Last night during the Sharks/Kings game I was checking headlines during a break in action, and ran across James Mirtle’s piece on the (at that time) breaking crisis in Montreal.
It got my attention, because it seemed to be a lot more than “gee, this kid likes to party”. Looking at the quotes from the French press, like Jaques Demers ” I swear to you, I thought about Mr. Beliveau tonight … and I just hope I’m dreaming.” or Michel Bergeron’s “it looks like the foundation is going to be shaken. Not just for the Quebecois but for anyone who wears the Canadiens sweater around the country” had me wondering just what was going down. (if you haven’t seen the details, Mirtle’s got a good overview, including how the information flowed out into the public eye, so you can get a sense of how this evolved over time).
My first speculation, honestly, was some kind of legal problem involving claims of non-consensual activities between the players and some “friends”. Maybe it’s unfair of me, but honestly, with the rumors of the partying and the history of complaints against pro athletes about unwanted companionship — whether it’s the players from Duke or Kobe Bryant or any number of quietly handled incidenents — it’s always something I worry is going to end up in the press.
Then word started to come out that a mobster was involved and the police were meeting the team at the airport. Invovled with drugs? Were the players playing mule with their gear bags? Oh, the mind wanders after a couple of coffee-and-Bailey’s… But I was expecting the worst here.
Silly me. I should have remembered that this was the Montreal French Press and stopped worrying. For all Quebec professes to love it’s Canadiens, there are far too many there who aren’t afraid to use them to grandstand and use as a target for their public rants (thereby making sure the journalists get plenty of attention, which they seem to crave). The press isn’t alone here — the police have been known to grandstand and time things to maximize the pain of the team, and let’s not forget the politicians that have been happy to jump on the Canadiens and hockey players when people aren’t paying enough attention to them (just ask Shane Doan).
So I guess I should have really expected that the real problem, the one that caused Bob Hartley to claim he was going back to Atlanta (he was kidding, but that’s the level of rhetoric here, folks) was that a couple of the Canadiens players liked to party and liked girls.
Oh, and one of their party pals happens to have organized crime connections, but there are no connections known by the police beyond partying, girls, and some bootleg vodka the guy brought in for them.
Oh, the horrors.
Yes, the French Press is at it again. We can all stand down and stop paying attention for now. Next time, we should maybe be smart enough to not pay attention to begin with.
Does anyone still wonder why the Canadiens have so much trouble keeping free agents or attracting them to the team? Who other than Saku Koivu is insane enough to want to play in a city with newspapers this hostile? And better, they’re hostile because they love the team. Ah, the irony. the bullshit, the insanity.
Now, am I saying that this is not an issue at all? No — there are some significant issues here. The players are associating with someone they should know better than be around. This kind of “not thinking clearly” seems endemic in Montreal — remember Jose Theodore? There’s a problem with players enjoying the joys of the city of Montreal a bit too much there.
That’s a tough nut to crack; you can only talk and lecture so much. Ultimately it comes down to knowing the personality of the players and only bringing in those that know how to handle the situation appropriately. Montreal has to find a way to help players learn to avoid these problems, but ultimately, this is up to the individual players themselves.
Especially in a town like Montreal, where the players not only live in a fishbowl, but one wher ethe fishbowl has a 24×7 webcam and paparazzi waiting for an unprotected moment, and writers and broadcasters who seem to want to make their names by putting these people up on pedestals and then using them for target practice.
In reality? There’s a whole lot of “nothing to see here”, other than a bunch of press and broadcasters taking a molehill and turning it into a ski resort. Here’s hoping that it stays a molehill and there aren’t more and dirtier details to be found out at the investigation continues, but right now, it seems like this whole “foundation is going to be shaken” disaster scenario is a figment of the overactive imaginations of the French Press (again) insisting on proving there’s nothing they can’t turn into front page headlines.
No wonder nobody wants to play in Montreal. With “friends” like these, would you want to?