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For two Habs goaltending hopefuls, it could be their last shot.

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 Nicholas Champion (l) is one of two goaltenders invited on a tryout to this year’s Canadiens Rookie Camp – photo: Pierre Obendrauf Montreal Gazette

While most eyes at the Montreal Canadiens training camp focus on the likes of Louis LeBlanc, P.K. Subban, and Lars Eller, a pair of 20-year-old goalies may be getting their last shot at the pros.

Both Peter Delmas and Nicholas Champion were given tryout invitations to this year’s camp and while cracking the big team is far in the distance, a supporting role could be a stepping stone.

Barring injury, or total collapse, Carey Price and Alex Auld have secured the two spots in Montreal ,while Curtis Sanford and Robert Mayer should hold the two Hamilton Bulldogs slots on the Canadiens depth chart.

Delmas and Champion will be looking for a potential opening on the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) now that Mayer has moved to the AHL.

Delmas was a former teammate of Los Angeles Kings prospect Jonathan Bernier, when the two played together for the Lewiston MAINEiacs (QMJHL). In light of playing in the shadow of Bernier, the Colorado Avalanche drafted him in the 2nd round (61st overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

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Photo courtesy LHJMQ

He remained in the Q and despite playing for a partial season under former Canadiens and Avalanche Hall of Famer Patrick Roy, was left unsigned. Delmas became eligible again for the 2010 Draft, but was not picked up by another team.

Much of Delmas’ lack of a big year stems from a hip injury. He had his hip scoped in the off-season and is looking to impress this week at the Canadiens practice facility in Brossard.

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Photo courtesy LHJMQ

He is currently playing for the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL), and received his invitation to the Rookie Camp on the same day the Canadiens traded goaltending prospect Cedrick Desjardins to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

His last overall evaluation from HockeysFuture is as follows:

“A solid, positional goaltender, Delmas is unflappable between the pipes and plays a mature, steady game beyond his years.

Always square to the shooter, he never gives up on the puck and possesses a quick glove, but at times he struggles controlling rebounds.

Though he has settled down from his rookie year, Delmas is sometimes a bit too adventurous in and around the net and doesn’t have the quickness and agility to always make up for his aggressiveness.”

Champion, on the other hand, has stayed out of the spotlight. A native of Labrador City, Newfoundland, he is familiar with exceeding his own expectations.

Playing Midget hockey in his home town, the 5’10 netminder was accustomed to facing 50 to 60 shots a night for the Labrador Huskies.

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Nicholas Champion makes one of 51 saves, for Team Newfoundland & Labrador, during the Midget tournament at the 2007 Canada Winter Games. Photo via  hockeyscene.com

After stating the 2007-08 season in the Maritime Jr. A League, Champion surprised himself when he was called up by the Acadie-Bathurst Titan before Christmas. He finished the season with a 25-9-2 record and 2.98 GAA.

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Photo courtesy LHJMQ/Lewiston MAINEiacs – Ron Morin

He was never drafted and coincidentally is now playing for Delmas’ former team in Lewiston.

Both goalies have clearly caught the eye of Canadiens’ GM Pierre Gauthier and his scouting staff. Are they just taking a free look at a one-time NHL prospect, or did a diminutive goaltender from Lab City remind them of a former Habs goaltender, from recent memory, who played well under fire.

The following days could be a real test, and pivotal time career-wise, for the two netminders. Not only will they be competing for a long shot to the pros, but also have to know that their Junior days are getting shorter, and being challenged by up and coming teenagers, while they are away.

Canadiens Gave It the Old College Try Against Penguins

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In this corner, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. In the visiting corner…well pretty much a Montreal Canadiens team made up of Bulldogs call ups.

Nonetheless, a Canadiens team battered and bruised squared off against Sidney Crosby and company and gave it their all.

Montreal kept pace in the shot count with the Penguins through the first twenty minutes with eight a piece.

The Penguins physical game would be the factor however as they out hit their opponents 19-11 in the period.

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Crosby put Pittsburgh on the board at the midway point of the period when his shot tipped off Paul Mara’s stick and past Carey Price.

Bill Guerin made it 2-0, for the Penguins, at 6:41 of the second period. The goal was questionable as it appeared the referee had lost sight of the puck after it was in Price’s pads and trickled loose.

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Ten minutes later, Crosby then set up a wide open Sergei Gonchar, who put the puck five-hole on Price, to give Pittsburgh a three goal lead.

Crosby’s assist was the 279th of his career, and moved him into the top ten all-time with the Penguins.

The Penguins held a 16-7 shot advantage over Montreal in the second period.

Max Pacioretty foiled Marc-Andre Fleury’s shutout bid, taking a perfect pass from Sergei Kostitsyn, seven minutes into the third period. It was Pacioretty’s third goal of the season.

