Category Archives: Canadiens

Je déteste les Flyers

Welcome to the party, Les Justiciers. (They brought us this last year.)

You know, I was rooting for a Bruins win in the last round. Partly because coming back from 3-0 would mean stealing the Canadiens’ Cinderella status. Partly because the Canadiens and Bruins have such a rich history. Partly because it was time to take revenge for last year. Partly because I thought our chances were better against them.

But I’m learning to appreciate the value of a Canadiens-Flyers series. We can take revenge for 2008. The matchup has already been billed as Cinderella vs. Cinderella, and made history as the first 7th vs. 8th matchup since the conference system was setup.

And, because the Flyers fans can be just as much assholes as Canadiens fans, it feels good to hate them.

By the end of this series, the streets of Philadelphia will be orange … with blood

Blood mixed with urine, I guess.

We need a bigger bandwagon

You can tell your team is going somewhere when other people try to take credit for it.

The Toronto Star is grasping at whatever straws they can find to attach their city to our team. And both Toronto and the United States are taking credit for Michael Cammalleri.

But that’s the way it is when you’ve gone from being the underdog to the favourite. Even though technically Philadelphia has the (ever so slightly) better record and home ice advantage, the pundits are finally calling it for the Habs:

Canadiens in four

Canadiens in six

Canadiens in seven

Flyers in seven

Flyers in six

What a night

7pm: I get off the metro train at Lucien-L’Allier station. The platform is flooded with red Habs jerseys.

Crowd gathers in parking lot as Game 7 begins

7:07pm: I arrive at the parking lot outside the Bell Centre, which has been designated as a celebration area by the Montreal police. A giant screen is showing RDS, and the speakers have plenty of volume for people to hear. The lot is mostly empty, unlike the Bell Centre itself, but a crowd is slowly forming.

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In the words of the enemy

If you pick up the print version of The Gazette (or at least the sports section), you might have noticed that there’s a lot of articles and columns from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and before that the Washington Post, commenting on their hockey teams.

A column from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gene Collier in today's (Montreal) Gazette

Since you may not have picked up the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently, you probably haven’t seen the Montreal Gazette columns that have appeared in those pages:

Dave Stubbs column in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Even though, in an ideal world, no sports journalist is biased toward the home team, the reality is that Gazette sports columnists know more about the Canadiens and talk more about the Canadiens than the opposition. There’s an unavoidable Montreal-centric perspective. So it’s useful to get an idea of the other side.

Sharing copy like this isn’t new. Both the Gazette and Post-Gazette have done it before, their editors tell me. The Gazette did it two years ago with the Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Basically, the idea is to give Gazette readers an in-depth look at the visiting team from reporters who cover that team on a regular basis and know that team as well as our guys know the Canadiens,” says Gazette sports editor Stu Cowan. “Also a chance to read some different opinions and styles of hockey writers from other cities.”

When the Canadiens faced the Washington Capitals in the first round, Cowan contacted the Washington Post to see if they’d be interested in sharing copy. The Post jumped on board, and columns from Thomas Boswell, Tracee Hamilton and Mike Wise appeared in the Gazette.

(There’s a bit of irony here, in that until recently the Gazette was a subscriber to the Washington Post’s wire service. The Post cut Canwest off after Canwest filed for creditor protection.)

Washington’s not a hockey town

In Washington, though, there wasn’t much reciprocation. Even though the Capitals finished the season as the National Hockey League’s best team, there was little space in the sports section of a paper known for political stories to fit what are essentially wire stories from Montreal. In fact, I couldn’t find a single Gazette piece that was used in the print version.

The imbalance is particularly striking simply because hockey in the U.S. capital isn’t as important as here. They have an NFL team (the Redskins), a baseball team (the *spit*Nationals*spit*), an NBA team (the Wizards), plus college and other sports. Even during the hockey playoffs, they have to devote pages to these.

“When I contacted the Post hockey editor on the weekend of the NFL draft to ask which one of their columnists would be writing on the Caps, the answer was none: they were all writing on the NFL draft, even though the Redskins are brutal,” Cowan wrote to me by email. “The Redskins are to D.C. what the Canadiens are to Montreal.”

But the Post did use the Gazette pieces online, and it looks like they got some interest there.

“The Gazette columns were a big hit on the Post website throughout the series and on some days recorded higher traffic numbers than our own stories. They enriched and broadened our coverage to a considerable degree,” says Matthew Vita, Washington Post sports editor, somewhat press-release-like. “All in all the content-sharing was a great success that we envision using in the future.”

