Saturday, December 5, 2009

December 4th game = history.

It was 24 hours ago, and the city's centennial hangover has now worn off; by now (at least most of) you've watched the game, the highlights, the TV specials and the newspaper articles. The players, past and present, are back at the Bell Centre all dressed up for the Centennial Gala. (To be a fly on the wall...) Anything else you see or hear about the 100th anniversary game is just a bonus, so I'll try to keep my summary short.

(Ha ha. As if I've ever promised that something would be a short read and then kept my word.)

So, during pre-game coverage:
Fans wrote in to RDS to talk about their childhood hero. The sportscasters would then comment on each viewer's submission, first praising, then shredding each player mentioned. Bon centenaire, indeed.
Chantal Macchabee asks two of the RDS clowns a few trivia questions and somehow neither of them knew that Lyle Odelein came in second after Chris Nilan in overall Canadiens penalty minutes. I knew that. Two men whose jobs depend on their hockey knowledge didn't know that. How did THAT happen?
(Additional bit of trivia: Lyle Odelein's wife played a Fembot in the first Austin Powers movie.)

Yannick Bouchard and Frederic Plante give us some spoilers: first, a quick look at the embossed front and back covers of the books that will be handed out at the game, and second, the news that apparently the jerseys of Elmer Lach and Émile Bouchard are (finally) going to be retired tonight.

Then, Le journal des Canadiens concluded the only thing it's been useful for all year: a countdown of the all-time best players to wear the CH. I'll link to the completed list as soon as I look for it - I've been too busy rewatching all the specials.

We're a little bit closer to game time since now the cameras move from somewhere inside the Bell Centre to the actual ice.

For some reason I can't look away from the very simple animation that counts down to a video of highlights from the last couple of years. My compliments to whoever edited this video, because they did a really good job of "aging" digital footage to make it look like archive film.

Richard Garneau and Dick Irvin, masters of ceremonies for the evening, are now my two favourite people on Earth - their voices haven't faltered a bit.
A montage of the greatest moments in Habs history is awesome: informative about the moments that came before my time, and a great reminder of what I've seen. I'm really glad that they didn't skip over Saku Koivu's return from cancer. I don't care that he's not captain anymore and that he's fallen out of some people's favour - omitting him would have been wrong. It's bad enough that he's not here for this. The video ends with footage of Stanley Cup wins and parades, and it's enough to make anyone want another year of postseason glory, like, right now. (No pressure on the players or anything.)

Possibly the greatest moment of the night occurred when the all-time greatest living Habs roster skated onto the Bell Centre ice. I haven't seen Patrick Roy in full pads on Montreal ice since I was in pigtails. Who had some kind of crazy Lewis Carroll dream and came up with this? It was unreal. I couldn't ask for anything more, but clearly, I didn't know what was in store for me when three of the greatest players this team has seen were introduced before they made speeches.

Patrick Roy, as expected, made a touching speech that elicited endless cheers. (I won't deny that Roy is the greatest Canadien to have played during my lifetime thus far, but I think during the game our current roster did their best to prove that history isn't always in the past.)

Then the most famous Habs fan outside of the city, Viggo Mortensen (or as my brother called him, "You'll never guess who it was") introduced his idol Guy Lafleur in nearly bulletproof French. He was genuinely glad to be there. It was great, as were Lafleur's recollections of his games.

Then, just when I thought things couldn't possibly get any better, Gordie Howe comes out holding a Maurice Richard jersey and singing the praises of Jean Beliveau. Yes, you read that right, Gordie Howe. THAT Gordie Howe. The Gordie Howe whose autographed rookie card would have cost me $500 last weekend until I had a last-minute change of heart. I was completely beside myself. I think Gordie Howe might be the only hockey legend outside the Canadiens that I love as much as anyone who wore the CH, and being able to see him partake in these ceremonies was more than I could have asked for. Obviously, after he was introduced by Mr. Howe, Jean Beliveau made a speech all about the franchise, still humbly refusing to believe that he made any impact on it, and that fifty years after his playing days he continues to be loved by fans for more than just his on-ice achievements.

