Hockey is like a religion in Montreal. Nos glorieux are put under the microscope like few other professional teams. We live, breathe and eat the Montreal Canadiens. This has pretty much been the case for the past 100 years. Incredible pressures are put on the shoulders of the players who choose to don the red, white and blue of the Canadiens. But with incredible pressure comes great reward they say and if the team does well in Montreal the players are treated like kings. If they don't then…best they hide out and not read the newspapers or turn on the radio or television.
Last season was the centennial one for this storied franchise. Big celebrations were planned and with players like captain Saku Koivu, talented rookie goaltender Carey Price, veteran Alex Kovalev, winger Alex Tanguay, and top rated defenseman Andrei Markov there were high hopes for a Stanley Cup win in the 100th year. Alas, it was not to be. The team totally underachieved. Coach Guy Carbonneau got fired shortly before the playoffs, which the team snuck into as the 8th (and final) team in the East. The Canadiens were destroyed in 4 straight games in the 1st round by the Boston Bruins. Oh well, there is always next year.
Well, next year is 2 weeks away as the first regular season game is October 1st in Toronto versus the Leafs. The preseason begins this Thursday night (September 17th) versus the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre. Many in Montreal, fans and experts alike, are looking forward to the season for a very different reason than the last. The last we had hopes for a Cup and this year the team is like an unknown quantity.
During the off season 10 free agents were not resigned. Players like Koivu, Tanguay, Kovalev, Mathieu Schneider, and Mike Komisarek moved on to other teams. Chris Higgins was traded to the New York Rangers. General Manager Bob Gainey signed 7 free agents: Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Mara, and Travis Moen to play for the team. Plus experienced NHL coach Jacques Martin (formerly of the Ottawa Senators and the Florida Panthers) was hired to coach the team. This is a roster overhaul the likes of which has never been seen before. We have no idea what the team is going to be like. The talent seems to be there, but how will the team gel? Fans will have to take a deep breath, be patient and hope for a complete turnaround from last year.
-Venue: 1260 De La Gauchetiere West
-Ticket Purchase: www.canadiens.nhl.com or Bell Centre box office
-Ticket Prices: $10.00-$201.00 (plus service charges)