Saturday, July 3, 2010

This one goes to #11

So. Scott Gomez has decided to wear number 11 on his jersey next season.
No use writing him strongly worded letters, or wondering if we can bribe someone at Reebok to keep making him #91 jerseys. Looks like it's a done deal. Signed, sealed, delivered, it's his.

In case you were wondering, no, Gomez didn't check with the fans first. He asked Pierre Gauthier about the number change, and in a rare moment of action, our GFM gave him the green light. Either Scotty (ever the wordsmith) spun a lovely phrase and talked his way into it, or Gauthier is really looking for anything to help him dig in his heels about re-signing Carey Price.

I keep thinking this might be a really lame attempt at a joke, or an April Fool's Day prank that's three months late. But it's not Gomez's style. One thing I really like about Scott Gomez is his comedy. He's too funny to do something like this as a joke, so unfortunately it looks like he's serious.

Scott Gomez never played with Saku Koivu. They're contemporaries, sure, and Gomez has been in the NHL for Koivu's entire tenure as Canadiens captain, but Montreal is the kind of hockey city that you have to spend time in to truly know. Gomez was never here at the same time as Koivu, not during his battle with cancer, not even during the messy last season. Koivu, as a captain, hasn't yet officially been replaced. As a player, he'll be even harder to substitute. His name was on the back of the first Canadiens shirt I bought for a reason. (Many reasons, actually.) Gomez taking number 11 a year after Koivu joined the Anaheim Ducks, trivializes the effect that the seasoned captain had on this city. Some fans won't take issue with this, because they don't see Koivu as a hero of the post-Roy era. Those are probably the same fans who chided Koivu because of his poor mastery of a third language, spoken by people in this city too stubborn to learn a second.

Koivu proved himself to be a patient leader. So far, Scott Gomez has proven himself to be a pretty nice guy and an 8 million dollar Gionta magnet. (A "Giontagnet," if you will.) What does it say about him, that his most impressive accomplishment was reeling in a teammate, without whom he is unspectacular? I'd be more okay with this if Gomez's hefty salary paid for the amazing power forward I'd been promised last July. But our highest-paid player was not our highest scorer. Anyone who wants to bring back Koivu's number had better be supernatural. This season, Gomez was only human. He wasn't really one of the players who tried to fill the sentimental hole left by my captain's departure. Don't get me wrong, he grew on me as the season progressed, but not to the point that I can easily be happy with this. Sorry.

Ace journalist Dave Stubbs broke the story and usually he can sell me on anything. However, in an interview regarding this change, Gomez doesn't sound as personable as he usually does:

" 'I've been disappointed that I haven't gotten to wear No. 11 in the NHL...' "
You know who else is disappointed? All the guys who never made it to a decade in the NHL. I've also heard he said that not wearing #11 was the worst thing in his life, but without sources, I'm going to hope it was a misquote, because he's either the most hyperbolic man alive or he's living a truly charmed life.

" 'I'm stuck with 23. Who wears 23?... I didn't know much about Bob [Gainey].' "
From what I've heard, they started handing out the Selke Trophy specifically so that Bob Gainey's talent could be recognized. But I haven't been playing hockey my whole life, so what do I know?
I hope Scott Gomez never told Gainey this story, unless he really wants to get called a throw-in in the Tom Pyatt trade, or any of the nicknames I came up with in rough drafts.

"He wanted No. 11 in Montreal last fall..."
Wow, to even admit to this is either very brave or very stupid. It would have been an even dumber and more disrespectful move to wear the 11 then, than it is to change his number now. I guess we believed Gomez a little too easily when he professed his love for Montreal like a regular Cyrano de Bergerac on skates.

or should this be a picture of Pinocchio?

I have no doubt that wearing the 11 will make Gomez very happy, and maybe that satisfaction will give him a sense of identity and make him feel more like the player that he is. (Or that he's paid to be.) I can only hope that we'll see the result of this on the ice. And, obviously, I can come up with some kooky ideas about all this number 11 business:
  • Maybe he doesn't want to be one of those rare NHL bigshots with a high number. Of course, why would he want to take anything away from Crosby? (It goes without saying, though, that if Crosby got traded tomorrow, not a single Penguin would ask to wear #87.)
  • Maybe, now that his biggest worry as an NHL player is taken care of, he can lighten our load and worry about his fans' problems, so that we can concentrate on our wardrobe issues too!
  • Maybe he takes a pay cut to go with the lower jersey number. Eleven dollars a point? I'll start making my Stanley Cup party plans.
  • Maybe Gomez should take Mike Komisarek's old number instead. 11 may remind him of his youth in Alaska, but 8 reminds us how much he costs.
  • Maybe we all need to remember that the CH on the front of a jersey is more important than the number on the back, and the man wearing the jersey trumps both.
I hope Scott Gomez makes me eat my words.


  1. I'm glad you wrote that, because it nicely sums up how I feel too.

    They shouldn't "retire" #11 of course, but it would have been nice to at the very least wait a little longer before using it again. Not the end of the world, for sure, but seeing that number on his back will probably make me cringe a little for the few first months.

  2. Thanks, Greg! I was hoping I wasn't the only one, but since there are other people out there who still like Saku Koivu, I'm probably not exaggerating.


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