Kostitsyn has an assist in each of the two games since his call up earlier this week.

imageFleury stopped anything else that was directed at him, making 18 saves on the night.

Price, starting his seventh straight game, had 27 saves in a losing effort.

Pacioretty took a big hit later in the period from Mike Rupp and did not return to the ice.

“I got my bell rung a bit there,” Pacioretty said afterwards.

The Canadiens slip back to .500 hockey (12-12-1) and return home to face the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

Three Stars: 1. Sidney Crosby 2. Bill Guerin 3. Jordan Staal

Farewell to the Igloo: Barring any playoff encounters, it was Montreal’s last visit to the Mellon Arena,(oriinally called he Civic Arena).

The Canadiens finished with 44 wins, 33 losses and 14 ties at the igloo.

Bert Corbeau was tough, but not for the waters of Georgian Bay

contract_fhCanadiens defenceman Bert Corbeau was amongst 25 men drowned on September 21, 1942.  Newspaper copy provided courtesy Huronia Museum

He was considered one of the toughest and best defensemen of his era. But on September 21, 1942, former Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs rearguard Bert Corbeau met his match in the waters of Georgian Bay.

The native of Penetanguishene, long retired as a player and no longer coaching, had returned home to help his community’s effort during World War Two in 1942.

Working as a plant superintendent at the Midland Foundry and Machine Company, Corbeau and his staff worked long days to aid Canada’s war effort.

After a successful work order was completed, Corbeau issued a memo for his men;

You are invited to attend a stag party.

Aboard my boat on Monday Sept. 21 at 4 P.M.

For a buffet lunch and refreshments.

Come one and all.

Prizes Will be awarded to the best fishermen.

Plant Superintendent

B. Corbeau

Forty-two men set out on Corbeau’s boat the Wawinet, on that clear Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., but only 17 would return.

After making the trip to from Penetanguishene to Honey Harbour, with a brief stop at the Delawana Inn, Corbeau began to make trip back home.

2000.0007.0001 The Wawinet – The portholes had  allegedly been cut from round to rectangular by Corbeau.  Earlier photos seem to refute this. Photo: The Huronia Museum

At about 9:50pm, the Wawinet struck a sand bar on the south end of Beausoleil Island and listed to the starboard side and, with the portholes open, began to take on water.

One report said you could see a 25 foot rift in the sand bar where the boat had struck.

Despite Corbeau’s warnings, the men rushed to the port side out of panic and the boat buckled to that side, taking on more water. The boat quickly began to sink rapidly.

Witness accounts, in an article by Gordon Sinclair of The Toronto Star, state that Corbeau may have been thinking to go down with the boat, but not before trying to save his guests.

“I was up in the wheelhouse with Bert when we were on the way home,” said survivor Chas Rankin.

“There were two others there and Bert was talking with one of these when he swung hard left to come around. She heeled over pretty heavy and, with the large square windows open, they filled with a great gush of water and she went down within two minutes.”

“When Bert saw what happened, he didn’t want to be saved,”  Rankin continued.

“We were both beside Bert and there was a bright moon. As the boys were struggling in the water, Bert peeled off his clothes and said ‘You boys swim for it..Good luck.’”

“Bert and I went out out of the wheelhouse sort of sideways and I pulled off my windbreaker sort of sideways and trod water where he was. I saw Bert take hold of one chap and pulled him up to the boat as she hesitated before making the plunge.”

“You’re dead right,” echoed fellow survivor Stewart Cheetham on Rankin’s account.

“I was below in the galley when she swung around sharp and the water started pouring in through the side windows. Charles Rankin started swimming straight off and Bert Corbeau climbed climbed up to where I was . He looked the whole picture over in the moonlight then he just slid in. Bert Corbeau was a strong swimmer and a very good guy.”

In all chances, Corbeau tried to save as many as he could before succumbing to the frigid waters of Georgian bay.

With only two lifeboats in tow, one capsized, and no lifejackets, the survivors clung to what they could, if anything, and swam to Beausoleil Island. Soon they realized that they were in shallow water and walked to shore. The men, cold and wet huddled in a small cabin on the Island’s YMCA camp.

For others on the far side of the boat, the only land in sight was the further Present Island. Few successfully made that long swim.

Rescuers would not arrive until the next morning.The local police in Midland were not made of the tragedy until 5:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, once reports from families of the missing men and the discovery by morning boaters trickled in.

P1050383 A model of the Wawinet on display at the Huronia Museum

How the Wawinet came to strike sandbar has been questioned for decades.

There was speculation that alcohol was a factor. Many survivors said there had been little drinking on board, and Corbeau’s blood alcohol level was found to be within limit. Witnesses did say a one or two rounds had been bought at the Delawana before it’s departure.

