Sunday, 29 July 2012

HABS-TOWN: "Fans are full of passion and attitude"

After some discussion, I got the founder and President of one of the fastest growing sports apparel brands out there currently - True Rivalry - to open up to us about his fandom.

Jason Portnoy was born and raised in Montreal. I've always known him as being a basketball guy, but Montreal being a Habs-Town, Jason is of course a hockey guy too. In the many editions of "HABS-TOWN" thus far we've had many people tell us how unavoidable it is being a fan of the Montreal Canadiens in this town, and for Jason the story is no different.

During the Canadiens road to the Eastern Conference final in 2010, many fans starting sporting a Jaroslav Halak stop-sign T-shirt, leave it to your imagination where those came from.

Jason keeps things simple. When it comes to the Habs, he doesn't just wear his heart on his sleeve - he emblazons it across his chest for all to see making him yet another unique face in HABS-TOWN.

What got you into hockey, more specifically the Habs?
Growing up, after school or in the summer the kids on my street all used to play hockey until it was dark out. Being from Montreal it wasn't even a question as to what team to cheer for.

Do you remember your first Habs game?
My father took me to my first game and honestly, I was so young I don't really remember too much about it except going up the hockey stick shaped escalators of the Forum and being amazed how many people there were.

Do you have a favorite Habs player ever? if so, whom, and why?
Patrick Roy. I wanted to be a goalie just like him. There's something about positions in sports where you can either be the hero or the goat of a game on any given night. He owned that responsibility and is, in my opinion, the best goalie ever. I remember getting my first pack of O-Pee-Chee hockey cards and getting his rookie card. 

Where do you like to watch games?
I actually go to a lot of games but when I'm not in attendance I enjoy watching with my friends or my father.

Do you have any pre-game rituals or in game superstitions?
Most people I know show up right before the game starts but not me. I like being at the game early to see the player warmups and video introduction. 

What's the best game you ever went to? what do you remember about it?
I've been to crazy playoff games but the best game I was ever at was the 5-0 comeback against the Rangers. I remember the bad penalties and the game had to be stopped because the ice was being littered with cups and the banner giveaway and the constant booing. I remember Kovalev falling backwards as he scored the tying goal. From that moment until the win I've never heard a stadium that loud.

We've seen a bunch of local celebs sporting True Rivalry gear, are any of them Habs?
We have a bunch of athletes and celebs rocking the TR. We are in talks now with a couple of Habs players and hopefully be able to have them wear it this season.

Do you feel you have more freedom to be creative with your designs by not going the traditional "licensed image" route?
Definitely. Because we are unlicensed we can write the stuff and make designs that the big named brands can't get away with. Fans are full of passion and attitude so True Rivalry tries to showcase that in a way that just can't be done with a standard logo tee.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories that are somehow related to the Habs?
I went to the Bell Centre one day to go see one of the players. When I walked out I got hounded by a group of kids waiting for Habs players to walk out and they were all asking me for my autograph. 

What do you think of the hiring of Marc Bergevin and his moves so far?
So far so good… but I mean it's hard to do worse than Gauthier. It's a tough job and a lot of pressure especially since you have to make business decisions in a city dominated by emotional fans.

With Free agency continuing, what do you think are the Habs biggest needs? Anyone specific you'd target to fill those needs?
I think the team is a lot tougher now but they're still missing a big forward. As for what I think the next moves are, I hear rumors of Shane Doan. I think that would be a good fit.

For more from Jason Portnoy follow him on Twitter: @JasonPortnoy
and Check out True Rivalry

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

****UPDATED**** Welcome to Montreal: Brandon Prust

As anyone who follows the 24/7/365 saga that is the Montreal Canadiens can tell you, Canada Day 2012 was a busy day on the Job for new General Manger Marc Bergevin.

Bergevin brought in 2 brand new faces to Montreal Canadiens fandom, Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust. Both are expected to be bottom 6 forwards. Today we'll begin looking at all the new talent coming to Montreal to get everyone primed for the upcoming season.

Brandon Prust was on my list of players that I wanted to see the Habs' acquire, so clearly I was pleased by the signing.

As he proved during his time with the New York Rangers, Brandon Prust is a rugged bottom 6 forward. He kills penalties (averaging 1:40 per game on the PK in 2011-2012), He can fight - having been charged with 20 fighting majors last season, but he can also play hockey. Prust averaged over 10 mins a game last season - for a Rangers team that finished 1st in the NHL. He threw 144 hits, took 156 mins in penalties, and scored 2 game winning goals.

Those are the interesting numbers on Prust, but as anyone who pays attention to the game of hockey will tell you, there is plenty that goes on on the ice that a stat sheet can not tell you. Hockey analysts often refer to that as intangibles.

For further insight into the intangibles Brandon Prust brings, I decided to talk to some people who covered him on a daily basis.

Jesse Spector is a US National Hockey writer for the Sporting News, and Brett Cyrgalis is a sports writer at the New York Post covering the Rangers.

Spector: "If you're into Intangibles, how about the fact that despite fighting pretty much anyone who asks, Prust hasn't missed a game in the past two seasons?"

Cyrgalis: " Brandon was a real leader throughout his time in New York. His teammates always looked up to him for his tough play, and his sacrificing his body for the betterment of the team.  He never got many of the headlines, but he got the famed Broadway Hat more often that most would expect, showing how much his teammates looked up to him and the way he played."

Spector: "Hockey players are famously tough, but Prust takes it to another level. As injuries besieged the Rangers in 2010-2011, he was asked about some knocks he had taken. His reply? "It's just pain." It became a rallying cry for a team that just squeaked into the playoffs."

Cyrgalis: "He will undoubtedly bring that same intensity to his game in Montreal"

Spector: "He's nails through and through"

After Brandon Dubinsky was traded to Columbus as part of the Rick Nash trade, many in the twitter-verse speculated that the Rangers had lost a lot of heart in the off-season between Dubinsky & Prust. Hockey fans could see alot of that side of Dubinsky in the HBO 24/7 series earlier this year. I asked both Cyrgalis and Spector to fill me in on some things about the character of Brandon Prust that the average fan might not know.