Elmer Lach and Emile "Butch" Bouchard finally had their jerseys retired (and they only got a day's notice - that's how well-kept a secret this was). I only wish that they had had entire evenings dedicated to them, so as to enjoy more attention and give the fans more time for them, but the 100th anniversary game is as good a time as any to be honoured for hard work. This year's team was represented by Andrei Markov, who I still miss dearly, and Ryan O'Byrne, who politely gave Bouchard the last #3 jersey to ever have his name on it.

If anyone knows where I can get myself a copy of the epic team photo that was taken with the all-time dream team, current roster, and all the other notable former players and coaches that were brought on the ice shortly before photo time, I'd greatly appreciate it. In fact, I'm putting it on my Christmas list like a spoiled little kid.

Yvan Cournoyer was interviewed by Claude Mailhot right before the game started, and all the morons milling behind him at the Bell Center and stopping to wave to the camera like dumb teenagers get a minus.

Wait... I haven't even started talking about the actual game yet? Oh, man! Okay, I'm going to try and be even more concise. This blog has a love/hate relationship with lists. I don't think we'll ever know why we use them so much, but I've written far too much already so I'll try to keep it short, even though this game deserves just as many words as the pregame ceremonies.

Our starting lineup: Three Quebec-born players on forward, just like the old days.
Props to whoever hired the MSO: I really liked hearing a classy instrumental version of the anthems, as well as actually hearing the crowd sing. Bell Centre fans may be loud, but it's not always while they're singing.
Steve Bégin was in Boston's opening lineup. I've been joking for months that he became a Bruin this summer so that he could be at this game. He was a good guy during his CH days and he deserves to be at the Bell Centre for this occasion, even though he's playing for the bad guys. (I think he proved that by winning the first faceoff of the Canadiens' second century.)
Jaroslav Spacek scored this third goal of the season. Only three? It really felt like more.
Maxim Lapierre: okay, he already got a shoutout by being in the opening lineup, but I expected our aggressive forward to do something during a Bruins game, and he shoved Marc Savard to the ice. What more could a fan ask for?
Carey Price was relentless, making excellent saves throughout the game, which means a lot. I didn't really care if we won or lost this game (obvious lie) as long as the team played well, and Price was excellent in nets last night, as this city has come to expect from its goalies. Being on the sidelines last night did him a world of good (and even though I hate mentioning this old debate, it's exactly why we need two good, healthy goaltenders). This was one of his best games of the season.
George Gillett had some of the best seats in the house, and we're glad to have him back at the Bell Centre anytime he likes even if our ticket money doesn't go to him anymore.
Ryan O'Byrne was, in my opinion, very polite during his interview about the Bouchard jersey retirement. Some people seemed to think that he was comparing himself to Bouchard, and somehow implying that his new #20 jersey will be up in the rafters someday, but I think what he was going for instead was simply expressing admiration for a legend that he can learn from, especially this season while he tries harder than ever to improve his game.
Sergei Kostitsyn will hopefully be okay after his nasty-looking knee injury.
Max Pacioretty, Hal Gill, and Glen Metropolit get a shoutout for their sharp passing that ultimately resulted in a goal, and a stick-hand fist pump. If the team can have at least one play as tight as that one during every game (... okay, they're human... every other game?) we'll be more than okay for the second half of the season.
Mike Cammalleri! ladies and gentlemen, please remove your hats and caps. I try not to go overboard, whether I'm angry or excited, but I don't think it's too much to say, in light of this game, that Cammalleri is a superstar. I doubt anyone will be misspelling his name now.

So, thanks, Habs, for one of the best games of the season. Happy 100th.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you're a spambot, I'm just going to stop you right now. Your message will be deleted, so don't even bother, okay? Okay.