Puck Daddy Summer Series: Weird Montreal Canadiens
[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
By: Marc Dumont of Metro Newspaper and Habs Eyes on the Prize
1. Steve Ott licks Jeff Halpern during a faceoff
When lining up for a faceoff in the NHL you can expect a few things to happen to you. Odds are you’ll get a stick jabbed into your ribs, or your opponent might try to trip you as to gain an advantage once the puck is dropped. These actions aren’t exactly ideal in the eyes of a referee, but they’re tolerated. Athletes have a long history of trying anything to gain an edge over their opponent. After all, if you’re not cheating you’re not trying.
Jeff Halpern, however, was the victim of one of the weirdest pre-faceoff distraction tactics.
As he lined up against known agitator Steve Ott, this happened:
That’s right. Ott licked him. This ranges from weird to flat out gross. On a scale of one to 10, this was the equivalent to buying the last hotdog from a street vendor at 3 am, as the vendor desperately tries to talk you out of it. No good can come of it.
God only knows where Ott’s mouthguard had been recently. Thankfully Halpern wears a visor, which paid off in spades as Ott’s lick attempt was thwarted by a few crucial millimeters of reinforced plastic.
You know that Ott’s tongue never touched Halpern’s skin because Halpern did not immediately head to the locker room for a decontamination shower. Although rumour has it he did inquire about the possibility of wearing a hazmat suit the next time the Canadiens played Buffalo. Ott has always been an odd fellow, but this might have been the peak of his peculiar actions on the ice.
For the record, ever the professional, Halpern won the faceoff.
Remember kids: keep your stick on the ice, and your tongue in your mouth.
2. Mike Cammalleri traded mid-game
We’ve seen players get scratched before a game, which usually means they’re off to a new city via a trade. It’s simple, you don’t want the player you’re acquiring to be injured once the deal is agreed upon.
Heck, we’ve seen players take the pre-game warmups, and then get scratched for precautionary reasons.
In 2011-12, the Canadiens brought it to a whole new level.
First, let’s set the scene.
The Canadiens had enjoyed one of their most successful seasons in recent history by going to the conference finals in 2009-10. The head coach, Jacques Martin, did a fantastic job dragging his rag tag group of players to a respectable level. No one expected them to make any noise in the playoffs, but thanks to Mike Cammalleri and Jaroslav Halak, the Habs enjoyed two monumental upsets.
They started off by upsetting Alex Ovechkin and the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals in round one, then went on to beat Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. They eventually lost to the Flyers in the conference finals, but not before setting the bar way too high for what the roster should realistically be expected to accomplish. The following year they went on to enjoy a very respectable 40-30-5-3 record in the regular season, but uncharacteristically lost to the Boston Bruins in the first round.
Keep in mind, for Montrealers, losing to the Bruins in the playoffs is akin to buying a poutine that doesn’t come with cheese curds and fresh fries. It’s embarrassing, and it’s punishable by jail time. The Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup, and for the Canadiens it was all downhill from there.
In a pathetic attempt to right the ship, Montreal fired assistant coach Perry Pearn on October 26th, an hour before they played the the Philadelphia Flyers.
General manager Pierre Gauthier explained it thusly:
“It’s not about an individual person. (It’s) more the result of a change from a global perspective, from a big picture perspective where we need to be better. We need to be more efficient and in order to do that, that’s one of the changes that we decided to make.”
Of course, in this case it was clearly about an individual person losing their job, as to give the impression that the team was being proactive. The truth of the matter was that the Canadiens simply didn’t have a strong enough roster to sustain a high level of play.
After a 13-12-0-7 start, the Habs fired head coach Jacques Martin and replaced him with designated scapegoat Randy Cunneyworth.
Shortly thereafter, Pierre Gauthier decided it was time to trade his most electrifying forward. Not only that, but he went out of his way to make it the most awkward trade in recent history. Cammalleri was literally pulled off the bench during a game versus the Bruins, and told to go to his hotel room and wait for further instructions. That’s right, he was removed from a game in which he was playing, almost unheard of in pro sports.
