By Frank Larue
The one-hundredth anniversary of the Montreal Canadians has been less of a celebration and more of an embarrassment for the once proud hockey team. Les Canadiens have won more Stanley cups than any other NHL team and have produced legends such as Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, and many more. Despite Montreal’s success, the New York Yankees (previously the second most winning sports franchise in North America) now claim first place.
Unfortunately, the glory years are a thing of the past, and the new Montreal Canadians have no superstars. They have not won a Stanley cup for twenty-five years. The ‘90s were not kind to the team that used to dominate the league. They have seldom made it past the second round in the playoffs, and with Bob Gainey at the helm, the future looks a long way from bright.
Carey Price, the pride of the Ulkatcho Indian Band, was chosen number one goalie for Montreal in his second year in the NHL when the Canadians traded Cristobal Huet to Chicago. Carey had stellar performances last season and continued in the same direction at the beginning of the ‘08-‘09 season. Unfortunately his team started losing in mid-season, and they have yet to find the magic they had in October.
Carey’s fate went the same way as the team’s. He has been struggling since January and was pulled from games several times. It didn’t help that coach Guy Carbonneau was fired and the team had injuries at the worst time during the hockey season. Carey became discouraged and did not show the form that had earned him his job. In a game against the Philadelphia Flyers where he was a healthy scratch, he told CBC that he “didn’t deserve to be in the lineup.”
Bringing in Bob Gainey as interim coach did nothing to improve the Montreal Canadians. They barely made it to the playoffs, and in the first game against Boston they looked bad, not only losing the game but also presenting no match for the number one seed: the Bruins.
You don’t have to be Merlin to realize the once mighty Canadians will be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, and since the team is up for sale, Carey Price can’t feel confident in his future with Montreal. It may not be much of a consolation, but he’s not the only Aboriginal hockey player in the NHL dealing with a sub-par season. Jordin Too Too and Jonathan Chee Choo have also dealt with injuries and low productivity.
Jonathan Chee Choo with the San Jose Sharks won the Rocket Richard Award a few years ago for most goals scored by a forward for the season. Chee Choo is considered one of the premier snipers of the league, and since the Sharks ruled the NHL this season, he was expected to have a banner year. That didn’t happen. Although his team finished first in league, Jonathan was injured and missed several games. Since his return, he has yet to show the golden touch that made him one of the highest scorers in the NHL. The Sharks are facing the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the first round of the playoffs and have already lost their first game on home ice. If by chance they are eliminated in the first round, it would be the upset of the year, adding insult to injury for Chee Choo. Whether or not he can rebound and help his team fulfill its destiny remains to be seen. Judging by the first game, it may not happen, and Jonathan will be going home to Moose Factory in Northern Ontario long before the playoffs are over.
Jordin Too Too won’t have to worry about the playoffs at all because his team (the Nashville Predators) didn’t make the cut. For the first time in nine years, the Predators will be watching the playoffs from the golf course. Jordin has been criticized by Kelly Krudey on Hockey Night in Canada for being a mindless goon whose role doesn’t go beyond delivering checks meant to injure his opponents. Veteran Jeremy Roenick (now playing with the San Jose Sharks) added to the controversy by stating, “I don’t like the way he plays. He’s not well respected in the league. Most players don’t like him.” Fortunately, the Predators coach Barry Trotz has total confidence in Jordin and has no problem with his playing style. “His job is to piss players off and get them off their game,” said Trotz. “He hits hard and never backs down. Jordin is an important part of this team.”
Carey Price, Jonathan Chee Choo, and Jordin Too Too are three young hockey players who inspire young Aboriginal athletes by being role models both on and off the ice. There are hills and valleys in all sports careers, and the good players always bounce back. There is every reason to believe that all three young men will come back to the ice next year on a mission to make up for this year’s lost season.