Volume 94, Issue 75
Tuesday, February 6, 2001
In their glory days the Montreal Canadiens success and the passion their fans possessed for the team, was symbolized by the fiery eyes of their undisputed leader, Maurice 'Rocket' Richard.
Guess what folks, the rocket's red glare is back in Montreal.
Hockey's most storied franchise was purchased last week by George Gillett Jr., a wealthy ski resort owner who, much to the chagrin of many hockey purists in this country, happens to be an American. Is this the end of hockey in Montreal? I think not, in fact a change might do this city good.
Assuming the sale of the club gets the approval of the NHL Board of Governors, the majority share of the Habs will be in American hands. Celine Dion, BCE, even newspaper guru Rupert Murdoch, were rumoured to be interested in the Canadiens on some level, but when push came to shove Gillett was left standing.
Some die hards will have you believe this Yankee will yank the Habs right out of Montreal and move them South, but this is not a realistic concern. For starters the team's former owner, Molson, who still own 20 per cent of the team, had a clause built into the sale stipulating any buyer must keep the team in Montreal. Besides that, assuming Gillett is interested in making money, he would be out of his mind to consider leaving the hockey hotbed that is Montreal.
Gillett has attempted to buy both the Florida and Colorado franchises and failed. This should indicate to the fans of the Habs that Gillett did not just purchase this team on a whim, he seems to be sincere in his desire to own a hockey team.
Resisting change is not a new theme in Montreal. The Canadiens hockey club is an organization that has also prided itself in putting home-grown boys in their uniforms and front offices. They are the last team to win a Stanley Cup without a European on their roster because they resisted drafting talent from across the pond longer than any other franchise. All that got them in the long run was a bunch of wannabe NHL'ers who now play in beer leagues, while teams like Ottawa uncover gem after gem of slick stick-handlers from Europe.
Montreal does not need an owner with a French accent, they need an owner with money and a budget plan who puts the right hockey minds in place to take care of on-ice affairs. If the team is winning, will the fans really care if the man in charge is from Quebec or Colorado?
Little hockey knowledge, less franchophone ties, but maybe, just maybe, Gillett is the best the Habs could get.
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