ovechkin. I clicked on his profile just for surfing. I didn’t believe he was a real one. There are a lot of fake ones at “Odnoklassniki” site! The site allows you to see who visited your profile. All of a sudden I am receiving a message from Ovechkin! He was asking something about our mutual friends. I answered, but didn’t take it seriously. I thought he was a bogus Ovechkin. I even told him it was a shame to fake Ovechkin. And he answered with a bunch of exclamation and question marks, “You don’t believe me??!!”

I didn’t believe him for the whole week while he was trying to prove he was real. He was giving the names of Dynamo players, etc., but you can find it on internet. And finally he said, “Ok, buy the newspaper ‘Sovetsky Sport’ for Nov. 29 and you will see.” I opened your newspaper and read in his interview “I want to say hello to ‘SPY’!”. And SPY was my name on “Odnoklassniki” site.

Q.: Yes, I remember. Ovechkin called SovSport writer Dmitri Chesnokov and asked for an interview. Our initial thought was that request was related to contract negotiations. At the end of interview he said “hello to ‘SPY'”. For three months we tried to figure out what he meant.


Here is that interview from SovSport, November 29, 2007:
В свободное время люблю сидеть на русских сайтах. Очень хочу передать привет SPY! (Кому принадлежит данный ник, мы не знаем, но Овечкин настойчиво просил оставить эти слова, что мы и делаем. – Прим. ред.).
I like to surf Russian web sites in my spare time. I really want to say hello to SPY! (We don’t know who owns this nickname, but Ovechkin asked us to leave those words, that’s what we are doing now. – SovSport Ed.).

A.: But I still was cautious. Sasha used such beautiful words and spoke about such serious things! But he only saw my photos!

One day he said, “We are leaving for a road trip. I am asking you a favor to give me your phone number”. I gave him the phone and the next morning a text from him “Hi! This is my American phone number”. And our infinite text correspondence has started from there, you can write down another novel about it. You won’t believe it, we text to each other every half hour! He’d send me text 10 minutes before the start of the game, and even in between during the breaks. “Thinking of you” or “Honey, I scored this goal in your honor”.

And he called me… We talked for 2 hours every day.

Q.: The most interesting fact, in November Ovechkin got in a sharp takeoff. He started raking twice as many points compared to the start of the season. That’s what love does to people!

A.: One time Sasha, through our mutual Moscow friend, sent me a teddy bear and the flowers, 51 maroon and white roses. And then he wrote “This is unbearable! I want to see you! Drop your school and come to see me.”

And I went to the American Embassy.

Q.: Isn’t it difficult for a young single Russian woman to obtain visa to the United States?

A.: Yes, it is. But Washington Capitals sent me that invitation, in which they wrote that I was Ovechkin’s girlfriend. All turned out easily. It is a pity that there was the delay in the processing, I wanted to get to US by January 27 to get to All stars event. But the embassy scheduled the interview exactly on January 27th.

Q.: I can imagine the embassy’s employee round eyes when you said that you have met Ovechkin over the Internet.

A.: You won’t believe it. I arrived to Washington on February 7th, and the next day went to the game. Sasha really wanted to score one, or two or three goals in my honour, but got burned. But he got 3 points in the very next game. After the game, while I was waiting for Sasha in the hall, almost the whole team came to meet me, including the Head Coach. They would shake my hand and say “It is you, Alex girlfriend? He was talking so much about you!”

Sasha is a very romantic person. People like him don’t exist. They say sports stars got to be arrogant, difficult people. Not Ovechkin! It’s not how he was raised. His parents are world class!

By the way, what a coincidence, my brother’s name is Alexander, and my Dad’s name is the same as Alex’s, Michael Victorovich.
(Michael V. Ovechkin, who is seating next, says “Make sure you’ll write about that!”)

The team’s skate is over and we are going to make some photos. I am asking Alex to hold Katja for a minute in front of NHL logo. “Not problem, I can hold her more than that”, exclaims Ovechkin, and Katia takes off into the air. At first they hug, and then start to kiss.

Noticing a couple and dropping whatever he was doing, Donald Brashear, Caps enforcer, rushes to the board. He plops big lips and says in Russian “Ja teba lublu! (I love you!)”.

Update, Feb. 22: Just to clarify… The web site Alex and Katja have met at, “Odnoklassniki”, is not a Russian version of dating service like eHarmony. It means “Classmates” and it is a Russian version of Facebook or My Space. Here is the quote from Wikipedia:

Odnoklassniki.ru is a social network service for classmates and old friends reunion popular in Russia and in the former Soviet Union. It was created by Albert Popkov in March 2006. As of February 2008, it had more than 10 million registered users[1] and an Alexa Internet traffic ranking of 62[2].

Also though Ovechkin haven’t met Katja in real life before Feb. 7, 2008, they had mutual friends, otherwise this romance would never have started.

