riot-ready

La Sainte-Flanelle: As a part of his excellent effort to (his word) foodify the NHL, artist Scott Modryzynski rendered Montreal's sacred CH in, well, gum. For more of his nourishing work, visit Foo-gos.com at http://foo-gos.com/gallery/nhl/.

La Sainte-Flanelle: As a part of his excellent effort to (his word) foodify the NHL, artist Scott Modryzynski has rendered Montreal’s sacred CH in, well, chewing gum. For more of his nourishing work, visit Foo-gos.com at http://foo-gos.com/gallery/nhl/.

With Max Pacioretty scoring a late goal last night to lead Montreal to a fourth straight win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canadiens were the first team to advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs. A few stray notes from the happy city on the morning after:

• Along with all those expectant fans, Montreal’s police were standing by for victory last night … with riot gear. “In past years,” The Gazette noted, “when the Canadiens advanced to the second round of the playoffs, celebrations on the street turned violent.”

• The Catholic Church in Montreal is encouraging fans to support their annual fundraising drive at www.laflammadesseries.ca. For as long as the Canadiens stay in the hunt, the faithful can donate a dollar and light a virtual candle in aid of the Canadiens’ playoffs hopes.

•  In La Presse, under the headline

Le retour des Glorieux?

Philippe Cantin’s column wasn’t waiting for the end of the game to wonder whether Montreal’s salad days are in sight again.

• Raymond Pacioretty was at last night’s game, watching his son in person for only the second time this season. Pacioretty the younger hadn’t been scoring, and as he told Pat Hickey of The Gazette, having his dad on hand was a help. “He’s always been supportive and he always says the right things, and he calmed me down tonight. He said: ‘You’ve scored 39 goals this year and maybe you should be more confident.’ I had no confidence. I was hitting posts, missing breakaways, missing empty nets. It shows that the difference between scoring goals and not scoring goals is so mental.”

• At Le Journal de Montréal, Réjean Tremblay was ready to book the Bell Centre anthem-singer for round two:

Let’s get to the big question. Yes, it must be Ginette Reno at the Bell Centre for the Canadiens’ first home match against Boston Bruins or Detroit Red Wings.

• Would it be rude to mention how much teams have, historically, enjoyed being swept out of the playoffs by the Habs? Well, maybe enjoyed isn’t the right word. It is true that when teams lost to those magnificent Canadiens’ teams of the 1970s, their coaches knew that they’d been beaten by a superlative bunch. Here’s Leafs’ coach Roger Nielson after Toronto lost their semi-final in four straight in to the eventual Cupwinners:

“Nobody likes to lose, but if you have I’d rather lose to a great team like the Canadiens.”

In 1976, they swept the Cup incumbents from Philadelphia in the Final. Frank Brown from The Associated Press described the scene after the Habs clinched the deal with a 5-3 away win:

Through the crush of newsmen, tired but happy hockey players and the usual number of hangers-on, a youth pushed his way up to Montreal Canadiens Coach Scotty Bowman and handed him an envelope.

The emissary was Rejean Shero whose father’s hockey team, the Philadelphia Flyers, had just relinquished the Stanley Cup.

Bowman, squeezed for space, opened the envelope and read the words: “Congratulations on such a fantastic season,” it said. “You’re truly champions — not only of the league, but of the world.”

The letter was signed, “Fred.”

Amidst sweaty uniforms, equipment discarded for the final time this National Hockey League season and standing on a floor doused by champagne, the Canadiens’ coach looked that boy and said, “Thanks.”

Rejean was thirteen at the time. Now 51, he works, of course, as GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he answers to Ray.

a thousand and thirty-three

#33 SedinTony Harris tells the story of illicitly drawing constant Tony Espositos when he should have been taking notes as a school kid in Lakefield, Ontario: that’s where his career as an artist started. Today, Harris, who’s 49, ranks as one of Canada’s foremost painters of athletes as well as the landscapes they inhabit. His early Espositoing had a practical side, too: Harris was a young goaltender himself, who went on to play in the OHL for the Kingston Canadians in the 1980s. As a hockey painter, his subjects have included Roger Nielson, Ted Lindsay, Zdeno Chara, Chris Phillips, and Daniel Alfredsson, among many others — no further Espositos, yet.

His latest NHL commission came back before Christmas when Vancouver got in touch about Henrik Sedin. “It has to be a good portrait,” Harris was saying this week from his studio in Ottawa, “that’s the first thing I think about. Take away the hockey, out of the rink, is it a good likeness? I want the player to look like he could step out of the painting and engage you.” He prefers to paint a player in repose, he’s said, “between whistles,” rather than in mid-slapshot, “so there’s a little bit of attitude, a little bit of thought of what’s going to happen next.” The Sedin portrait, he estimates, was 75 hours in the making. A week after he’d finished, in mid-March, Harris flew it west, framed if not completely dried. Henrik, who’s 33 and scarce minutes older than his twin, Daniel, played his 1,000th NHL game in Winnipeg on March 12.