Another theory is that there was some horseplay, or a scuffle on the bridge. Witnesses stated that up to five men were up top and some took turns at the wheel. Maybe things got a bit out of hand and Corbeau  found the boat off course and was unable to regain control in time.

Another report, but less unlikely, claims Corbeau liked to rock the boat to amuse his passengers, perhaps rocking it one too many times.

Chas Rankin’s account verifies the sharp turn but does not mention an incident with the men in the wheelhouse or Corbeau rocking the boat.

The structure of the 75-foot boat also came into question, as Corbeau had made several modifications to the 38-year-old Wawinet that may not have made the boat top heavy and unbalanced.

That with the fact that Corbeau may not have been licensed to operate a boat with that many passengers, may have led more to the tragedy.

Elmer Shaw, the owner of the Midland Foundry, confirmed that another employee was at the wheel earlier in the evening, but that Corbeau was the the helm on the return trip.  He also gave an account that little alcohol was involved on the trip and noted the boat’s unbalanced structure.

Bert Corbeau1 Bert Corbeau was a member of the Montreal Canadiens first Stanley Cup winning team and played for the Hamilton Tigers and Toronto St. Pats/Maple Leafs.

Regardless of how it happened, for the people of Penetanguishene and Midland, the tragedy could not have come at a worse time.

Residents of the area were already reading reports in the weekly newspapers of the war unfolding. Stories of family lost, killed or taken prisoner in the European theatre of World War Two already brought enough heartbreak to the area.

As Raymond Desrochers put it in his account ten years ago, “It was a time when the loss of the breadwinner held terrible consequences for the remaining family. There were few social supports and few people had life insurance.”

With the war still raging on however, foundry owner Shaw had no choice but to re-open his shop three days later.

“We have only sixteen men left now out of a staff of around forty but shall build up our organization rapidly from local people,” he said. “Only three members of the staff did not go on the trip.”

As a new resident to the Midland-Penetag area, I’ve spent the last several months researching and learning more about this tragedy and the life of Mr. Corbeau.

I’d like to dedicate this article to the victims, survivors and their families from this tragic event.

The victims from September 21, 1942:

From Penetanguishene: Aimé Lalumière, Bert Corbeau, Jack Magnus, Arthur Legault, George Todd, Mitch Maracle, Norman Roberts, Jack McLaughlin, Bert Mason, Arthur Bingham.

From Midland: F. ‘Buddy’ Bell, Bert McQuay, Richard Cornelius, William Clark, Lloyd Strong, Rudy Ellery, Elgin Scott, Harry Gillespie, Ted Contois, Alvin Bourdon

From Port McNicholl: Moïse St-Denis, Joe Staruck

From Wyebridge: Gordon Eakley

From Toronto: Albert A. Dix, J.N. Bicknell

The survivors:

From Midland:  Charles Rankin, Joseph Parker, Al Miller, Mort Garrett, Orville McClung, Harry Lavigne, Stanley Leclair, Albert Perrault, Basil Somers, Henry Deschamps, Kenneth Lower, Robert Shaubel.

From Wyevale: Ernie Robbins, Thomas Davidson

From Penetanguishene: Laurie Goutte.

From Toronto: Elmer Shaw

From Brantford: Stewart Cheetam

Special note of thanks:

Putting this story together would not have been possible without the help of Genevieve Carter, at the Huronia Museum, for getting me in the right direction, as well as Jenny Suttaby, author R.B. Fleming, and Bruce Pratt for getting me some other photos and information on the Wawinet.

Canadiens/Lightning deal could depend on Islanders first round pick.

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Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brain Lawton and Habs GM Bob Gainey

T-minus 47 hours and counting until the start of the 2009 NHL Draft.

As team general managers and staff from all thirty teams, as well as top prospects expected to go in the first rounds ascend on the Bell Centre, the trade rumors circulate more and more.

For Canadiens fans, the “topic-des-last six months” has been Viincent LeCavalier coming to Montreal.

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An apparent deal between Montreal and the Tampa Bay Lightning was killed when names of players the Canadiens were planning to move were made public.

Habs’ GM Bob Gainey pointed fingers at Tampa GM Brian Lawton for leaking the names after Montreal’s season ended.

Lawton quickly dismissed the allegations.

With the Lightning struggling in the bank account, it seems imminent that they will move their franchise player before his no-trade clause kicks on July 1.

Despite the verbal exchange between Lawton and Gainey, a Montreal-Tampa deal still shows high on the rumor charts.

The question is, who is Tampa willing to move?

In media interviews today, Lawton seemed determined that LeCavalier would remain in Tampa.

Lawton smiles too much when he talks for my liking. I think he’s bluffing.

