1134 for publication November 27, 2015
Prior to Wednesday night the Montreal Canadiens were tied with the New York Rangers for first in the Eastern Conference. When the dust settled at MSG the Habs were the top team in the NHL, posting a 5-1 road win that drove King Henrik to the bench.
Banishing H. Lundqvist to spectator status is no small feat considering even with the 5-1 loss he remains atop the individual leader board in both goals against at 1.94, and save percentage of .939.
What the game didn’t show were the circumstances. Like the Habs playing without their most-valuable-disturber, Brendan Gallagher, out with broken fingers. Then came the loss of Carey Price that night, the League’s number two netminder, who re-injured his “LB,” the sixth lower-body injury for Price since 2013. Only one of those hurts has specifically been identified as a knee problem.
Given Price’s no-contest position of “the man” In Montreal, for the sake of argument the question arises once again, was this a return to service a tad too soon after a groin pull or knee strain? Does it also suggest that the prudent way to handle any injury requiring plenty of time to heal, is using this perfect opportunity to take plenty of time to heal?
Other than that, the Canadiens took care of business by extending the contract of Executive VP and GM, Marc Bergevin, through 2022. Smart move.
In the hockey business, in fact any team sport, it spells longevity. Even deeper is the sense of security, continuity, and direction it offers the team of successful coaches, assistant GM’s and scouting personnel. Hard to put a value on that element, other than to say it’s all positive.
It’s also the roadmap on how to run a solid organization.
Now, looking to the very near future, we have the Grey Cup game on Sunday. If you can allow me a time for reflection, it was back in Thunder Bay where as an early teen I was first drawn to the appeal of the national championship. Perhaps it was the residual of the late 40’s Calgary Stampeders bringing their riding horses and western wear to staid and stuffy “Toronto the Good.” They stood Hogtown on its ear, and Grey Cup games thereafter were never quite the same.
A couple of decades later I would attend the 1973 game, held at Toronto’s CNE Stadium, between Edmonton and Ottawa, my wife and I sitting two rows back and three seats left of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who these days is remembered as Justin’s dad.
It would be years later when I first described our proximity as human shields that day for anyone trying to take a shot at PET. But the reason we had choice seats is our company made the Grey Cup magazine, and I was the producer and editor.
Edmonton were the last minute favourites to win, based on the fact the Ottawa QB Jerry Keeling was a scratch due to a knee injury, and the Rough Riders would be starting backup Rick Cassatta.
As fate would decide, Tom Wilkinson the Eskimo all-star QB was taken out of the game in the first quarter, on an injury reputedly inflicted by an arm-cast on one of the Ottawa defenders.
As the game wore on the wind picked up, the rain began and both teams now running on adrenalin had made it to 22-18 on an Ottawa field goal by Gerry Organ. I still recall the game MVP being an Ottawa defensive end. That should spell out the fact the game wasn’t anything to write home about, but like all one-and-done championships there was plenty of drama.
Still, years later, at the Syl Apps Golf Classic in Kingston I would meet and play with Gerry “Soupy” Campbell, the Hall of Fame Ottawa middle linebacker out of Idaho State who would tell me stories about that specific ’73 game. It was his third Grey Cup win, and he was the hard-nosed middle leader of the Ottawa defence nicknamed “Capital Punishment.” Sadly, we were over-served, and I can’t recall any of those remarkably funny anecdotes.
But, Grey Cups are special, whenever and where-ever they are played, as this one on Sunday between the latest versions of Ottawa and Edmonton will be. Enjoy.