Wednesday March 7, 7:45 PM
Let me get this out of the way before I forget, yet again.
The first Team 990 Sports Personality of the Year luncheon was a tremendous success. We couldn't have pulled it off without the incredible spirit of cooperation from the staff at Place D'Armes Hotel. Most of the tables were purchased without a moment of hesitation. Many thanks to Bill Hurley, Gerry O'Regan, Peter & Jerry Kakkaroubous, Peter Bitharas, Nigel & Carmine at Champs, Christine Pickrell and the entire Pickrell clan at Westmount Florists, Lorne Rubin, Lloyd Fischler, Gary Silverman, Ed Langton, Peter Pisoto, Steve Traynor, John Gillman, George Fontopolous, Roy Halpin, Spiro Krallis, John Christofaro, Linda Nolet, Mike Chiasson,The Montreal Alouettes, The Montreal Impact, The Montreal Royals, Rodger Brulotte, Randy Tieman, Ron Reusch, Arpon Basu, Jimmy Montgomery Sr, Bruce Roberts, Dino Cerasa, Donald K Donald, GEG, Warner Canada and many others.
But the man who deserves the most love is Noel Butler who conceived the idea during a drunken stupor at another fundraiser at some other radio station. Noel pulled off the biggest single day in the six year history of the station while working on a floss-string budget.
Some Hi-lights: Otis Grant putting an end to speculation that he's fueding with former longtime manager/trainer Russ Anber by explaining that Russ is the only man-other than himself-to ever touch his genitals...Anber, on crutches, poking fun at Tony Marinaro...Peter Dalla Riva, dryly but effectively warning Russ what happens to those who make fun of Italians...then presenting the Coach of the Year Award to the wrong Tony Iaucaduca(long story)...Denis Casvant presenting the Female Athlete of the Year Award to a ravishing Charline Labonte of McGill... Elliott Price & Brulotte comiserating on the loss of baseball...Shaun Starr presenting the Community Volunteer Award to a shocked Trevor Williams...Joey Elias travelling in from Ottawa to be with us making 200 people laugh...then heading right back to Ottawa via Via but not without putting out an SOS for Ms. Labonte...PJ Stock accepting the only award voted on by The Team 990 listeners, which went overwhelmingly to Saku Koivu, and delivering his brief address in French only...and Pierre McGuire bringing the room to a standstill with his keynote speech on life, success and leadership, ending it to a standing O....And the food was amazing...Oh yeah, all this happened on my Dad's 82nd birthday.
Wait till next year.
Perfect segue, huh?
I believe the Canadiens lost the opportunity to go to the playoffs at the trade deadline(see earlier posts). While they sit just one point out of 8th place as I write this I feel even more strongly about them not getting in as I did prior to the start of the season when I thought they'd make it. I also thought Sergei Samsanov and Alex Kovalev would scoree 55 to 60 goals between them.
Looking at the schedule of not only the Habs but their main competitors as well, keeping in mind the various moves that were made on or prior to february 27th, the Canadiens appear to need a minor miracle to make it. They've already lost winnable games to the Rangers and Bruins. One of the best indicators of the relative strength of a team is goal differential. Only the Bruins have a worse mark in that department than the Canadiens. And then there's goaltending.
Can I be the first to ask not how hard he works but just how effective Rollie Melanson is as a goaltending coach? Is it just me or has every goaltender he's worked with at the NHL level gotten worse instead of better? Jocelyn Thibeault. Jeff Hackett. Jose Theodore. Cristobal Huet. David Aebischer. See a pattern here?
It figures that with four days off between the loss in Boston and tomorrow night in Atlanta some firestorm at Camp Habitant was going to develop. I've seen enough of these in nearly 30 years but it's usually a tabloid involved. Oops, La Presse sports is a tabloid.
Rule #1 in journalism: Consider the source. I'm playing catch up on this Kovalev "he said she said" story but what I do know sounds awfully murky to me. What saddens me more than anything is that the debate has degenerated into yet another French-English battle, specifically Francois Gagnon vs PJ Stock. If I had never seen 110% before I would have thought that PJ's performance on tuesday night was out-of-control and over-the-top. But the more I watched it online earlier today( http://www.tqs.ca/emissions/110/) the more I admired PJ's stance. He was giving those guys a taste of their own medicine. And he finally figured out that you can dominate a show by not taking a breath. Afterwards, off the air, as we discovered earlier today, Gagnon told producers he'll never again appear on the same show as PJ. And then the two raised the audio level of debate to Blue. With TQS Security on stand-by.