Spector: "Well, he's a big Blue Jays fan/ Aside from that, Prust is someone who is unflinchingly honest and appreciates what it takes to succeed in the NHL because he's had to battle his way through every stage of his career."

Cyrgalis: "What the average fan doesn't know about Brandon is that he's funny.He used to make everyone in the room laugh, and although he was exactly the most articulate speaker with microphones and cameras in his face, he was open and candid when possible."

Spector: "He's got a subtle sense of humour and it's kind of infectious. I don't think that means anything on the ice, but he's a good guy for young players to learn from when it comes to putting in a full effort all the time, regardless of how things are going."

Cyrgalis:  " He also found a way to lighten the mood -- which is very important for a team playing hugely important games down the stretch and in the playoffs"

“I want to keep doing the things that I’ve been known for, but I also want to focus on improving other areas as well,” said Prust recently in talking with's Chris Lomon. “I’ll look at everything and go from there. I want to earn every second of ice time I get. I want to battle for those minutes. That’s my goal, to get more ice time, perhaps some time on the power play. I want to be the type of player who can be counted on in all kinds of situations.”

Brandon Prust typifies a bottom six forward. He'll bring his lunch pail and hard hat to the rink every night and go to work. He's the type of gritty player Michel Therrien loves to have, he's the kind of guy teammates love, and he's the kind of guy who's jersey any fan would be proud to wear on their back.

Welcome to Montreal Brandon Prust.

For more from Brett Cyrgalis, read him in the New York Post and follow him on Twitter: @brettcyrgalis 
For more from Jesse Spector, read him in the Sporting news and follow him on Twitter: @jessespector 
Brandon Prust can be followed on Twitter as well: @BrandonPrust8

Sunday, 22 July 2012

HABS-TOWN: "If Bill Lindsay takes any face-offs its over for me"

I've known Sasha Guindi a really long time. Somehow I was always convinced he was a Habs fan in the womb - and I know for a fact his son was.

Sasha is a Media Expert. He's been working online for years. He helps people with online marketing strategies, he sells online ad space, Sasha does it all. His real passion however, lies with the Habs.

Sasha has had partial or full-season plans at the Bell Centre for as long as I've known him v- and as long as I've been going to games - so well over a decade.

If there is ever someone who is always willing to talk Habs, it's Sasha. Fans like Sasha are all around the city. They can be found in every Pub, Club or Restaurant. In every chic store, on a bike-path or at the port. Hab-Fans like Sasha are everywhere and they each have their own ways of connecting with the franchise. It's people like Sasha and their stories that truly make this a HABS-TOWN.


What got you into hockey, more specifically the Habs?
As a young kid, growing up with immigrant parents who didn't know much or care about hockey, my older cousins got me into hockey. One in particular, would babysit and we would always watch Habs games! Not to mention, some of my first hockey memories are watching the Habs lose the cup to Calgary. Luckily, I have better memories of 93! It was hard not to love the Canadiens growing up in Montreal, and that has only continued to grow with age.

You were at every playoff home game in 1993?
Yes I was. My sister missed the last one, she had an exam the next day and her teacher apologized to her.

Aside from seeing a stanley cup won in front of you, what other vivid memories do you have from that playoff run?
I remember the Desjardins hat trick like it was yesterday in game 2. What a scene. Besides that, I remember staying up late many nights watching overtime win after win!

Do you remember your first Habs game?
I don't remember when it was, but I do remember it was against Vancouver. Nobody can forget those horrible Jerseys! I went with my mother and sister. but don't remember much more besides the seats being in the reds.

Do you have a favorite Habs player ever?
I always loved Saku Koivu. He had a lot of heart, and being a smallish guy myself, always gave me the hope that anyone could make it to the NHL -  which eventually I did on Sega Genesis...

Do you wanna see Saku Koivu come back one day to retire as a Hab?
That would be cool, especially if the habs would have a chance to win with him, or a trade deadline deal for a final tour could be cool. I'd be surprised to see it happen

Where do you like to watch games?
Usually at the Bell Centre, or on my couch with my wife, cousins, friends and family.

Do you prefer to watch with guys? with girls? why?
I don't care as long as people are quiet when Charles Prevost-Linton is singing the National Anthem. Honestly, as long as you are a fan, you are going to be fun to watch with.

Do you have any pre-game rituals or in game superstitions?
I always try to go to Mr. Steer before games that I go to. Besides that, nothing really.

What's the best game you ever went to? what do you remember about it?
Well, one of them was of course when the Habs won the Cup in 93. As an eleven year old and not missing a home game all playoff game was quite special. Another one that I will never forget, is the game Saku Koivu returned from Cancer. Seeing those highlights still bring chills down my entire body.

What do you think of the hiring of Marc Bergevin and his moves so far?
So far so good. Only time will tell, but he seems to have his shit together.

Do you like the re-hiring of Head Coach Michel Therrien?
Its been 10 years. People change, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. But if Bill Lindsay takes any face-offs its over for me.

What would Sasha Guindi do with Scott Gomez?
Maybe he will disappear ice fishing this summer? Seriously, he gets a shot a training camp and if he's the same old, ask him to stay home. Don't even send him to the AHL, why take away playing time from the kids.

Will the NHL season start on time?
I hope so! Would be a horrible business move to not have it on time. I am sure all parties can agree on that.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories that are somehow related to the Habs?
Too many to say, and most that I want to share I should not ... So lets leave it as that ....

Saturday, 21 July 2012

I did not know Jessica Redfield - ****Updated 15/08/2012****


The Philadelphia Flyers have opened up such an internship as mentioned below and named it after Jessica. Congratulations to them! I hope more NHL teams follow suit

FALL 2012 JESSICA REDFIELD JOURNALISM / PR INTERNSHIP - Philadelphia Flyers (Philadelphia, PA)


By the time you read this, you definitely know more then you'd like to about what happened to Aurora, Colorado.

I was very hesitant to write this article, as I really don't want to be one of those who tries to cash in on someone Else's misery. So I am actually writing this knowing I may never publish it.

Adrian Dater is an excellent hockey columnist in Colorado who covers the Avalanche for the Denver Post. He lost a friend in Aurora last night. Jessica Redfield. Adrian wrote a quick piece on his friend Jessica today, while feeling sick to his stomach.