In a ceremony on March 23, before a home game against Buffalo, Harris watched from a high Rogers Arena box as the Canucks’ marked the occasion in a pre-game ceremony in which the portrait was unveiled. The night ended with good news: the Canucks won the game, 4-2, though not before Henrik had to leave, in the second period, with an injured leg. “I went to hit a guy and he came back off the boards and he fell on top of me, so we’ll see how it is tomorrow,” he told reporters after the game. “I’m not declaring anything. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and go from there.”

A later word was that he’d be off the ice for about two weeks.

To see more of Tony Harris’ lucent work, visit http://thfineart.ca.

this week: honestly, the ice don’t have much give

Advil® is the new Official Pain Reliever of the National Hockey League and the 30 Team Athletic Trainers, Pfizer announced this week. I can’t tell you whether there was an old Official Pain Reliever, before, but according to a Simmons Market Research study (says Pfizer), NHL fans are younger, more educated, more affluent, and access content through digital means more than any other sport.

“The NHL deal provides a terrific platform for driving the launch of our new, fast acting Advil® line,” said Brian Groves, U.S. Chief Marketing Officer at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. “Advil® is built to be as fast as it is tough. We see the players and the League as embodying the fast acting Advil® promise of fast recovery from tough pain.”

The news on Wednesday, from The Globe and Mail: “Newest Supreme Court judge Marc Nadon skates through nomination hearing.”

So that was a relief.

The new NHL season had started on Tuesday. The commissioner, Gary Bettman, told Peter Mansbridge from the CBC that if fighting were a light-switch, it was broken, you couldn’t just turn it off. Or … no. He said it isn’t a light-switch because what would be the point of a light-switch that doesn’t turn off? Or … even if electricians found a way to put a light-switch on fighting, in Bettman’s NHL, no-one would be allowed to touch it, other than to turn it on. Once it was on, it would be staying on.

The Chicago Blackhawks got their Stanley Cup rings this week. Each one weighs 93.0 grams, with diamonds and gemstones numbering 260 for a total of some 14.68 carats.

“Wow,” tweeted Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul on Tuesday, as Toronto went to Montreal. “Even the US government is shutting things down to watch Leafs/Habs on opening night. What a spectacle!”

From Canadiens’ owners Geoff Molson that same afternoon: “Ce soir, on va demander aux partisans de chanter l’hymme national … tonight, we will ask our fans to sing the national anthem …”

Toronto won. There were five fights, and no light-switches. Throwing a punch at Toronto’s Colton Orr, George Parros of the Canadiens fell and hit the ice face-first. He was knocked out. And went to hospital.

 “You never want to see a guy get hurt like that,” Orr said. “I just hope he’s all right. It happened fast. I slipped and he came on top of me. The ice isn’t going to give.”

“It was unfortunate,” said Toronto’s coach, Randy Carlyle. “Those are tough things.”

Nazem Kadri: “Honestly, the ice don’t have much give.”

“I see more players get hurt from hits, collisions, from pucks, than I do from fights,” said Josh Gorges.  “I don’t think saying because a player got hurt in a fight that now we have to talk about taking fighting away. And I bet if you ask George, he’ll be the first to agree with me on that one, too.” Continue reading

pass the hat

“Fire Wilson!” the fans cried on Tuesday in Toronto, but it was Friday in Montreal before it happened. Was Ron Wilson aware that March 2 isn’t such a great date for Leaf coaches? Of course, history does show that the ones who are fired on that particular day do tend to be re-hired the very next day, March 3 — although I guess that’s not likely to happen in this case, is it?

Back to that in a minute. First, some numbers. The new coach, Randy Carlyle, is the twenty-ninth man to step behind the Leafs bench, the sixteenth to have played for the team. He’s the first from Sudbury — though the yield of nearby northern Ontario towns like Skead (George Armstrong), South Porcupine (John McLellan), and Kirkland Lake (Dick Duff) should be noted. Seven Leaf coaches were born in Toronto, maybe eight, depending on where Alex Romeril got his start, which is hard to discover. Hamilton (Dick Irvin, Pat Quinn), Winnipeg (Billy Reay, Joe Crozier), and Sault Ste. Marie (Paul Maurice, Art Duncan) are next when it comes to productive Leaf-coach breeding grounds. Continue reading