Kovalev and Samsanov have had lousy years. That much is obvious. I happen to think the coaching staff shares at least some of the blame. There was no chemistry going all the way back to training camp when Mike Ribeiro played between them. Thomas Plekanic's season was going nowhere until he was taken away from them. A crucial part of coaching is getting the most out of your players. In this instance, we'll find out by this time next year if Guy Carbonneau could have/should have done more with these guys or if they both suddenly morphed into Mariusz Czerkawski.
This much we do know: Both were free agents. Both decided to sign with Montreal. Saku Koivu, who's been booed at home, decided to re-sign, with a no-trade clause (I still think he's nuts). Craig Rivet, who saw-and read- his share of misery (remember Rejean Tremblay writing, "Who the fuck is Craig Rivet?") loved playing here. As difficult as it is for Bob Gainey to attract free agents, why are some members of the media so anxious to rip apart some of the few guys who choose to be here? And is the level of vitriol, let alone criticism, the same for players who are french? I think it's a fair question. I have to search for a meaningful answer.
Stephane Richer was a flake. Terrifically talented to be sure but his heart simply wasn't into playing every night. Did he ever get it a la Koivu and Kovalev? I don't remember if he did. What I do remember is certain Francophone media members rejoicing when Rejean Houle commited yet another blunder and sent Lyle Odelein packing to re-acquire Richer. (Richer played less than 80 games in his second tour with the Habs. Odelein won a Cup in Jersey).
Pierre Turgeon was even more talented than Richer. But posessed even a smaller heart. Yet some in this town tried to turn him into Jean Beliveau II. As he was under- producing in a playoff series one spring a member of the Canadiens organization said I should back off from criticizing Turgeon because he was "Playing with the flu". When I mentioned this to a member of the coaching staff I was told "He's not playing with anything...he's playing LIKE shit". Or, to quote from the wonderful Gare Joyce book "When The Lights Went Out (How One Brawl Ended Hockey's Cold War And Changed The Game):
A Former Canadiens star says that his old team's problems in the mid-90's started with Turgeon, the most skilled player in the line up at the time. "You're never going to win", he said, "When your captain has the balls of snow peas."
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Claude Lemieux, three years into his NHL career, had managed to alienate everybody. Teammates, coaches, officials, even some fans (ask former bartender Noel Butler). Yet Rejean Tremblay writes that Pat Burns (French mother) is subconsciously biased against french players.
The decline of Jose Theodore was chronicled in a much more accurate manner in the english media.
Michel Bergeron? Hey, I give him credit. Couldn't win in the playoffs as an NHL coach. Couldn't keep his job as a radio analyst. So he gets born again as a French Don Cherry. Applauded and admired by many of the same people who think Cherry should be banned from radio and tv.
Double standard? Pas ici.
Entre les lignes
P.J. Stock reproche aux médias francophones et aux partisans qui parlent la même langue qu’eux d’être constamment sur le dos des vedettes surtout si elle ne parle pas français. Ce doit être pour ça qu’il a passé les trois premiers mois de la saison à décrier Guillaume Latendresse, à dénoncer ses moindres erreurs et à rire de tous ceux qui l’appuyaient alors qu’il défendait bec et ongle son ami Sergei Samsonov qui souffrait de l’incompréhension des journalistes, des amateurs et de son coach… En passant P.J. ce ne sont pas les anglophones du West Island qui t’ont adulé quand tu jouais à Victoriaville et qui t’ont rendu l’hommage suprême de retirer ton chandail l’automne dernier. Et ce ne sont pas juste les partisans du West Island qui t’ont appuyé quand tu mettais plus de cœur sur la patinoire, les rares fois que tu y posais les patins, à Montréal que les 17 autres joueurs qui t’y accompagnaient. Et ce ne sont pas juste des anglos du West Island qui t’écoute à la radio et qui se demande comment tu peux aujourd’hui leur cracher dessus… Think about it…