If you've been following the story in Aurora at all, then Jessica's is a name you have likely heard many times already. I do not want to in any way minimize the loss of anyone else in the theater - but Jessica's loss has affected me. I

I did not know Jessica Redfield - in fact, until today, I had never even heard of her.

What I now know about Jessica is that her first love in hockey was the much maligned Phoenix Coyotes. Jessica moved to Aurora from her native San Antonio to pursue her passion of becoming a sports journalist - particularly covering hockey.

In his piece, Adrian Dater writes that "Just yesterday, I was swapping Twitter direct messages with her about possible internships she was looking at, asking my advice about them". Reading that line in particular got me thinking.

There aren't enough passionate female reporters in Sports. Their numbers are growing, but they are still few. It's extremely difficult for females to get jobs as sports reporters - more difficult than in many other fields.

There are, however, many media interships that come up every year, some with NHL hockey teams. I'd like to propose that NHL teams should create an internship specifically for "young, passionate, female hockey fans" looking to get into hockey reporting. I think they should name the internship for Jessica.

Jessica shows us that there can be smart, passionate, hockey fans that just happen to be female - and they can come from non traditional hockey markets, too! Perhaps the next Jessica is knocking at the door of your favourite NHL team, help her out. Bring those voices to the masses.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Futures present: Scott Gomez

"Time. Patience. Faith."

That's what Brian Wilde of CTV sports wrote recently in his excellent blog posting of the same title.
In his article (which I encourage you to read here) Brian explains that with many contracts set to expire after the 2013-2014 season, timing will be ripe in September 2014 for many of the Habs young prospects to start venturing into the big leagues.

Players like Tinordi, Ellis, Beaulieu, Kristo, Collberg, and Bournival will be ripe. "What does that mean now"? you may ask."Does that mean we get Gallagher, Galchenyuck and Leblanc now?" no. No it doesn't mean you get them now.

Look at recent examples in L.A, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Those teams became dominant by allowing their players to develop together. However, in all three cases there came much losing in the NHL together, and by the time those teams won the cup, they had to start shedding players who coming up on UFA or RFA status. What if I told you it didn't have to be that way? What if I told you there was a better way?

If I am Marc Bergevin, I let the players develop at the Junior level, or in the American hockey league. I let those players dominate at those levels - and then I bring them in to the NHL. I bring them in not when the fans want them, but when they are ready. That way I don't burn up their NHL time.

"Time. Patience. Faith."

Alex Galchenyuck was injured much of last year. His hockey development will not be hindered in the slightest by playing Junior hockey this year. After that he can spend 1 season in Hamilton, and then we get to Sept.2014.

Brendan Gallagher has yet to play at the American hockey league level. Why must we have him here now? We have Brian Gionta. Brian Gionta is still a top 6 forward at the NHL level. Do we need to see Brendan Gallagher get 4th line minutes at the NHL level? Let him get top 6 minutes in Hamilton and dominate there.

Rick Springhetti of McKeen's Hockey supports the theory that Bergevin is looking towards the future"(Bergevin) has a great amateur scouting staff and wants to give them more of an opportunity to do their thing."

Now that we've gone over idea of giving time to the youngsters, you're again going to ask:"What does that mean for the Habs now"? It means more of the same.

Yes. You read me right. That means, that for better or worse Scott Gomez, Rene Bourque, Tomas Kaberle and Andrei Markov will be in Montreal this season.

Following up on his Blog posting, Brian Wilde exclusively told "The breakdown" that fans can expect a lean season. "Not as lean as last year but lean. (Former General Manager) Pierre Gauthier acquired some awful assets." Wilde continued "Normally it would be wrong to ride it out with those crap assets and let them play out the string but nothing is happening now on this big transformation to greatness, so this season is always going to be limited."

Should Hab fans be worried? Maybe. Is it possible some of those awful assets will continue to be awful? or is it possible that they may be viable NHLers with bad contracts?

If I am Marc Bergevin, my attitude is simple. I am going to ride those assets till the end of their contracts. If they perform, and the team does well - fantastic, maybe they earn themselves a new deal. If they don't perform, then the team can end up with more high draft picks leading up 2014 - the beginning of the future.

Springhetti believes that in the short term "the plan for Bergevin was to sign a few players that can begin to shape a new identity for Montreal as a team that will have some bite to their play and will have the courage to impose their system instead of passively reacting to what their opponents are doing." 

"Time. Patience. Faith".

Today we will begin looking at some of the "awful assets" and discuss what we can expect. Today, we discuss Scott Gomez.

Scott Gomez is overpaid. There's no nice way to say it. There were two teams however - New York and Montreal - that saw some value in him. New York gave him the contract to start, and later the Habs picked it up. Whether Canadiens' brass at the time felt he was overpaid or not could be up for debate. What cannot be debated however, is that Canadiens brass felt that Scott Gomez could be their number 1 Center to replace Saku Koivu.

Scott Gomez came to the National Hockey league just in time for the 1999-2000 season. With 19 goals and 51 assists, Gomez was named an all-star and eventually won the Rookie of the year. His numbers tailed off in the playoffs that season where he notched 10 points en route to his first of two Stanley Cups with the Devils. In 2003-2004, Gomez tied for the league lead in assists with 56.

After the NHL lockout in 04-05, Gomez came back to the Devils in 05-06 and had a career year. 

Things started pretty well for Gomez in NJ. Rookie of the year, 2 stanley cups, and a career year in 05/06. He scored 33 goals and had 51 assists, that led to an arbitrator awarding him a $5 Million salary for the 06/07 season before he went on to become a UFA following that season.

As an Unrestricted free agent, Gomez was offered a 32% increase in salary (based on AAV cap hit of $7,357,143) to jump ship to the Rangers. A lucrative offer, but not a crazy increase for a player who has 2 Stanley Cups, a rookie of the year, and at only 27 years of age and entering his prime is already considered to be one of the elite passers of the game. At the time most lauded the deal.

"It's pretty exciting." Rangers General Manager Glen Sather said at the time. "We ranked them both (Gomez & Chris Drury) as number ones, and we never expected to get both of them."

