The Montreal Canadiens finished eighth in the East last season, but went on a post-season run to the Eastern Conference final. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
All right, so let’s suspend reality for a moment and buy into the ridiculous notion espoused by Parti-Quebecois leader Pauline Marois that the Montreal Canadiens are a pro-Canada propaganda tool and the even more ridiculous one put forth by one of her caucus members that the Habs exclusion of Quebec-born players is part of a conspiracy to plot against Quebec separatism.
How they had time to do all that and get to the Eastern Conference final last season boggles the mind, but let’s say for a moment that’s what they’re doing.
And let’s assume that if they weren’t, the Habs made it their life’s work to stock the team with as many players from Quebec as they could get their hands on.
I don’t know about you, but a top-seven defense corps of Stephane Robidas, Kris Letang, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Francois Beauchemin, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Jason Demers and Bruno Gervais would have me a little nervous, even with Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur and Marc-Andre Fleury battling for the No. 1 goalie spot and a top line of Paul Stastny (or Vincent Lecavalier) between Martin St-Louis and Alex Burrows.
To our American readers who might not be familiar with the divide between Canada’s two solitudes, this must all seem pretty ridiculous. And that’s only because it is. The Canadiens are building a hockey team, for heaven’s sake, and if Mathieu Darche and David Desharnais were truly good enough to be impact players in the NHL, you can bet they would be playing a regular shift for the Canadiens.
You think the Canadiens wouldn’t have loved to get Lecavalier, Luongo or Fleury? Marois and her party might not realize it, but there’s this little obstacle called the NHL draft that kind of prevents it. She might also be unaware that the Canadiens were willing to move heaven and earth to acquire Lecavalier a couple of years ago, but the Tampa Bay Lightning backed out of the deal. Sure, they were wrong about St-Louis and Burrows, but so was everybody else. If the Canadiens had known those guys were going to turn out the way they have, I’m pretty certain they would have drafted St-Louis in 1993 when he was eligible (the same year they took Saku Koivu in the first round) and probably would have chosen Burrows over first pick Alexander Buturlin when Burrows was first available in 1999.
And we all know how hard the Canadiens pushed to sign Danny Briere a few years back, but it was Briere who decided not to play in Montreal and signed a long-term deal with the Philadelphia Flyers.
But so it goes in Canada. Look, I defend the right of the Bloc Quebecois – whose mandate it is to advance the cause of separatism – to have members who sit in the Canadian legislature. And I defend the right of Quebec to self-determination. And if the day ever comes when the majority of Quebeckers decide they’d truly be better off not being a part of Canada, I’m willing to live with that.
But it’s the political opportunism, such as the kind of which Marois and her party are guilty, that turns the stomach. Two years ago at the gold medal game of the World Championship in Quebec City, I noticed Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe at the game strolling the concourse and shaking hands between periods.
I found it odd that an avowed separatist would be cheering for Canada in the final against Russia and asked him why he was there.
“Why do you ask that?” he said.
“Because you’re a separatist and this is a game involving Canada,” I replied.
“It’s people like you,” he said before storming off, “who cause the most harm.”
Huh? Because some people think it’s ingenuous to suspend your true beliefs for a chance at a photo op?
Oh well, there is no pleasing some people. These same people will almost certainly take umbrage if the federal government decides not to help fund a new NHL rink for Quebec City, despite the fact that no other NHL cities in Canada used federal government money for their buildings. If the good people of Quebec City and the province of Quebec think building a monument to the rich is a wise use of their tax dollars, who are we to argue? But the rest of Canada paying for it? That’s a stretch.
REFS STILL WAITING
As first reported by THN.com, there is still no deal between the league and the NHL Officials’ Association on a new collective bargaining agreement with the first pre-season games just four days away.
The league has vowed it will go ahead with games whether or not there is a deal, but has also declined to say whether it will lock NHL officials out without a new deal in place. But as THN.com recently reported, the league has attempted to recruit minor league officials to serve as replacements.
One source close to the negotiations said they will almost certainly go down to the wire and that both sides, “face a very crucial couple of days.”
For its part, the NHLOA has gone into complete lock-down mode. Union president Brian Murphy has imposed a gag order on all officials, so none is speaking about it even off the record. In fact, NHLOA legal counsel Harry Radomski abjectly refuses to answer any questions on the matter.
CAN’T HELP BUT WONDER
So it turns out that former Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard and coach Peter DeBoer got into a couple of heated screaming matches last season.
You’d have to think one of them took place last November when Ballard almost took Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun’s head off after swinging his stick in frustration after a goal.
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