Then, in Pittsburgh

After the Canadiens epically came back from a 3-1 series deficit and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinal, Cowan was himself contacted by two Pittsburgh papers – the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review – looking to setup a similar agreement. “I had to make a choice and went with the Post-Gazette,” Cowan said.

In Pittsburgh, this kind of sharing has gotten routine.

“Every playoff series, we try to hook up with a newspaper to run at least a column a day from ‘the other side’,” says Post-Gazette Assistant Managing Editor/Sports Jerry Micco. “We do it for other sports, too. Particularly for the Steelers. Throughout the week, we’ll do RSS feeds from the opposing newspaper’s site as well as trading copy. We rarely have space for copy throughout the week from the opponent, but on the Monday after a game a ‘view from XXX’ is a mandatory run in our section.”

Micco says the agreement has been a win-win for the two papers. He listed two major advantages for him: “1. It frees our writers up to cover the Pens. Even if they write an opponent’s story, it’s not going to be a column. 2. I allows our readers to get another viewpoint on the series.”

Still, the Post-Gazette isn’t using nearly as much copy as the Gazette is, even though their sports editor said the Gazette has “excellent hockey writers” and “our fans here want as much hockey as they can get this time of year.” They have the Steelers (and its quarterback in the news recently) and Pirates, while Montreal can focus on the Canadiens (with the occasional mention of the Impact), running two or even three pieces a day from the Post-Gazette.

“Basically, the popularity of the Habs in this city goes through the roof during the playoffs, with people who don’t normally follow hockey jumping on the bandwagon,” Cowan writes. “The copy-sharing agreement allows us to provide additional hockey coverage during the playoffs, with a closer focus on the visiting team.”

What do you think?

None of the editors mentioned much about direct response to the enemy copy, so I’ll leave that to you: Do you think the new perspective is a valuable contribution, or a waste of space?

For analysis, you can read these columns yesterday and today from Ron Cook and Gene Collier, and these columns from Tracee Hamilton and Mike Wise of the Washington Post.

Running over penguins is fun

A fellow editor noticed this ad that appears in Tuesday’s Gazette. It’s an ad for Ford that seems pretty generic until you think about it for a second.

Ford ad in The Gazette, May 4, 2010, Page A12

The text says “Passion to go the distance”. Penguins in the windshield, and in the rear-view mirror is the Capitol Building in Washington. At the bottom, the logo of the Canadiens.

Ford hasn’t had the best of luck trying to be funny in advertising in Canada, but this one was pretty cute. Not the most subtle ad ever created, but still relatively clever.

And hey, full-page colour ads pay my salary, so I’m not going to complain.

There was something I read recently (and, of course, can’t find now that I want to link to it) about car companies wanting to stop having Canadian firms develop their own marketing campaigns. Instead, they could just use U.S. ads in Canada. This is a pretty good reason not only to keep Canadian-specific ad campaigns, but locally-focused ones.

It’s gonna feel like 93 forever

Remember how I said the number of Habs songs was disappointing this season, particularly since the massive roster overhaul over the past year has made those old ones obsolete?

Well Annakin Slayd, who produced music videos in both languages over the past two years, has updated its anglo one for 2010, replacing references to Kovalev and Komisarek with Cammalleri.

UPDATE (July 25): The inevitable parody version went up a few weeks later:

The experts have spoken

Capitals in four

Capitals in five

Capitals in six

Capitals in seven

  • Nobody.

Canadiens in seven

Canadiens in six

Canadiens in five

  • Nobody.

Canadiens in four

  • You know who you are


  • Canadiens win: 5
  • Capitals win: 38
  • Series goes seven games: 1

Hail Mary, full of ice

Concordia’s journalism program, which has been making a habit of posting its class TV productions onto YouTube, has produced this 45-minute documentary about Canadiens fandom – one of the few things we can claim to have an advantage over all the other teams in the NHL.

It features interviews with everyone from Brian Gionta and Maxim Lapierre to Mike Boone, Pierre Houde, Jacques Demers, Réjean Houle and J.T. Utah.

Spoiler alert: The Canadiens aren’t a religion, but they do have a lot of enthusiastic fans.

Your 2010 Habs playlist

I don’t know if it’s because of the recession, because nobody expected the Canadiens to even make the playoffs – much less be able to compete against the Washington Capitals – or just because the Justiciers Masqués aren’t on the air anymore, but the number of Habs songs and Habs-related song parodies produced in preparation for this year’s playoffs is pretty sad compared to previous years.

And if there was ever a year we needed more songs, it’s this one. We can’t just take the songs from last year and replay them – it’s hard to get excited about Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Mike Komisarek and Christopher Higgins since they all play for other teams now.