When  Canadiens General Manager Bob Gainey acquired Gomez 2 years later in Montreal he described Gomez as "an outstanding playmaker and an excellent skater. Having won the Stanley Cup twice with the New Jersey Devils, he brings our team a lot of playoff experience. Scott is an elite player who will certainly contribute to the success of our team for years to come."

So, what happened?
Colin Stephenson has been a reporter at the New Jersey Star-Ledger since December, 1997. He covered Scott Gomez during his tenure with both the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers. "(Gomez) had great vision, and soft hands, and he was clever. He really was an elite playmaker. He could find people and get the puck to them. He always seemed to have a chemistry with Brian Gionta -- they were linemates on Team USA junior teams before they were on the Devils.But when he was on the Devils, it didn't seem like a strictly Gomez and Gionta thing. He made plays for everyone he played with."
"(With the Rangers) they paid him big money and put him with Jagr on the top line and that never worked, for whatever reason." 
Former Canadien Hal Gill discussed Scott Gomez with the Montreal Gazette's Dave Stubbs shortly after this past season. "The message (from the coaching staff) was we need to play as a team with their system. I tried to preach it but the hard part was we didn't play to guys’ strengths. With Gomez, you don’t expect him to chip it up the boards, you want him to come back and pick it up. If he can’t do that, he can’t be effective."
Stephenson seems to think that Gill's assessment is a reasonable one, echoing what the hulking defenseman had to say. "With the Devils, other guys chipped the puck out, but he was the guy who skated with it."

McKeen's Rick Springhetti believes the issues that have plagued Gomez in recent years are mental. "I think things went downhill after he signed that huge deal with the Rangers. It's as if he knew that he just couldn't justify his huge deal and started to run around the ice trying to do everything at once."

Stephenson and Springhetti's views on Gomez over an interesting contrast on Gomez the Player. When describing Gomez at his best in New Jersey, Stephenson says that Gomez "carried the puck through the neutral zone and dished off. He actually slowed the game down and found holes in the defense."

Springhetti however counters that since signing his deal with the Rangers, "everything seems rushed when he gains possession of the puck. He complicates his game by running around the ice and  with little actual results. If anything, he too often loses control of the puck especially near the opposing blue line because he is not slowing the play down looking for passing options. Also, he has become very hesitant defensively."

Springhetti's evaluation sides with the idea that under the right situation, Gomez could once again be an effective player. Stephenson agrees feeling that the Rangers gave up on him too early "when it didn't work with Jagr."

Springhetti feels that the approach with Gomez for the coming season is a simple one. "(Gomez) should simplify his game, play very good defensively and work his way up from there." He feels that playing a more simple game should allow Gomez to regain confidence, alleviate the mental pressure of his contract and allow him the freedom to get back to his greatest asset. An asset that had 3 NHL General Mangers dub him as a first line center.

As far as being a disruption in the locker room, Stephenson is pretty clear "(Gomez is) a happy guy who loves to laugh and rarely seems to take anything seriously. Most of his teammates like that."

For more from Colin Stephenson, follow him on Twitter @Ledger_Nets
For more from Rick Springhetti, follow him on Twitter @Rick1042
For more from Brian Wilde, follow him on twitter @BWildeCTV

Saturday, 14 July 2012

HABS-TOWN: "It would be wrong to ride it out with those crap assets"

Often times during the evening I sit on the couch after my day of work. The dishes are done, dinner has been eaten, and it's time to veg. Sometimes I have my smartphone in hand and the wife will ask: "What are you doing?", my usual answer "I'm on Twitter".

The conversation usually ends there, because the phone goes away, but when it doesn't - it's usually because I am having a long drawn out discussion with CTV's Brian Wilde.

For those of you who follow @BWildeCTV on twitter, you already know that he is a very active tweeter. He is passionate, articulate, and opinionated on many things. Movies, Music, Tennis, The Impact, but mostly The Habs.

Brian Wilde has been with CTV Montreal since the mid-90's, and he has been on the Habs beat that entire time. Before that he covered the great Gretzky led Oilers dynasty in Edmonton.

Being a reporter is different from being a fan. Reporting requires someone to be impartial, and yet Brian Wilde in his impartiality is also passionate. He frequents Randy Tieman's TSN 990 show when there is something Habs related to talk about and he speaks with unwavering conviction about his point of view.

Whether you like him or dislike him, whether you agree with his opinions or not - Brian Wilde is an asset to the Montreal sports scene - and in particular an asset to this HABS-TOWN.

What got you into hockey, or later on more specifically the Habs?
Growing up I was just another kid who wanted to play hockey and loved it but who wasn't talented enough. Later on, I worked firstly with the Oilers as their host and then moved to Montreal. I Got the Habs gig when the previous guy quit but it wasn't too surprising because I am passionate about it.

You grew up in Edmonton, so I doubt your first NHL fan experience was at Habs game. Or was it?  Do you remember your first NHL game? when was it? who took you? What do you remember about it....
My first best memory is actually an Edmonton Oil Kings junior game. Al Hamilton was the best player. My dad took me. It was at the Edmonton gardens which has since been demolished - a real old barn. I just Thought it was the greatest thing ever. One of the moments where you are looking around all the time. Time flew. 

First NHL experience was the Oilers first game in the league or close to it. Against Detroit. I remember thinking "how much are Oilers gonna get killed?" They did by 3 if memory serves. Greatest memory was the red wheel uniform. Looked so red!!!

Do you have a favorite Habs player ever on ice? if so, whom, and why?
My favourite players are not conventional. I usually like them as people and not players. So my favourite player though we never became close at all and all conversations stayed on hockey is Hal Gill. Just so obvious that he sees the bigger picture! The one about team and commitment and winners are winners because they stand up and care for each other. 

I've seen the great Oilers cup winners and lousy teams up close and Hal gets what becomes obvious over time. Josh (Gorges) too. Matt Darche too. Gotta have players who want a "team to be proud to be a team" as Ken Dryden says.

I was a fan in the seats the night Saku Koivu made his triumphant return from cancer. What was it like covering that moment?

The fans stick out most. It was that kind of Montreal welcome that is so famous. The fans appreciation can be the story even when a guy comes back from cancer. It is just that way here. Saku tried to minimize the moment in clients about cancer. Natural from him.