 

Magic In Montreal Against The Rangers: Plus Bonus Coverage Of Jim Wills, A Cheez Whiz Jar, And A Road Trip February 20, 2008

cheez-whiz.jpgI can’t say enough about how important it was that Montreal looked good against the dastartly and unsavoury New York Rangers on Tuesday night. These Rangers, or the Hell’s Kitchenettes as I like to call them, were down 3-0 to Montreal a couple of weeks ago and stormed back to win 5-3, which was right after Ovechkin and the Capitals had made the team look bad, and this was the beginning of the nightmare which included Toronto beating the Habs, then Ottawa clobbered them 6-1, then Ryan O’Byrne almost got thrown into Sing Sing, then the guys lost to Tampa Bay because everyone had a hangover.

It was a bad stretch, needless to say.

So tonight, I came home and the Rangers were leading 5-0 in the second period. I was already having a bad day, so this was the capper. Carey Price had been pulled after the first three goals. I thought about going to bed, even though it was 4PM Pacific time.

It was a nightmare.

But then, it started.  Michael Ryder, in a season long slump, scored a couple. Then Kovalev. Then Streit. And then Kovalev again, late in the game,  scored to tie it 5-5. The crowd was in a frenzy. Montreal, in their long and tremendous history, had never, ever, come back from a 5-0 deficit to gain a point. It was drama. Goosebumps. Shock.

The game went into overtime with the crowd singing their Olay song.  History was happening. A standing ovation was given to the boys from the Bell Centre fans. I hugged my wife.

Holy Smokes!

Overtime ended and it became a shootout. Nope, nope, nope, nope, Koivu – yep, Jagr – nope.

MONTREAL WON!   They came back even better than New York had come back two weeks ago.  What a sport! What a game! What a team! I hugged my wife again.

This sure helped my bad day.

And about that Cheez Whiz jar? It involves a roadtrip to Hartford, Washington, and New Jersey in 1988 but I can’t tell you anything else. It’s too immature. 

And Jim Wills, who was my hockey buddy back then, and who recently commented on the blog about becoming a Senators fan after a lifetime of being a Habs fan, was the guy who did all the driving while the rest of us relaxed.

 He knows about the Cheez Whiz jar.

 

It’s Nice To Get Mail From Time To Time February 2, 2008

As my blog gets more and more hits, readers from everywhere have begun to weigh in. Here’s some testimonials sent in that I’d like to share with you. 

Pope Benedict XVI  – I finally got my satellite dish and lazy-boy set up in the Vatican, so now I’ll be able to concentrate more on my Canadiens. But I’ve been able to keep up with them because of your heavenly blog. God bless you. And I pray Sean Avery and Jarkko Ruutu never play on our team.

Vladimir Putin  –  Nice blog. Da, nice blog. Maybe you must mention my thoughts on the team. Maybe comrade Gainey could bring up young Grabovski from Hamiltongrad and put him on a line with comrades Kovalev and Begin. We could call it the KGB line!  Hah!

Sophia Loren  – When I read your blog, especially the part about you, I get sort of…….warm all over! Excuse me, there’s something I must do.

Red Fisher  – Dennis, would you mind terribly if I retired and you took over my job?

George W. Bush  –  Just read about that Ovechkin scoring four goals against my Habs. I’ve got a lovely suite waiting for him at Guantanamo Bay.

Bin Laden  – Hockey really isn’t my number one sport, I prefer sharpshooting. But I have to say I like the way those young Kostitsyn’s are playing. They look familiar to me. Is it possible I shot one of their relatives in Afghanistan?

Bob Dylan  – Man, the Habs are a new team this year. What an improvement! The times, they are a changin. PS. Far out blog. One of these days I’ll tell you about the great road hockey games we have with Robbie and Garth and the boys.

Pamela Anderson  – Hey Loren. I was reading Dennis’ blog before you. Back off.

 

I Wonder If George W. Bush Is A Habs Fan January 31, 2008

Three big nights coming up for the surging Habs, beginning Thursday in Washington to complete the home and home series with the Capitals. I wonder if George W. Bush likes hockey. Do you think he’s heard of the Rocket, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr? Maybe Sean Avery?

I’m sure he must know something about Wayne Gretzky, and possibly Mario Lemieux. He’s probably aware of Alex Ovechkin, but only because they work in the same city. George is a baseball and football guy. But from time to time, he might check out page 7 or 8 of the Washington Post sports section, where hockey is buried, and notice something about the Capitals.

Why, he may have even noticed a story about the big 4-0 win by Montreal over his home team the other night. Cripes, I hope he doesn’t bomb Montreal.

I like the Caps, but only because of their new coach, Bruce Boudreau. Otherwise, they’re meaningless to me. Boudreau seems like the kind of guy you were pals with in school, the one who helped with your paper route, the one whose mom had the great cookies. He seems like just an ordinary Joe who happens to be fullfilling a dream right now. I hope he does well, just not on Thursday night.

Saturday afternoon, Montreal takes on the Islanders, then Sunday it’s down the freeway into Manhattan to tackle the New York Rangers, home of Mr. Congeniality, Sean Avery.

Note from Dennis:  It’s 1 am Saturday morning and I just realized the Islanders and Rangers are playing in Montreal. So about the last paragraph? Pretend you didn’t read it. Except the part about Mr. Congeniality. (It’s not my fault. I’m old.)