At around 4:30 p.m. on Friday, word began to spread that the Canadiens were going to retire the numbers worn by almost-centenarians Emile Bouchard and Elmer Lach. It struck me as being the kind of flashy surprise this team isn't known for. The Habs move slowly and cautiously on these ones with the weight of history judging silently from afar. This decision to honor the deans of the team really blew some fresh air into this stretch of ceremonies that even the die-hards have deemed overcooked. It hinted at a night of surprises to come.
The 100-second countdown lifted the curtains on a montage we've seen a few times in various edits. A familair photo here, an unforgettable wink there. It was the team's way of slowly charging the emotional batteries on a night where many of us wiped nostalgia from our faces.
What else can you do but gaze in amazement as you watch Patrick Roy's hulking frame step onto the ice in full uniform and wearing the bright red mask that stands as the third great goalie mask in this team's history. What a sight to behold.
The rest of the legends followed and we were treated to a pre-game skate that served as the highlight of the evening. Legends skating swiftly around the ice with Roy and Ken Dryden taking shots at both ends. And the emotion kept pouring in. Gordie Howe, Aragorn, the retirement ceremonies. The formula used on this birthday pretty much erased the centennial fatigue many had been feeling and renewed our enamorment with this incredible franchise.
The group that always seemed the most burdened by this long fanfare is the very recent and now current edition of the Montreal Canadiens. Their record for games in which the drop of the puck followed a long tribute to someone or something has been abysmal. Maybe the boys aren't big on the late starts; eats into their clubbing time.
But this time around, for this final tribute, the team offered itself the Boston Bruins as a centennial birthday present. This was not a game the Canadiens could even fathom dropping. You don't lose to Dallas on the final game at the Forum. You don't lose game 7 on home ice. And you don't lose on your 100th birthday.
Chapeau x3 and the many more that littered the ice to Mike Cammalleri. One of the only players to get in that room where the legends had gathered and shake hands, show appreciation for what he has now taken over and chosen to represent. One of the only players. That's just incredible and when this team loses 6-1 to an opponent at some point this season, look no farther than this revealing fact. Do they really care? Maybe on this night when time came to perform on the ice, they did. The Bruins also cared not to show up, and Tim Thomas cared not to make routine saves or puck freezes in the crease, so that helped. But it was a fitting end to a night of wonders.
Check that. This is Montreal for heaven's sake. It was the only end.