Anyone who follows you on Twitter can tell you're a big fan of the Impact. Are you able to be a Habs fan?
I don't cover the impact so I've let myself have a little fun there. I don't have contact with the players so I don't worry about it.

With the Habs I most definitely have to and find it easy to keep an objectivity. I talk to the players every day. I can't let them believe at all that there is a line I am willing to cross. As far as being a fan -  no way. I am however a fan of my more enjoyable life so there is a natural hope that I can travel in the playoffs. But that pervades in only a very general sense but doesn't impact the day to day. The love of the soccer team is also a love of the city. If this city has another Expos moment I will actually feel crushed.

If someone asked you to fill in the blanks: "My ideal place to watch a game is______ with _____" how would you fill the blanks, and why?
I'm a very nostalgic person. I have a high value for things older and simpler - so I wish I could have time back with my dad because inward robbed of too much of it and I wish I could have it back. So my dad and I'd combine that with another trip down memory lane and say the old Chicago stadium. Wow what a place to see a game. I opened a telecast at the organ loft once. Incredible.

What's the best game you ever went to? what do you remember about it?
Best game I ever went to? Man. You'd think I'd pick out an Oilers game having season tickets for 4 of the 5 cups but Habs comeback vs NYR from 5 goals down. The press box went from "these guys aren't that good" to "holy these guys can do anything". At 5-3 everyone knew the Habs would win. 

Then 2nd would be take 7 in Pittsburgh to beat the penguins in the playoffs. That was memorable because of my cameraman Jason Clarke who was so stoked that he could barely control his enthusiasm. Just his reaction was priceless.  
I seem to recall you talking on air with (Mitch) Melnick or Randy Tieman that you had a bleak outlook for that Pittsburgh Series. That you just didn't see any way that the Habs could possibly beat the Penguins. Somewhere deep down inside, do you think you may have felt something like what Jason was feeling?
I saw Pittsburgh as a more complete team. Playoff ready.

Well, it meant traveling another round in the playoffs which is fun work to do. 

What do you think of the hiring of Marc Bergevin and his moves so far?
Bergevin has done perfectly for me. He seems to get it in every way and my initial impression is he is going to be an all timer at it. Yep I said it. He seems to understand about overvaluing an asset. He passed up on Jagr and Parenteau when it would have been easy to seek more strength short term.

He is going to be a great one. People need to let him plan. That's all.

You wrote a fantastic blog posting about 2014-2015 being the year for the Habs. Many veteran contracts expire then, many younger players may be ready to step in. What do you think fans can expect to see in the interim? 
Short term before all the money and assets come available I think it s going to be lean. Not as lean as last year but lean. (Former General Manager) Pierre Gauthier acquired some awful assets. No one talks about Markov and I have stopped too because of the flak but I am on record maintaining that there is little left in that knee. He played very fearfully so that besides Bourque, Gomez, Kaberle is a 4th big money suspect asset. Sorry but teams don't win in the face of stupid issues like that. That is 4 of 20 players and almost 20 million in payroll. That's scary. There is a lot for Marc Bergevin to patiently get off the books.

Are you scared to see how much room those assets are given this season? I'd personally rather let the prospects dominate in Junior or in Hamilton and let the assets that are here bring what they got in the interim. 
Normally it would be wrong to ride it out with those crap assets and let them play out the string but nothing is happening now on this big transformation to greatness, so this season is always going to be limited. 

If you have a long term view on how to win the Cup, then you just quietly don't worry about this season. Just don't jeopardize any long term plan and have the money available when you need to fill the gap. Just don't tell the fans who shell out the big money to attend your limbo season.

For more from Brian Wilde, I encourage you to follow him on Twitter: @BwildeCTV
I also strongly urge you to listen to Randy Tieman on TSN990 weekdays 12-2pm
and of course, catch them both nightly on CTV Montreal News at 11:45pm for Sports night.


Thursday, 12 July 2012

HABS-TOWN: "The Habs are in my blood...for real."

I had the pleasure of meetin Mike Obrand at the "Evening for Gary Carter" held at Hurley's in May. He's a funny dude, which I guess is how he earned his Twitter monicker "Habs Laughs"

Mike's been a  man about town in recent days. He appears frequently on Matthew Ross' TSN 990 program Game Points to share his David Letterman-styled "Tweet 10 List" about all things Habs. He's a frequent contributor to many Hab's related discussions on Twitter, and he maintains his "Habs Laughs" Blog pretty regularly. "Habs Laughs" is a comedic take on the Habs. Seriously.

So who is Mike Obrand? Why this obsession with all things Habs? We find out in the latest edition of HABS-TOWN.

What got you into hockey, more specifically the Habs?
The typical answer would be something along the lines of "being a Canadian means you're automatically a Hockey fan". That's probably true, but Hockey and the Habs are in my blood...for real. My Great Uncle is Irving Grundman, who was the GM of the Habs in the late 70s, and his brother, my late Grandfather Gerry was the VP of events at the forum. My family was always at the Forum for games, concerts, mame it. By the time I was born the connections to the team were severed but my parents were both huge Habs fans, my Dad has season tickets and I was at the forum all the time during my early years.

Irving Grundman was the GM of record for the Canadiens' 22nd Stanley Cup victory in 1979 - Where does he keep his ring? On display? On his hand? Hidden away? What would you give to have it for your very own?
He wears his ring on his hand. I'm not sure I would want it...I didn't win it.

Do you ever talk Hockey with your great Uncle? did he share any interesting stories with you?
Honestly I don't know him very well, we've only started talking recently actually. He's told me some stories about how things were back in the day, some tidbits about players but nothing crazy. I have yet to ask him about Wickenheiser. 

Do you remember your first Habs game? when was it? who took you?
I'm not sure if it was my first game, and I'm not sure if this is a memory or just a story my Dad told me but it was against the Blackhawks at the Forum, probably in 90-91. My Dad swears this is true: The Habs were down 2-1 going onto the 3rd and at the start of the period I stood up on my seat and started a Go Habs Go chant. It caught on and the Habd rallied to win 3-2. I can't find that game in the records so maybe he's lying to make me feel special...I don't know.