So if he is moving LeCavalier, the Canadiens would have to give up a fair bit.

The initial speculated deal in January involved forwards Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec, prospect defenseman P.K. Subban and draft picks/prospects going to Tampa.

This scenario could still work with Higgins being a RFA. The prospect could be a goalie with Kari Ramo reportedly off to the KHL.

Subban would be likely substituted as he just signed with the Canadiens this spring.

1169221.bin The key to the deal between the two teams could be dependent on who the New York Islanders select first.

If New York goes with Victor Hedman, that’s how the deal could go.

With Tampa having the number two pick Friday, they can grab John Tavares to fill the void at forward and still have Martin St. Louis and the learning Steve Stamkos with a lower payroll for a couple years.

The alternate scenario could go a different way though.

Still provided that Hedman goes first, Tampa could give up their pick (Tavares) and a few others lesser players for Montreal’s 18th overall pick and a smaller package of players.

Maybe throwing Martin St. Louis into the mix will sweeten the Canadiens end of the pot, and help Tampa’s pocket book.

Montreal retains some cap room to announce that Saku Koivu (on the cheap), Alex Kovalev and, maybe, Mike Komisarek (depending on the Islanders choice) are re-signed.

If Tavares goes to the Islanders, we could see possible a deal along the latter of the two or a deal back to square one.

With a stash of centres in this years draft likely to go in the first round, both Montreal and the Lightning could still have a winner in the draft down the middle.

In all likelihood, we won’t know officially though until sometime early Friday evening when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman takes the stage to make any deal official.

The Montreal Canadiens close out the ‘70s Dynasty

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The most dominant NHL team of the 1970’s was closing out the decade in style.

Having defeated their rival Boston Bruins in a seven game series, climaxing with the “Too many men on the ice game”, the Habs were on the path for a fourth straight Stanley Cup.

The New York Rangers were looking to spoil Montreal’s party, and had momentum coming into the series by upsetting the, regular season champion, New York Islanders in a six-game semi-final.

That momentum did carry into game one with a 4-1 Rangers victory, stunning both the Canadiens as well has the Montreal home crowd.

The general consensus, amongst many Canadiens fans and critics, that spring was that the team was not the same as it once was just a year ago, and game one seemed to prove them right.

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The Canadiens proved them wrong the rest of the series with a dominant 6-2 victory in game two.

Home ice advantage was just the opposite for the Rangers as they lost game three 4-1 and were beaten in overtime of game four, 4-3, by the defending champions.

The stage was set back in Montreal and coach Scotty Bowman had no intention of letting the series return to New York.

Canadiens’ defenseman Rick Chartraw opened the scoring in the first period of game five and the Rangers replied with a goal by Carol Vadnais late in a period.

Unfortunately for the Rangers, Canadiens’ goalie Ken Dryden decided that one goal was all his opponent would score against him that night.

Jacques LeMaire would pot two goals in the second period, and Bob Gainey would add one more to put Montreal up 4-1.

With no scoring by either team in the third period, the Canadiens would clinch their fourth straight Stanley Cup Championship.

It would also be Montreal’s sixth Cup in the ‘70s and the 22nd in the franchise’s long history.

Serge Savard, filling in for the team’s injured captain Yvon Cournoyer, would lead his team as they carried the Cup around the Montreal Forum ice.

Gainey, who was better known for his defensive abilities as a forward, scored 16 points in the playoffs to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

It was the first time since 1968 that Montreal had clinched the Cup on home ice, a fitting end to one of hockey’s great dynasties.

This was also the last time two Original Six teams have met in a Stanley Cup Final.

tre_langway05 In the aftermath of the Cup victory, three key player elements (Cournoyer, LeMaire and Dryden) all retired and ended their Hall of Fame careers as winners.

Coach Bowman would jump ship, to the Buffalo Sabres, after being looked over by the Canadiens for their GM position in 1978.

His legendary coaching career carried on for 13 more years, bringing him Cup success with Pittsburgh (1992) and Detroit (1997, 1998, 2002).

In light of their coaching and roster losses, Montreal would win their division in the 1979-80 season only to be upset in a seven game quater-final series by Minnesota.

Their next Stanley Cup would not come until 1986, when a 20 year-old rookie named Patrick Roy led them to victory.

Remembering Rangers and Blackhawks HOFer Clint Smith

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This past Tuesday, the hockey community lost another of it’s legends.

Clint Smith was a Hall of Fame center with both the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as an icon in the Vancouver area hockey scene.

He was the last surviving member of the 1940 New York Rangers Stanley Cup team, and passed away at age 95.

Born in Saskatchewan, Smith’s hockey career began with Springfield of the CAHL and Saskatoon of the WCHL.

