Messy in Montreal
One gets the feeling it could be a wild Saturday night in Montreal tomorrow with the Maple Leafs in town.
It always seems that way. I remember back in 1995 when Serge Savard and Jacques Demers were fired five games into the season. The press conference was held in the Forum during the day, with the Leafs taking on the Canadiens that night.
|THE CANADIAN PRESS|
|The seat behind the Habs' bench is rather hot these days.|
Nobody is getting fired today. But the Canadiens’ centennial season has gone terribly awry, including a 5-4 loss to Ottawa Thursday night in which goalie Carey Price was yanked after allowing four goals on 15 shots and was nearly in tears afterward while talking to reporters.
The Habs have lost four straight and are now 1-2-0-2 since Bob Gainey fired Guy Carbonneau and stepped behind the bench himself. The Canadiens would have been booed off the ice after losing to New Jersey last Saturday, but cheering erupted in tribute to hometown boy Martin Brodeur for his 551st win and the Habs were spared.
It’s Carbonneau’s firing that may be the most explosive issue brewing here, and not only because fans were chanting “Carbo! Carbo! Carbo!” at the last Montreal home game.
In La Belle Province, any Canadiens news is big news, and any big Canadiens story often takes on political and cultural elements.
In the case of Carbonneau, this is more than just about a hockey coach being fired. According to Don MacPherson in the Montreal Gazette, people outside Quebec have difficulty understanding the sensitivity of the story, particularly with the club doing poorly under Gainey.
“Consider how the situation might have looked to a French-speaking Quebecer,” wrote MacPherson. “Carbonneau was fired and temporarily replaced by an English-speaking general manager (though Bob Gainey is bilingual) who reports to an absentee American owner. Carbonneau had been let down by his players, most of whom, including all the leading ones, don't speak French.
“And Gainey appeared to be positioning Don Lever as Carbonneau's eventual permanent replacement. He would be the team's first unilingual anglophone coach in a quarter-century.”
Maybe tomorrow night the Habs will get back on a winning track against a Leaf team that is hustling to stay competitive in the final weeks of this season.
But there will be lots of Leaf fans there, helping once again create what is the most colorful hockey atmosphere in North America these days.
If it all goes bad for the Habs, it could get ugly.
. . . and speaking of getting ugly, so to may the ongoing verbal jousting between Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin and the ubiquitous Donald S. Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada fame.
Two weeks ago, Cherry slammed Ovechkin for his exuberant post-goal celebrations. Last week, Cherry showed video of Ovechkin being more restrained, indicating that the Caps star had in effect taken Cherry's advice and criticism to heart.
Well, maybe not.
On Thursday, Ovechkin potted his 50th goal of the season and put on a rather ridiculous pantomine celebration of laying his stick on the ice and then pretending it was too hot to pick up.
Goofy, really. All that was missing was Terrell Owens and a Sharpie.
It ticked off Tampa coach Rick Tocchet, and Ovechkin's own coach, Bruce Boudreau, was less than thrilled, as well.
But Ovechkin seemed thrilled to hear that he might be in store of some more pointed criticism from Cherry.
"Oh yeah, he's going to be [ticked] off for sure," said Ovechkin. "I love it. I can't wait till he says something about me. Old coaches, old system, you know?"
Something tells me Cherry won't find it nearly as humorous.