Do you have a favorite Habs player ever? if so, whom, and why?
My favorite all time Hab is Jean Beliveau. Without a doubt the epitome of class and playing ability. We need more Beliveaus. The perfect NHLer, the perfect Canadien.

You're not old enough to have seen Jean Beliveau play, so how can he be your favourite player? You must be talking more about the Man.
My favorite player growing up as a kid was Russ Courtnall. Loved his speed and energy.
A good story to go with that: I was really young and I went to get a name put on the back of a Habs jersey. I asked for Courtnall and they said that they couldn't do it because they didn't have any Rs. Disappointed, I asked for Shane Corson, my second favorite player. Amused, the clerk said that he couldn't do it because he didn't have any Rs. Annoyed, I threw my hands up in the air and said "Fine! Just give me Obrand!"

In that case who is your favourite player that you've been able to see play?
Today, my favorite player is Josh Gorges. I love his "team above all else" attitude. He's willing to do anything for the team and I'm a huge fan of that.

Where do you like to watch games?
I try to get the Bell Centre as often as I can but when I can't get there I'm perfectly happy wacthing on my couch. I'm not a fan of watching games at bars, too hard to catch the whole thing, to catch all the details.

Do you prefer to watch with guys? with girls? why?
I have no real preference...doesn't matter to me.

Do you have any pre-game rituals or in game superstitions?
I sacrifice a goat to the Hockey Gods before every game. My backyard is a mess but it's tradition....other than that I try to wear a Habs logo whenever I'm watching a game.

What's the best game you ever went to? what do you remember about it?
I used to work at the Bell Centre hawking credit cards for free gifts for MBNA. I was there for about 2 seasons...without a doubt the best game I've ever attended was the comeback against the Rangers. After that game they tightened up security and wouldn't let us, the employees, watch the games from the entrance tunnels. I quit.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories that are somehow related to the Habs?
I did a tour of the Bell Centre for a birthday party when I was really young. We saw Shane Corson in the parking lot and he came over to sign a few autographs and take some pictures. I gave him my pen to sign somethings and when he was done he walked away with the pen. Shane Corson stole my damn pen!

My favourite one is this one:
Remember a few years ago there were rumours that a Ryder for Jarrett Stoll deal was done? I started that.
When I was working at the Bell Centre two guys from Newfoundland came up to my booth and signed up for a card. They told me they were related to Ryder, that one of them was Ryder's older brother. His ID said Ryder so I believed him. He told me his brother texted him that he had been traded for Stoll. After the game I saw Ron McLean from CBC standing outside with a few other guys. I went up to him with a friend to say hi and we told him about what happened. Within seconds his buddies pull out their Blackberries and start typing away.

On the way home in the car we heard all the sports stations talking about it. Obviously the guy was full of shit. Oops.

What do you think of the hiring of Marc Bergevin and his moves so far?
I'm a fan. I'm not going to go on and on about all of his moves and hirings but I will say that his philosphy of "together" and his whole team aspect is very good thing for the Canadiens. Success starts from the top and trickles down to the ice. They're in good hands. Plus, he's got style.

With Free agency still going on, what do you think are the Habs biggest needs? Anyone specific you'd target to fill those needs?
I'm available...but have yet to receive a phone call.

For More from Mike Obrand, check him out @HabsLaughs on twitter

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

I feel a kinship with that place

The Montreal sports landscape was shaken today.

I was shaken today.

I have never worked for TSN 990 or The Team 990 before it, but like many of you I feel a kinship with that place.

Like many of you, I have been listening since day one. I've heard people like Tony Marinaro turn from passionate caller to a fan with his own show (albeit originally alongside a stout comedian) to a very good reporter delivering stories with "true fan conviction". 

I have listened to Montreal radio icons like the late Ted Tevan, the late Ted Blackman and the incorridgeable Terry Haig lend their credence to the airwaves.

I've listened to the next generation of media in this town - some of whom who have moved on from the station - work hard at their craft and creep in to the same territory of some of their mentors. People like hockey night in canada's PJ Stock, CBC Daybreak's Andie Bennett,'s Ben Raby, and of course station stalwarts like Shaun Starr, Conor McKenna and Moe Khan.

Over the years, I've listened as a station with only one locally produced show, added fifteen hours of local content. A station that attracted many long time respected montreal radio personalities into their fold. People like Elliot Price, Barry Morgan, Randy Tieman and most recently, Ted Bird.

The station has grown so much since that fateful day in May 2001 with so much more room to grow. Since adopting the TSN monicker, and adding Montreal Canadiens broadcasts it seemed to be growing exponentially.

I find it shameful that in the not too distant future, this station will be fading away. Bell Media - who owns TSN and by extension TSN 990, recently entered into an agreement to purchase Astral Media. Astral Media owns other local Anglo stations - CJAD, CHOM, and VIRGIN. The CRTC will not allow one body (in this case Bell) to hold on to so many English Language stations. The Bell Media solution is to change TSN 990 to RDS 990 (and eventually RDS 690).

The Always excellent Steve Faguy (aka Fagstein) has a great story up on this today, going into all the details that exist at the moment.

I'm truly saddened today, as I feel this whole thing is a lost opportunity for Bell Media. TSN radio 990, and The Team 990 before it have "stars" - many of whom they have created in house. I had the opportunity to work with one of them a few months ago - Dave Kaufman.

I had an idea, one that Dave seemed to like. Bell Media has a channel available on FIBE and Bell Satellite. They call the Channel TSN HABS. The Channel airs about 30 Montreal Canadiens games a season, and lies blank the rest of the year. That's about 8670 hours of dead air. I thought those hours could best be used for brand cross promotion. I thought if I'm Bell I look and say to myself "I have a radio station and a tv station and they both focus on local content.Maybe they should cross-promote".

I thought that was coming to fruition a little when John Bartlett handled play-by-play on a few games on the TSN Habs' TV feed. There were even ads "tune in to the post-game show on TSN 990". But that was it.
I thought, why not go one step further? Put a camera in the studio. Show the post-game on TV. Add things to it that radio can't offer (like highlights) but still have the radio show so people can tune in from their car and what not.