It turned out that he had been traded to the Calgary Flames in what would become a very underwhelming return. Coming Montreal’s way was perennial underachiever Rene Bourque.
Bourque would go on to earn the moniker “Almost Bourque” during his tenure with the Canadiens due to his ability to whiff on most good scoring chances, and produced a paltry 21 goals and 18 assists in 141 games with the Habs.
Cammalleri on the hand more than doubled his counterpart’s production by earning 50 goals and 46 assists in just 135 games. It’s almost as if trading a very talented player for a lesser return is a bad idea. Let’s just hope the Canadiens have learned their lesson by now…
The cherry on top of this embarrassing suck sundae? When Cammalleri requested his game-worn jersey as a memento of his time with the club, the Canadiens agreed…as long as he paid $1250 for it.
For the record, his game-worn jersey can be purchased for $400 on the Montreal Canadiens website.
3. The Canadiens almost moved to Cleveland
It’s weird to think about a hockey landscape that doesn’t include Montreal Canadiens heroes such as Maurice Richard, Jean Béliveau, Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson and others.
Heck, it’s downright silly. The Canadiens are at the core of the NHL. According to Forbes they’re the second most valuable franchise, sitting at more than a $1.1B evaluation. Founded in 1909, they’re the longest operating franchise in the league. However they came surprisingly close to moving to Ohio.
In 1935, the situation was dire. Plagued by financial instability due to the Great Depression, and pressure from the other NHL team in Montreal, the Maroons, led to a moment of uncertainty for the franchise.
“Montreal is obviously losing interest in professional hockey” proclaimed Canadiens co-owner Cattarinich.
Thankfully, the $200,000 offer was not enough to close the deal, and eventually it was the Maroons that folded in 1938, leaving the Canadiens as the only team in the city.
The rest, as they say, is history.
4. Milan Lucic threatens Dale Weise’s life
There aren’t many traditions in sports as great as the handshake line. It’s a symbol that despite a hard fought series, in the end players put aside their differences and congratulate each other for leaving it all on the ice.
After the Boston-Montreal playoff series of 2014, Milan Lucic had a different plan. As both teams lined up, he told Dale Weise “I am going to f****ing kill you next year!”
The reason? Weise didn’t back down from Lucic. And for Milan, that was unheard of. Weise messed with one of God’s own prototypes when he mocked Lucic. A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.
Of course there’s more to this story than just the handshake line. Both players went at it throughout the series.
Lucic would later apologize for his actions, but the die had already been cast, and a new meme was born.
May be the funniest t shirt I’ve ever seen #weise #lucic pic.twitter.com/DartphqlS4
— Joseph (@jhendy96) May 16, 2014
For the record, Weise miraculously managed to escape death, and recently signed a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
5. Lars Eller scores while on the bench
There have been several weird moments in recent Montreal Canadiens history. Including the entire John Scott saga, Brandon Prust’s “bug-eyed fat walrus” comment, Erik Cole high-fiving an unsuspecting referee, Brendan Gallagher being bounced around like a pinball by the Winnipeg Jets, and of course the time Alexei Kovalev feigned an injury and ran into Sheldon Souray.
But the incident that stands out has to be the time Lars Eller scored from the bench. Allow me to explain.
Eller finished his shift about half a minute before the puck went into the net, and due to a comedy of errors by the Vancouver Canucks, he ended up getting credit for a goal he watched from the bench.
It was a shorthanded goal to boot.
Frankly, I’m surprised the entire arena didn’t break out into a spontaneous rendering of Chelsea Dagger.
Previous Weird NHL Posts: Anaheim | Arizona | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida | Los Angeles | Minnesota
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About the author: Marc Dumont is a columnist with Journal Métro, and managing editor of Habs Eyes on the Prize. Follow him on Twitter: @marcpdumont.