He then moved on to the NWHL where he became a star for the Vancouver Lions. Smith would lead the league in goals, as a rookie, with 25 then lead in points the following two seasons.

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In 1936, Smith played with the Philadelphia Ramblers in the I-AHL (now known as the AHL).

That season, he would see two games with the New York Rangers, scoring his first career NHL goal.

In his second full season with New York (1938-39), Smith led his team in scoring and was the recipient of the Lady Byng Trophy having just two penalty minutes all season.

When asked decades later how he managed to go 48 games with just two minutes in penalties Smith replied with a wink, “Ah, it was nuthin’. I knew the referees.”

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In 1939-40, Smith would help bring a Stanley Cup to New York by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games.

“I can’t explain the feeling of winning the Stanley Cup. It’s the ultimate,” Smith said.

“It’s something you always strive for—just to get into the Stanley Cup Final. And then when you win, it’s something you always remember.”

The Rangers would not bring another Cup to the Big Apple for another 54 years.

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In September of 1943, Smith found himself as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

On a line with Hall of Famers Bill Mosienko and Doug Bentley, he tallied 23 goals and set an NHL record with 49 assists.

It would also see a second Lady Byng Trophy for the star center.

He would lay claim on another NHL record the following season, scoring four goals in one period against Montreal on March 4, 1945.

Smith would leave the NHL after the 1946-47 season with 161 goals and 236 assists in 483 regular season games.

More astounding is his miniscule 24 minutes in penalties accumulated in that span, which included a four year span without even a minor call.

He joined the Tulsa Oilers of the USHL the next year, leading the league in scoring and winning the league’s MVP.

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For the next three season’s as a player coach for the St. Paul Saints.

He would play two games for the Cincinnati Mohawks of the AHL in 1951-52, becoming a full time bench boss.

Smith then returned to his adopted home, playing old timers games in the NWHL.

Building support for the game of hockey in the British Columbia area, Smith founded the British Columbia Hockey Benevolent Association and held several positions in the organization, including president.

His dedication helped build a solid hockey market in Vancouver and led to the formation of the Vancouver Canucks.

The association that he founded is now commonly known as the Canucks’ Alumni.

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Smith was finally elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991 and was the oldest living, Honored Member at the time of his death.

Ever lyal to his NHL beginnings, Smith participated in the Rangers’ 75th Anniversary celebrations at Madison Square Garden in 2001.

During the 2004-05 NHL Lockout, the league made a practice of sending the Stanley Cup to past members of winning teams.

Unlike the present day, players on a Cup winner did not get to take the Cup home for a day.

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That opportunity came for Smith on July 26, 2005. Fans, friends and family (his daughter was flown in from Florida) made the visit to North Vancouver to honor him. ”

Smith was as proud then as he was 65 years before when his team claimed the Cup.

“Howie Meeker brought the Cup out to Vancouver Island, and while it was out here, they phoned and asked me if I would like it for a day,” Smith said. “And of course, I said I’d be glad to take it for a day.”

“We had a pretty good display. It was nice. But I had to laugh — the Cup was so small, you could carry it around. You couldn’t carry the Cup that we won around. I think we had 13 rings on that Cup — I think they have five now.”

Ken Hitchcock on the Oilers’ new coaching duo

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Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock thinks the Edmonton Oilers have a very solid combination with the hiring of Pat Quinn and Tom Renney.

Talking to the Edmonton Journal, Hitchcock knows both coaches very well and feels the young Oilers team will greatly benefit from the duo.

“The thing that I learned most from working with Pat is he creates this culture with his staff and his players that you don’t want to let him down,” said Hitchcock.

“I believe that will come out in Edmonton.”

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Hitchcock knows this first-hand from serving under Quinn as an assistant coach on the 2002 and 2006 Canadian Olympic teams and the Canadian 2004 World Cup of Hockey team.

“He treats you so well, his coaches and his players. He treats the players with so much respect. He gives you lots of rope, and in some cases he gives you enough to hang yourself if you don’t co-operate.”

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Hitchcock then mentioned that Quinn “expects it back in spades” in regards to the players effort on the ice and the work of his staff.

Hitchcock had some memorable coaching battles against Quinn when he was behind the Philadelphia Flyers’ bench and Quinn was the Toronto Maple Leafs’ coach.

He views Quinn as “a big picture guy” who likes to delegate and has a history of defending his players to the hilt.

Hitchcock’s history with Renney goes back almost two decades.

Hitchcock had a say in the hiring of Renney as his successor to coach the Kamloops Blazers (WHL) when Hitchcock left for the pros.

He feels Renney will definitely complement Quinn, feeling that he will focus more on the tactical and teaching aspects to go with Quinn’s uptempo puck-movement strategies.