I happen to big a big fan of Dave Kaufman's excellent "The Kaufman Show". He and I spoke. I came in to the studio and recorded his show one evening with Ari Grunzeweig of Imagination Creations. We weren't broadcasting live, clearly. We edited the show in our spare time, and brought in many of the elements I talked about before. It took us a month, and then the show was put up online. A show with sports information a full month out of date - and it still racked up a few hundred hits. The audience is there for this kind of stuff.

Missed opportunity.

In the suburban on June 20th, Mike Cohen wrote "TSN 990 has been on fire" - who knew it would be their own parent company that would snuff that fire out.

I'm not naive enough to think that everyone will be out of work, nor can I believe everyone will be re-assigned. Many will never leave our airwaves, some we may never here from again - things are going to change. 

I'll reserve judgement on what the future holds, but I know for certain it doesn't hold another TSN 990. For now they're still on air, so tune that receiver to 990 and catch some of these great voices before the transmission ends - because whatever they do next won't be the same.  Sometimes change is good, in this case - I think not.

I'd be remiss if I didn't talk at all about the godfather of the station - the godfather of sports shows in Montreal, at least to my generation.Mitch Melnick.

I think Mitch himself did it all today, and summed up exactly how the listeners are feeling, with a perfect song selection, as only Mitch can do.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

HABS-TOWN: "It’s so much more than a jersey"

When you're at the Bell Centre for a game and you see the auctions going on for the Canadiens Children's Foundation, if you're like me you're always tempted to look at some of the items on display. There's always some signed jerseys, tickets to a show, and plenty of autographed photos. No one knows more about those photos than Jimmy Menegakis.

Jimmy is a 42 year old lifelong Hab-fan. Born and raised in Montreal and married with 2 children, Jimmy isa chartered accountant who runs his own private practice, JDM Consultation Inc. in Old Montreal. That's his day-job.

Jimmy has been a collector of signed sports memorabilia for over twenty years and it is his passion, enthusiasm and drive in that arena that has evolved into another business venture, JDM Prestige Memorabilia. With JDM Prestige Memorabilia, Jimmy brings his love to others by selling one of a kind signed sports memorabilia (primarily jerseys and photos).

Jimmy has a vast collection, a vast hockey knowledge, and a vast amount of hours spent surrounded by the Club de Hockey Canadiens making him an excellent man to speak to for this edition of HABS-TOWN.

What got you into hockey, more specifically the Habs?
I remember watching the Habs ever since I was a little boy. My family tells me that during the playing of the national anthems, I would stand up with my arms along my sides, head held high and listen attentively! I remember being fascinated with the speed of the game… the excitement with every rush and every shot, the cheers of the crowd and the enthusiasm of the announcer (Danny Gallivan). WOW! What a rush! On top of that, my team - The Habs kept winning…. especially every Saturday night. I became addicted to the games, to the winning tradition, to the buzz and rush! Habs versus Bruins, Habs versus Leafs, but…. MORE IMPORTANTLY Habs versus Nordiques! In my humble opinion, there is no greater rivalry in any sport than the Habs against the Nordiques… Dale Hunter, Mario Tremblay, Patrick Roy, Chris Chelios…. WHAT EXCITEMENT! I can still feel the pulse and vibrations of those games as I put down my thoughts to answer your questions. My fingers are tingling ! I miss those days! The hours couldn’t pass by fast enough for me to go home from school and watch them play. I’d go to school the next day and that’s all my friends and I would talk about. Did you see that hit? Did you see that goal? Alas, now that I am older and wiser, I find the time flying by too quickly!

Do you remember your first Habs game? when was it? who took you?
The first Habs game I attended was a playoff game at the Montreal Forum in the 1980s. I was about 13 or 14 years old when my cousin Nick called me out of the blue and said he got a small batch of tickets to the game. The tickets were “standing room.” I didn’t care where I was sitting or standing, the important thing was that I WAS THERE! Later during the game, I remember being excited because someone left the game in the third period and the usher let me take his seat. I got to sit down! Yay! I believe it was against the Boston Bruins. That was the year Steve Penney emerged as a playoff hero. I remember someone holding a big sign saying “Pennies from Heaven.” The Montreal Forum was ALIVE and vibrating with a buzz that was so contagious! I felt it all over my body.

Do you have a favorite Habs player ever? if so, whom, and why?
Patrick Roy and Chris Nilan. These 2 guys showed the grit, heart and character that was electric! You can see and feel their hearts pulsate right through the CH crest on their jerseys. Their passion, their emotion transcended from ice level into the stands and through my television set. They were outspoken and their actions backed up all their words. More importantly, they cared! Wearing the CH jersey meant something to them. I have had the pleasure of meeting both of them. Those were 2 huge thrills for me in my life!

Where do you like to watch games?
I like to watch games in the comfort of my own home on my big screen TV (in my basement) surrounded by my sports memorabilia.

What's wrong with the current edition of the Habs?
Other than the obvious lack of size up the middle, I believe we lack players that understand and feel the rich tradition of the team and what it means to put on the Habs jersey. It’s so much more than a jersey. It’s a fabric of rich tradition, winning, competitiveness, heart and glory. I teared up watching the movie “The Rocket.” In my opinion, every player should attend an intensive 6 hour Habs University where they are FORCED to see The Rocket, Le Gros Bill, The Flower, Boom Boom, etc. in action.

What do you think GM Marc Bergevin should pre-occupy himself with this summer?
At this point, I would build for the future. Get draft picks. I don’t believe the Habs are that far from having a complete team. However, I believe that a winning culture is instilled from the top. Enthusiasm is contagious and must trickle down from the top. It is management’s responsibility to not only get the right players (mix of talent, heart, grit and determination) but to also cultivate a positive and enthusiastic environment where everyone is on the same page. We need more guys like Brian Skrudland, Mike Keane, Doug Risebrough and Mike McPhee. We need someone like Bobby Smith at centre.

For more from Jimmy Menegakis, follow him on Twitter: @jdm_ca_habs

HABS-TOWN: "I could never hone in on one player to admire for his skill"
HABS-TOWN: "The (Habs) need to spend a couple years at the bottom"
HABS-TOWN: "Cowboy Chique"
HABS-TOWN: "The Canadiens are total pushovers"

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Carey's new Price

Did you know that Carey Price, at only 24 years of age, is already 7th on the Canadiens' list of all times games played (271) and 7th for wins by a goalie? (124)

It's an interesting stat. By now everyone reading this knows that over the busy Canada Day weekend, GM Marc Bergevin extended Carey Price to a 6-year $39 million dollar deal. The contract will keep the Goalie with the Montreal Canadiens until he's 30 years old.