Still, a few amateur songsters have stepped up to the challenge:

Les Canadiens

by Clermont (featuring Kra-Z-Noize)

Montreal Canadiens 2010 playoff song

by Vince Colletti/Tanya Kassabian

Go Canadiens!

by Alex G.

Make it 25!

by Alex G. (also available in French)

Go Habs Go! (Séries 2010)

by Martin Scully

CH en série

(also translated – badly – into English)

Habs Romance

by Patrick Charles, Cat Spencer and Mark Bergman for CJFM. Sung by Lissa Vescio


Feels like ’93 (2010 version)

by Annakin Slayd

Habs Fight (woo-hoo!)


The Cheese of Philadelphia

by Daniel Iorio

Je déteste les Flyers

by Justiciers Masqués

Bye Bye Flyers

by Virgin Radio


by Porn Flakes

Stand By Your Habs

by Christopher Pennington and Felicity Hamer

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The anti-clinching scenario (UPDATED)

UPDATE (April 9): With Friday’s Rangers win over the Flyers, the Canadiens’ chances have dropped from over 99 per cent to 97.7 per cent (note to CHOM: Use that in a promo somewhere). Things have happened to make it more likely that the Canadiens will fall out of the playoffs, but it’s still highly unlikely.

All of these things need to happen for the Canadiens to fall to ninth place and miss the playoffs:

  • The Canadiens must lose in regulation Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre
  • The New York Rangers must win in overtime or a shootout against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, giving them two points and the Flyers one
  • The Boston Bruins must get at least a point in their remaining two games

That middle part is the most unlikely. A regulation win by the Rangers would drop the Flyers out of the playoffs. A regulation win by the Flyers and the Rangers don’t make it. An OT/SO win by Philly and the Rangers lose the tiebreaker with the Canadiens. A point for the Flyers makes them tied with Montreal, and they win the tiebreaker with more wins.

The Bruins are in sixth only because they have a game in hand. They still need a point to break the tie after 82 games. Because they lose the tiebreaker against all three other teams, if the Rangers and Flyers both get points, the Bruins need at least a point to make it to the playoffs.

If Montreal gets a point against the Leafs, the Rangers won’t be able to catch the Habs (they could match in points and wins, but the third tiebreaker is the record between the clubs, and the Canadiens won 3 of 4). A win against the Leafs, and the Habs finish no worse than 7th place.

Complicated enough for you? All eight teams have already clinched in the West.

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Red Fisher’s almost-100 years

Red Fisher

Red Fisher

Lost in all the hoopla of the Habs centennial is a really long piece by Red Fisher (it was spread out over three pages) about his career covering the Canadiens and all the great moments of the second half of its first century.

I point to it particularly because Fisher goes into a bit of detail in how he got started in the news business, before he even started covering the Canadiens:

A man named Hugh E. McCormick helped make the dream a reality.

I was a first-year student at Sir George Williams College, The Georgian’s one-person sports staff, when McCormick, the owner of the suburban N.D.G. Monitor, Westmount Examiner and Verdun Guardian, sent out a call for college students to report on the sports activities at their schools. A phone call to his office told him I was interested.

“You’ve got the job,” McCormick said immediately.

“How much do you pay?” he was asked.

“Nothing,” he said.

“I’ll take it,” I replied.

It goes from there to an adorable story about him writing a story about a junior football game for the Standard and having it tossed in the garbage by an editor.

But what gets me is that Fisher worked for free, and later took a significant pay cut, just so he could follow his dream of reporting on the Canadiens early in his career.

Half a century later, not much has changed. Plenty of young journalists would make a similar choice now, willing to sign their souls to the devil to get a press pass into the Canadiens dressing room.

More insight into Fisher’s career can be gleaned from this Dave Stubbs piece, first published in April 2006, when the Habs honoured his 50 seasons covering the team.

Speaking of the Canadiens centennial, Mike Boone’s weekly Eeee-mail makes note of the team’s mastery of marketing (to the point where we’re all getting sick of it). Jack Todd echoes that, noting the contrast between the Habs’ history and its present (and perhaps suggesting a link between the non-stop commemorations and the bad performance of the team).

By the way, I used to find it funny that Boone’s column, which appears opposite Red Fisher’s Red Line page every Saturday, was essentially a column about Fisher himself. Only Boone could pull off writing a column about another columnist and making it worth reading. Sadly, even Boone has reached his limit. Last week he officially retired the Living Legend of Sports Journalism schtick after 10 years.

A moment of silence for the passing of one of The Gazette’s silliest running gags.