Saturday, March 11, 2006

Bonne Nuit Boom Boom

Avi is working today, so I thought I would pop this up for him.The great Montreal Canadian and inventor of the slapshot, Boom Boom Geoffrion, passed away today. As Avi noted to me by email, the Montreal Gazette pretty much says all there is to say. Geoffrion was to finally have his jersey retired by the Canadians tonight; Wayne Scanlan of the Ottawa Citizen notes that the tribute came far too late. The team honoured the wishes of the Geoffrion family and went ahead with the ceremony this evening; hopefully, Boom Boom caught it all from upstairs.

There aren't many players left from the Habs teams of the 50's--probably the most dominant team in the history of the game. Plante, Harvey, Richard, and Geoffrion are all gone. Only Moore, Pocket Rocket, and Béliveau remain. Red Fischer has an excellent article on the other piece that has passed, the Montreal Forum, in today's Gazette. Rightly named "The Cathedral of Hockey", the Forum and its inhabitants have left an inestimable mark on not only the lives of those who cheer for Les Habitants, but the culture and history of our nation. I am not, nor ever will be, a fan of those who wear La Sainte-Flanelle, but I know that the game, and in fact my country, would be weaker without their presence. These men were/are giants; even now the name, "Boom Boom Geoffrion" rings of speed and power and poetry. Their deaths are more than just the passing of men; they signal to us all the approaching Twilight of the Gods.


At 7:46 PM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

Merci. A wonderful post; thanks for the celebration.

Les habitants are running out of time on an important milestone: not only do they lead the league in Cups won, they've won one in every decade. Long gone are the glory days of the 50s, 60s and 70s where there were Cups-a-plenty; the team managed just one in the 80s and one in the 90s, the latter through a glorious succession of overtime wins that on the one hand kept us on the edge of our seats, and on the other hand cemented an almost religious certainty that the team was destined to win, and there was no need to worry.

But here we are coming up to the 2006 playoffs, and there are only four chances left to take home a Cup for the oughts, or whatever we're calling this decade. (Although I subscribe to the traditional - correct - definition of a decade, century or millenium beginning at year 1 and ending at year 0, I recognize the cultural supremacy of the first-digit in defining our sense of a decade.)

Will it happen? As a true-believer, I think it must, although I don't think Aebischer is the second coming of St. Pat (Huet is closer to being a Dryden or Roy - the late-season rookie phenom who carries the team through).

But if there is a seed of doubt in my mind, it was planted by the move from the Forum. Although I am a Jamesian about most sportsmatters, I pair that with a firm belief in terroir, and its psychological effects on the home and away sides, and the fans.

For that reason, I think another less-likeable dynasty is in peril. Steinbrenner's New Yankee Stadium a foolhardy scheme that will lead his team into the Second Dark Ages under his watch.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

It would be an interesting analysis to look at how the old teams in all sports have done without their original stadiums. I know that it was a recurrent theme for the Bulls and Blackhawks after Chicago stadium closed down. The Bulls won in the new stadium though. The other team that comes to mind are the Lakers, who I believe have won some championships post-Palace. Then again, they aren't really an old team. The Rangers won in MSG in 94, too.

Nothing beats Veteran stadium in Philly, though. They even had their own prison and judge on-site.

At 11:25 PM, Blogger Alex said...

If you count their stay in Minneapolis, the Lakers are a couple of years older than the NBA; if not, they have been in Los Angeles since 1960. That's not old compared to a team like the Montreal Canadiens, but they're a veritable senior citizen amongst NBA clubs.

Also, I believe you're referring to the their old home, the Forum in Inglewood; the only Palace I'm aware of in the NBA in the one in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Point being, they have as much history as any other NBA team, but I still hate them.

I largely agree with you guys on the point of old vs. new stadiums. A couple of points that I'd add:

• A bigger problem for many of these teams has been poor roster management since the move to their new arena. Can you name me a Habs, Blackhawks, or Bruins team from the past decade that would have done significantly better playing in their old arena?

• Replacing more intimate, character-driven arenas with cookie cutter hockey/basketball stadiums has made the crowd less of a factor than in the past (think of the way the crowd was almost on top of the ice at old Chicago Stadium). More importantly, the focus on luxury suites and corporate tickets in these new arenas has priced many of the most rabid fans out of every section but the nosebleeds.

At 12:53 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

My point was that the Lakers haven't been in Los Angeles for that long. I am aware of their time in Minny, professor.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Alex said...

Well then, perhaps you should state what you consider to be the cutoff age for old and new teams.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

The post is actually about the Canadians. Let's stick with that.

I feel like I am on Andrew Coyne's site.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Alright Andy, once your comments start focusing on the Canadiens, mine will too. In the meantime, I will consider to respond to your off-topic smartass remarks in kind.

Here, I'll even spoonfeed you. In my first comment, I asked if there was a Canadiens team of the past decade that you think would have done better playing in the Old Forum as opposed to the Centre Molson/Bell. Perhaps you can get us back on topic by answering this.


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