"It kind of made sense to me," Price told various media on a conference call from his B.C. home. "It will take me to until I'm 30 years old and generally that's about the peak of goaltenders, so I'm hoping by then to have a couple of Stanley Cups and have a good re-negotiation".

What you also likely know by now is that an AAV of $6.5 million per-season, this contract makes Carey Price the third most expensive goalie in the NHL - Behind Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875Mill) and Pekka Rinne (7 Mill). What you're probably still trying to figure out is, is he worth the money?

At 24, Carey Price is the youngest of the three (Lunqvist, 30 & Rinne, 29). Price still has room to grow, whereas King Herny and Pekka are right in the prime of their careers. (Generally accepted to be between the ages of 27-33 for a professional athlete).

The three goalies have played on teams of varying success over the last few years. Over the past 3 season, Price has won 77 games, has a GAA of 2.48, and a sv% of .918. In the same time span, Henrik Lundqvist has won 110 games, has a GAA of 2.22, and a sv% of .924. Pekka Rinne meanwhile has won 108 games, held a 2.34GAA, and saved .922% of the shots he's faced.

Wins aside, generally a team attributable stat, Price's numbers - while not quite as strong - are in the same stratosphere as those of Rinne and Lundqvist. Price is also 5 years younger than either goalie. When Price's new deal is running out he'll be the same age as Lundqvist and Rinne currently are, and he'll likely be making more scratch than either of them.

In a press conference yesterday, GM Marc Bergevin wasn't shy about his feelings on his star netminder. "I think Carey brings what we need moving forward. He's a top goalie in the league, a young goalie, and with having him in the net for the next six years I think it gives our team a chance to be competitive, and moving forward I think it was a key for us to have Carey in Montreal."

Next up on GM Marc Bergevin's docket is negotiating with PK Subban, who is currently an RFA. The two sides are reported to be working on a long-term extension.

At the press conference yesterday, Bergevin was asked the usual questions about Scott Gomez, and he bluntly laid the matter to rest, for the moment. "Scott is a member of the Canadiens. He is a part of our team. He will be at training camp."

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A busy Canada Day

GM Marc Bergevin has wasted no time putting his own spin on the Montreal Canadiens.

Proving that his relationship with new Head Coach Michel Therrien is one built on strong communication, Bergevin signed 2 players who have played for Therrien before. Defenseman Francis Boullion returns to Montreal for his 3rd tour of duty with the club - the first of which was spent under Michel Therrien. Colby Armstrong who played for Therrien in Pittsburgh was also brought in.

Boullion is a hard working defensive defenseman.Last season with Nashville, he threw 103 hits in 66 games. Boullion will always give you everything he has. "It was the biggest disappointment of my career to leave the Canadiens. It happened a little weirdly, but I do not blame anyone today and I'm looking towards the future" Bouillon told RDS after news of his signing broke. He received a 1 year, $1.5 million dollar contract from the Habs. 

When asked about reuniting with Michel Therrien, Boullion was very candid, "Michel and I've had some great moments together during my career. I was very happy with his re-hiring by the Canadiens and I am very excited to return to his team."

Boullion will bring some much-needed ruggedness to the Canadiens, something that comes in abundance with Bergevin's 2 other signings on this day - Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust.

Colby Armstrong was bought out late last night by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto will actually be paying Armstrong $1 million to not play for them. While the Canadiens will be matching that figure after signing Armstrong to a 1-year $1 million contract.

Armstrong has run into injury problems the last couple of years. He's missed 75 games due to various broken bones. Armstrong says he's completely healthy now and is looking forward to playing with his childhood favourite team. He told CKAC radio in Montreal that his favourite player growing up was Kirk Muller, and that he had Muller's poster hung in his bedroom "right next to the Britney Spears poster".

Armstrong, like Boullion has also played for Michel Therrien before. "Michel knows how I play and he knows how to get the best of me. I wanted to end up with the Canadiens" Armstrong told RDS. 

When asked by CKAC if he had fielded other offers, Armstrong said that he knew there was interest from some other teams, but jumped at the chance to play for his childhood favourite team. He was after all, a card-carrying member of the Montreal Canadiens fan club. 

"I was disappointed that the Maple Leafs bought out my contract. I think I can still contribute and I hope to rebound this season. I'm glad the Canadiens think the same way as me. I think the transition will be easy after living in the middle of Toronto".

The biggest acquisition of Bergevin's day was forward Brandon Prust. Prust is a rugged bottom 6 forward. He kills penalties (averaging 1:40 per game on the PK in 2011-2012), He can fight - having been charged with 20 fighting majors last season, but he can also play hockey. Prust averaged over 10 mins a game last season - for a Rangers team that finished 1st in the NHL. He threw 144 hits, took 156 mins in penalties, and scored 2 game winning goals. He is only 28 years old, would take some pressure off of Travis Moen, and is an upgrade on Brad Staubitz.  

The signings thus far of Armstrong and Prust not only make the Canadiens bigger and stronger, but they also alleviate various pressures off some of the forward group. Prust is a game Penalty Killer, which allows Tomas Plekanec to not be as needed on the PK. Prust also knows how to drop the gloves, which would alleviate the need for Travis Moen and Ryan White to always drop the gloves. These additions to the bottom 6 forwards also allows a rotation to happen based on varied opponents for players like Petteri Nokelainen. 

Marc Bergevin cancelled a late-day media session due to still being in discussions with various free agents. Media members were told to expect Bergevin to meet the media on Monday. Many are speculating that Jaromir Jagr - who was #1 on The Breakdown's list of players for the Habs - is a target of Bergevin's.

Late in the day, Bergevin re-signed RFA Michael Blunden, and also brought back goaltender Cedric Desjardins. Both players signed two-way deals, and will likely spend the season in Hamilton barring injuries.

Related: "Free agent Blitzkrieg?"