Dennis Kane’s Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog

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

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.

 

Advertisements
 

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.

 

 

 

Those Who Would, And Wouldn’t, Look Good In A Montreal Canadien Sweater January 27, 2008

DEFINITELY NOT:

Daniel Briere:  This is a guy who wants to collect his millions the easy way, in relative obscurity, so when he has a bad game no one notices. This is not a Montreal Canadien. I feel he’s a little shy in the cahoonie department.

Trevor Linden:  He tried it, but was a bum there. Wearing the Habs jersey must have interfered with his wet dreams about the wet coast.

Sean Avery:  If Avery ever becomes a Canadien, I’m taking up cricket. GO PAKISTAN!

Todd Bertuzzi:  I shouldn’t have brought this up. Now I’m going to have nightmares all night.

Steve Downie:  Players who try to injure other players is certainly no Montreal Canadien.

He belongs in Philadelphia.

Mike Milbury:  There’s nothing like a supreme smart-ass to play in Boston and not Montreal.

Matthew Barnaby:  Such a mediocre talent. And he’d have that smile on his face after he’d get his head kicked in.  Sean Avery, Jarkko Ruutu, and Steve Downey learned their smile from this guy. I shudder just thinking about him in a Habs jersey.

DEFINITELY YES:

Bobby Orr:  Yep.

Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux:  Yep.

Gilbert Perreault:  This is a guy who should’ve played in Montreal. Talk about a Flying Frenchman. However, he did bail out on Team Canada in 1972, so that’s a big strike against him.

Vincent Lecavalier:  Big strong French-Canadian centreman like Jean Beliveau. His grandfather would’ve been so proud to see him in a Habs jersey.

Sidney Crosby:  If he had had a say in it, he’d be wearing the red, white, and blue right now.

Jean Ratelle:   Another tall, strong French-Canadian centreman. Geez, was he ever out of place in Boston.

Marcel Dionne:  It basically came down to Lafleur or Dionne, as Montreal couldn’t grab both. I’m glad it was Lafleur, but Dionne would’ve looked good in the jersey also.

Valeri Kharlamov:  The great Russian was at the mercy of political bullshit in Moscow and there’s no way he would ever have been released to play in North America. He would’ve looked fantastic in Habs colours, though.

Vladislav Tretiak:  He didn’t hide the fact he would have loved to play in Montreal, but the same applied to him as did Kharlamov. Anyway, Montreal had Dryden.

Pamela Anderson:  With or without the sweater.

Dennis Kane:  If only he was taller, faster, stronger, smarter, with a better shot, and was a better fighter and skater, he would’ve looked FANTASTIC in a Montreal Canadien sweater.

 

Phil Esposito Must Be Rolling Over In His Brylcreem January 23, 2008

Since the late 1960’s, the Boston Bruins have liked nothing better than beating the Montreal Canadiens. They’ve liked it better than pretty well everything – sex, chocolate, maybe even their wives.

But now, with the glorious 8-2 demolition by the Habs last night, those Boston Balloons, er, Bruins, have lost nine times in a row to the good guys. What would Espo, Orr, Cashman, Middleton, O’Reilly, and Bucyk think?

On the other hand, The Canadiens were simply champions last night. The Kostitsyn brothers are going to make the Sedin twins in Vancouver look like a couple of Swedish meatballs. These two young Russians have been just an excellent and a somewhat surprising find for the team, adding speed and creativity to the attack. On top of that, Alex Kovalev looked like Valeri Kharlamov, and Mike Komisarek was Larry Robinson in disguise.

The entire Montreal squad was impressive. Geez this must burn Boston fans’ asses.

On a very serious and sombre note, I would like to thank the fans at the Bell Centre for waiting to sing the ‘olay’ song until after the team had about a five goal lead. Way to go, fans.

Next up, Thursday against the New Jersey Devils. More about that tomorrow. Right now I’m just trying to savour the big thumping.

 

Thoughts from the magnificent 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series January 3, 2008

THE SERIES TOUCHED ME 

From time to time I pull out my videos of games and behind-the-scenes footage from the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. It’s a time and place that is part of my life, and I’ve studied this eight game series with love and fascination. It has touched me, and I feel I could write a book about it. I was a 21 year old bartender in Sudbury, Ont. at this time, and before the series had started, I was more than eager to see our indestructible boys destroy those lesser talents from the evil empire. Wow, did I have my eyes opened.

YOU KNOW THE OBVIOUS

I don’t need to explain any of the obvious about this event. You know, or have probably heard, about the society comparisons, about the Henderson and Esposito heroics, about Canada winning with 34 seconds to go in the 8th game. But there’s more than the obvious about this series that has entered my life, and I’m very proud of it.

THE SERIES HELPED ME FIND THE WOMAN OF MY DREAMS 

Through a series of bazaar happenings which are too complex to mention here, I ended up marrying a Russian woman who had only known what little she knew of Canada because of this series. Luciena had indeed watched the big series from her side of the world, and she was not only proud of her hockey stars, but was also amazed by ours. She liked that Canadian players were without helmets. She loved the look of a young Bobby Clarke with his front teeth missing. Phil Esposito seemed bigger than life to her, and she laughed when he slipped on a flower petal while being introduced. She found it incredulous that 2700 Canadian fans packed Luchnicki Stadium in Moscow and made so much noise, because her fellow Russians weren’t permitted to show extreme emotion in the building. It just wasn’t part of Soviet upbringing.

GETTING TO KNOW SOME OF THE RUSSIAN PLAYERS 

Years later, Luciena took me to a St. Petersburg Ska, a Russian Elite League team, practice, where the great ’72 star and captain Boris Mikhailov was coaching. She called him over and introduced us, telling him I was Canadian. Not surprisingly, the always intense Mikhailov didn’t seem all that interested, and looked right through me.  I went to various games in Russia during my six times there, and met other ’72 stars like Evgeny Zimin and Victor Kuzkin, who were usually there scouting. I was introduced to the great Valeri Kharlamov’s son, Alexander, who was playing for Red Army at the time. And some of my Russian friends over the years have collected autographs for me from  ’72 players like Alexander Ragulin, Vladimir Petrov, and others.

MIKHAILOV’S DOING BETTER THAN YOU AND ME 

The last time I was in St. Petersburg, in May of 2007, we stayed with an elderly woman whose son-in-law had played for Ska under Boris Mikhailov, and the apartment we lived in had been arranged for by Mikhailov, who of course had serious pull in such matters.  Zena, the old woman, told us that Mikhailov had an apartment in the expensive Nevsky Prospekt downtown area, and had an indoor swimming pool. So it was obvious the feisty captain the 1972 Russian National team had done well for himself.

VIKULOV ISN’T

I find it interesting as well that during the 8th and final game of that series, the Russian players who weren’t dressed for the game that final night weren’t even allowed in the building. Imagine. And many of the Russian players haven’t ended up successful like Mikhailov, Tretiak, Anisin, and Yakushev have. Some are dirt poor with meagre government pensions, and one player, Vladimir Vikulov has become such a down-and-out alcoholic that even his old teammates don’t want to discuss him now.