“Tom is one of the best strategy guys in the league,” Hitchcock said.

“I think they’ll be a great pair. He’ll enhance Pat’s program there.”

A conversation with L’Artiste of the Montreal Canadiens

Marc-André Fortier (right of statue) unveils his bronze tribute to HOFer Guy Lafleur (left of statue) at the Canadiens Centennial Plaza opening Dec 4, 2008

Marc-André Fortier (right of statue) unveils his bronze tribute to HOFer Guy Lafleur (left of statue) at the Canadiens Centennial Plaza opening Dec 4, 2008

“L’Artiste”, Alex Kovalev may be gone from the Bell Centre, but the work of the true artist of the Canadiens, Marc-André J Fortier will stand proudly outside in the Canadiens Centennial Plaza for all-time.

Mr. Fortier, a world renowned Quebec painter and sculptor, was commissioned by the Canadiens to create the larger than life bronze renditions of Guy Lafleur, Howie Morenz, Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau that currently stand amongst the Plaza.

I had the chance to speak to Mr. Fortier this week on his work, focusing on how he was approached to do this cumbersome project, the process involved to create these masterpieces and the end response.

The Canadiens V.P. of Marketing, Ray Lalonde, took on the Centennial Plaza project and after a foundry was determined to cast the statues (L’Atélier de Bronze), they provided Lalonde with six local area artists.

An artist for 23 years, 15 as a sculptor, the self-taught Fortier was interviewed by the Canadiens and then chosen to take on the task in February 2008 with a completion date of December 4 of that year.

Mr. Fortier told me that when the Mr. Lalonde and Canadiens took on the Centennial Plaza project, they travelled to other sporting arenas to study their teams bronze statues.

“They wanted something better,” Lalonde told Fortier.

“You gotta catch all the details.”

The Canadiens like to have the best to exemplify their greatest stars and told Fortier that they wanted something better than what other teams had produced for theirs.

Fortier would have an eight month window to complete the forms, and get them to the foundry in time to have them ready for the opening.

Four sculptures in eight months.

Lalonde gave Fortier Carte Blanche, providing him with any requirements, photographs, etc. needed to complete the project and also allowing him to make his own creative decisions.

The relationship between Fortier and Lalonde was a perfect business combination.

“He took everything on his shoulders, he trusted me,” Fortier said.

Lalonde also had he task to keep the curious eyes of the team’s management, such as owner George Gillette and club president Pierre Boivin, out of sight of the project to allow Fortier to focus and take the project in his own creative way.

He did receive one Canadiens’ visitor to his studio, as he worked through the summer, in the form of Hall of Fame defenceman Guy Lapointe.

Lapointe happened to be in the shop next store and the shop owner told him there was something in Fortier’s studio that he might like.

“When he saw Guy Lafleur, he said ‘When I played on the ice with him, I’d see exactly like that.’,” Fortier said, surprised to hear the voice of the Hall of Famer from behind him in the studio.

Marc-Andre Fortier in his studio working on Guy Lafleur.

Marc-Andre Fortier in his studio working on Guy Lafleur.

Fortier spent the first three weeks researching the project and had to rely primarily on photos of the four players provided to him by the Canadiens.

With many of the photos rather dated, most notably those of Morenz, he decided he needed to make the trip to Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. There he was able to access the Hall and it’s archives.

He focused for hours at the Hall on the equipment, jerseys and most notably the sticks (the only Morenz stick known is in the HHOF), taking measurements to assure every thing was to scale and accounted for.

From the number of lace holes in a skate to the stitching on the jerseys, no detail would be missed.

His passion for his work and detail would parallel that of the subjects he was studying when they skated on the ice.

With the researching under his belt, the work could begin.

Fortier’s friend and neighbor Richard May, documented the artist’s work in photographs from the studio to the foundry.

To let the Canadiens know he envisioned the project, Fortier sent two-foot models, called maquettes, of each the works to Lalonde to give the Canadiens an idea of his direction on the project.

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He told me that a very small edition of the two feet original four maquettes of the Centennial Plaza will be made in bronze, and will be sold to just a few lucky ones.

Fortier did acknowledge that he made some creative. enhancements to the players appearances to bring them more mainstream.

Making the clothing on Morenz look “more cool” as Fortier termed it, the sculptor figures the “Stratford Streak’s” uniform is about 85% to what it originally was.

With Lafleur, he made the shoulders slightly wider and the heads on all all the players were made a touch bigger to show the detail of the emotion of the subject.

“I wanted to have intensity in the eyes and in the thoughts and the concentration,” he said.

Because the statues were on five-foot pedestals, it was important for Fortier to get the players’ emotional passion across for visitors looking at them from the ground up.

Lalonde would check in periodically to review the work and discuss any minor details that were of any concern. There were very few of those.

