MONTREAL - Defenseman Ben Chiarot has good reason to consider himself a "pretty lucky man" right now.
And it extends far beyond his agreeing to terms on a three-year contract with the Canadiens on Thursday and beginning a whole new chapter in his career in the process.
On June 23, Chiarot and his wife, Jacqueline, welcomed their first child into the world. Their daughter, Emmerson, was born in Waterloo, ON where the couple spends the offseason.
"Everything in my life is pretty nice," said Chiarot, who is eagerly anticipating the move to Montreal later on this summer. "It's a great city. It'll be a perfect place to raise a family."
It will also be a perfect fit hockey-wise, according to the six-year NHL veteran.
In his discussions with the Habs' brass, the 28-year-old Hamilton, ON native was told to stick to the brand of hockey that made him a staple on the Winnipeg Jets' blueline in recent years.
"In talking with Marc [Bergevin] and Claude [Julien], they see me doing exactly what I did in Winnipeg - being a hard guy to play against, making the Canadiens a more physical team and harder to play in their own end in front of our net," mentioned the 6-foot-3, 219-pounder, who registered a career-high 171 hits and 139 blocked shots this past season while averaging 18:37 of ice time per outing. "That's exactly what I see myself doing here, making us a harder team to play against, more physical and more aggressive."
Even if Julien has hinted to Chiarot that his playing partner might very well be fellow veteran Jeff Petry, anything is still possible leading up to opening night on October 3 in Carolina, of course.
If that pairing does ultimately come to fruition, though, Chiarot believes it would be an excellent match.
"I think my style of play goes well with defensemen who like to jump into the play and be involved in the offense a little more. I know Jeff Petry is a great skater and good offensively. He likes to join the play, so if that's who I'm playing with, that works perfectly," explained the left-hander, before expanding upon the possibility of playing alongside another big presence on the back end. "Obviously, Shea [Weber] is one of the best shut-down guys in the League, so if we were together we could form a pretty good shut-down pairing as well. Either one is a good fit for me."
The Canadiens' newest addition can certainly complement the likes of Petry and Weber on offense with a howitzer of his own from the point.
He even set career-highs in all three major offensive categories in 2018-19 with five goals, 15 assists and 20 points, along with firing a career-high 111 shots on goal.
"My shot comes from a lot of practice. As a kid, I shot hundreds and hundreds of pucks every day in my backyard. I still shoot pucks in my yard and work on my shot all the time," revealed Chiarot, whose NHL resume includes 12 goals and 64 points in 305 games. "I try to use that weapon whenever I can. You don't get to use the big slap shot too often when you're not on the power play, but whenever I get the chance, I like to let it go."
No doubt the Bell Centre faithful will be hungry to see Chiarot let those blasts go in the fall.
And he simply can't wait to put his game on display in front of the most passionate fanbase in the League.
"The Bell Centre has been my favorite place to play since I came into the NHL. For me, it's unlike playing in any other building in the League," praised Chiarot, a fourth-round selection of the Atlanta Thrashers - 120th overall - in the 2009 NHL Draft. "Playing in Montreal on a Saturday night is something special and there's nothing better than that in hockey. To get to experience that every week now is a dream come true."
Special moments on the horizon
Chiarot will soon realize another one of his dreams when Jacqueline brings Emmerson to her very first Canadiens game on home turf.
Having his bundle of joy watching the pre-game warmup from rinkside will be nothing short of epic.
"I can picture that right now with my daughter wearing a little Habs jersey standing on the glass when I'm skating around," said Chiarot, who will be sporting the No. 8 with Montreal. "You always want to make your family proud, and hopefully Emmerson in a couple of years will be old enough to remember her dad playing in a Canadiens uniform."
In the meantime, Chiarot is just going to relish the simple joys of fatherhood.
"It's been exciting. Every day she's doing something new. Her little facial expressions, laughing, crying. Everything that goes with it, it's been really fun," said Chiarot. "My favorite part is I can lay on the couch and she can lay on my chest and take a nap and fall asleep. That's the best feeling in the world."
Fortunately, Chiarot doesn't have to leave Emmerson behind when it comes time to hit the weights.
He actually built a gym in his basement and has been training solo since he "was about 16 or 17 years old."
"Everything is good," concluded Chiarot. "I can't tell you how excited I am to be a part of that team and wear the CH on my chest."