Working solo from 5:30 in the morning until 11:30 at night six days a week, even some 24 hour days, the then 47-year old had a month and a half to work on each project before he would dismantle the completed clay/styrofoam formations and take them on a 2 1/2 hour trek to the L’Atélier de Bronze foundry in Inverness, QC.

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Advice for Eric Belanger: Get a new agent!

As painful as losing 9 teeth was in the playoffs, Eric Belanger’s latest contract debate may have been more painful. Photo: AP (Nick Wass)

As painful as losing 9 teeth was in the playoffs, Eric Belanger’s latest contract debate may have been more painful. Photo: AP (Nick Wass)

Well what an interesting debacle this appears to be!

When the Montreal Canadiens signed shutdown centre Jeff Halpern, several fans and media questioned why GM Pierre Gauthier did not spend the extra money and go after local faceoff specialist Eric Belanger instead?

Regardless of which player you get, it would be an upgrading for a two-way centre, and take the added burden of short-handed ice time for Tomas Plekanec. Speaking of two-way players, you should read Dave Stubbs’ fantastic piece on former Habs centreman Glen Metropolit, but I digress.

Belanger was expected to fetch close to the $1.75 million range in salary, which would have been more than what Metropolit made last year, leaving some tweaking for Gauthier to keep his team under the cap, or have zero space left.

My choice? I would have gone after Belanger. He’s been consistent offensively over the last three years, and quite frankly I don’t know many NHLers that can take a high stick, lose nine teeth (pulling one out on national TV) and stay in a playoff game.

In any event, the Habs signed Halpern to a one-year $600K deal, leaving speculation that a deal with Belanger couldn’t bee reached.

Was Belanger looking for more than his value, after a career high 41 points with the Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals? Was he like many NHL players fearing the high tax brackets in Quebec? Who knows. Maybe he had reached a deal elsewhere…ahhhhh!!!

On Tuesday, Belanger signed with the Phoenix Coyotes for a single $750K a season. Huh???? Makes no sense, or does it?

By Tuesday evening, the accusations from the Belanger camp were fired out. Apparently there was a verbal deal between Belanger and the Capitals for the centre to stay in Washington. A deal that the Capitals allegedly reneged on  according to the forward and his agent.

A frustrated Belanger spoke to Montreal’s Team990 on Wednesday, citing that the Capitals gave him and agent Joe Tacopina gave him a reasonable offer, but did not wanted the signing to be announced as the team was working on a trade.

“They said it would take about a week to make a trade,” Belanger said. “It wasn’t a question of if they were making it but when, and you’re going to be signed, because they didn’t want to lose any leverage on the trade.”

This all started close to seven weeks ago, according to Belanger, who in the meantime leased an apartment and had his children enrolled in local schools. The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle seems to back up the situation with an article from August 12.

“I’m no lawyer guy but the line has been crossed, and now I’m looking ahead,” Belanger concluded.
Tacopina spoke to Toronto’s the Fan590 on Wednesday, reinforcing his client’s statements, adding that he had this all on record, via email, from Capitals assistant GM Don Fishman.

According to Tacopina, he was told by Fishman that this deal would be taken care of, once the trade was finalized, and not to worry about negotiating with other teams.

An exchange of stalling emails from the Capitals were sent to the agent, telling him to be patient. Tacopina also noted that Capitals Team Services manager even emailed his client in assisting with housing and getting his belongings moved from Minnesota.

Mirtle seems to verify Tacopina’s side of the story to an extent, in Wednesday’s article ,in the Globe and Mail, and includes excerpts of emails between the agent and Capitals GM George McPhee.

With time running out, and no contract, Belanger signed for $1 million less than what he thought he would a month prior.

But while Tacopina plead his case in print and on air, after all he is a prominent New York City defense attorney, the all important question came to mind.

If there was a deal, why not get it signed and done with and not dicker around for close to two months?

Tacopina easily should have said, “OK, we have a deal but this trade must happen in five to seven days.” He didn’t and Fishman and the Capitals appear to have played him and his client like a fiddle.

Contractual agreements and plea-bargains, which he is more familiar with, are two different things. From this debacle, it’s questionable if Mr.Tacopina realizes this.

The validity of the afore mentioned Globe and Mail article from mid-August also has some concerns. If the Capitals did not wish to unveil the signing, why would Belanger (according to the Le Soleil source in the article) say anything regarding it? Was this the deal breaker? Why would Tacopina allow his client to speak publically on a deal that way?

Mirtle continues to back the errors on Tacopina’s judgment in his Wednesday article below;

A contract, however, was never signed and registered with the league, an arrangement several veteran player agents said they would never have agreed to.

“They don’t have a legal leg to stand on,” one agent said Wednesday. “The entire situation is governed by the CBA. An agent and the player are obligated under the CBA to not take individual legal action or you can lose your certification to be an agent … The sole remedy would be a grievance.

“The grievance precedent is 100 per cent crystal clear: Unless you have a signed standard player contract on file, registered with the NHL, you have nothing.”

A grievance? Yeah there’s a book the NHL and NHLPA likely don’t want to visit twice in a year, eh?

Mike Vogel, senior writer for the Washington Capitals, also replied to to Tacopina’s statements, and has the backing of the team’s majority owner Ted Leonsis.

So in the meantime, Eric Belanger is stuck with a lease on apartment in the D.C. area, where his belongings likely already are, and now has to look at either finding another school in the Phoenix area, or playing distant father to his kids. Oh, and he could be out a million or so due to his agent’s bungling.

As Belanger said, he’s now looking ahead. For him, the 2010-11 NHL season will obviously be a hockey one, as opposed to a financial one. He should just continue doing what he does, possibly getting some power play time in Phoenix, and start over next July.

Hopefully by then, it will be with an agent that knows what he is doing.

 

While the “big boys” duke it out…

So there’s a lot of issues as of late between mainstream media (MSM) and blogger universe, but the last 24 hours seem to have spawned some internal strife amongst some media “elite.”

It all started last week, then the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox totally shit the MSM bed by tweeting that former Habs coach Pat Burns had passed away.

The tweet was scattered across the planet in seconds and being reported by virtually every media outlet shortly after. The only problem was, Pat Burns wasn’t dead.

Seems that Mr. Cox, who unlike me and as far as I know HAS a degree in journalism, failed to confirm the story. Instead he merely relied on a comment from Leafs executive, and friend of Burns, Cliff Fletcher, who these days seems to have know idea who he is or where he is. Not exactly a “reliable source,” if you ask me.

Fortunately the story was clarified as false and Mr. Burns is still with us.

Cox tried to justify his “mistake” in a follow up column. But unlike Mr. Fletcher, and pretty much every other media type, he fails to actually apologize. He essentially pointed the finger of blame at Fletcher.

Cox was called out on Sunday by the Globe and Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin. I will admit that Dowbiggin suprised me at taking a swing at a fellow journalist, especially after his previous piece on the MSM/Blogger issue seemed almost two months out of place.

You don’t have to like Bruce Dowbiggin, nor do you have to like Damien Cox, but in this case the former was right in his response that Cox failed to take any responsibility for his actions, plain and simple.

So how did Mr. Cox respond? Well on Twitter of course, and at three in the morning in a series of tweets.

    • Funny how Bruce Dowbiggin takes a run at me for not consulting secondary source but never bothers to call me for comment on his hack job.
    • When people with no respect from anyone in the biz like Dowbiggin take cheap shots, it actually makes me feel better about entire episode.
    • Best part is Dowbiggin (William Houston Jr.) is loathed by Globe colleagues for inventing ridiculous rumours others then forced to chase.

It just screams professionalism, doesn’t it?

So while these two scrap it out, let’s see what the other “Pros and Joes” have been doing.

Sissy, I mean Leafs fight!!!!!!

Habs Inside/Out.com gives us a look at Alex Auld’s new mask. Here is the other side of it. Tiny head or oversized bucket? You decide. Dave Stubbs with a feature on the Habs goaltender.

The Canadiens made five cuts on Monday. No real shockers here, but it was nice to see Nicholas Champion (an undrafted goalie) get a chance to test himself against the pros.

Jaroslav Halak (remember him?) will get the pre-season start for the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche. Jeremy Rutherford, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has a great segment on a Blues prospect/Halak admirer who is now sitting 10 feet from him in training camp.

Lions in Winter goes Uber-statistical in comparing that stats of the Canadiens acquisitions from last season.

Kyle Roussell gloats about the $100 he won on Mise-O-Jou, and has a variety of notes and links on the NFL, MLB and Andrei Markov.

Oh Canadiens! Takes a look at the Habs forwards for 2010-11

Pat Hickey takes a look at Benoit Pouliot’s make or break season.

Sergio hits the airwaves: CJAD’s play-by-play man Rick Moffat will be joined by former Habs tough guy Sergio Momesso in the broadcast booth for the 2010-11 season. The station made the announcement last week. Momesso spent some time, during the Habs spring playoff run, co-hosting the post-game shows with Abe Hefter, and seemed the logical replacement for Murray Wilson, who retired at the end of last season.

Live in Toronto? Got any old batteries? If you answered yes to both of these, be sure to stop by the CN Tower, this Saturday from 10am to 1pm, and meet Guy Lafleur! A single old battery gets you an autographed postcard, while a truck load could win you a trip to Montreal.