MONTREAL - The Canadiens celebrated the 110th anniversary of their founding in spectacular fashion on Tuesday, bringing together 11 of the club's 12 living retired captains, along with current captain Shea Weber, together to mark the occasion.
In addition to the big Captains' Reunion, current Habs players paid tribute to some of the team's many legends by donning special jerseys dedicated to a particular player of significance during warmups for the game against the New York Islanders. Each current Canadien personally chose a legend to honor for the special occasion.
Video: NYI@MTL: Canadiens honor past captains pregame
For example, Finnish forward Artturi Lehkonen chose to dedicate the warmup to fellow countryman Saku Koivu, who tied Jean Beliveau as the longest-tenured captain in team history and inspired people across the hockey world with his remarkable comeback from cancer.
Lehkonen cited Koivu's many years proudly representing Finland on the international stage as well as his place in history as the team's first European-born captain as reasons for his choice, but mentioned how touched he was by No. 11's return to action following a battle with Burkitt's lymphoma and the ensuing reaction he received from the loving Montreal crowd when he did.
"It was pretty outstanding," remarked Lehkonen in reference to the nine-minute ovation Koivu received from the Habs' faithful. "He went through so much adversity. I've heard the stories, too, and I know it wasn't easy. It's pretty unreal. He came back and made a heck of a career out of it."
Elsewhere in the room, defenseman Ben Chiarot went with fellow rearguard and former general manager Serge Savard for his pick.
The Hamilton, ON native cited Savard's character, success on the ice, and passion for business and politics when asked to explain his selection.
"I chose Mr. Savard because, from what I'm told, he was a strong, steady, defensive player, a leader in the dressing room, and a good teammate - all things I think are important and that I take a lot of pride in myself. Gervy [Canadiens equipment manager Pierre Gervais] told me that the guys called him 'The Senator' in the room because of his interest in politics and finance," shared the 6-foot-3, 225-pound defenseman. "That was his nickname. He was a part of the Big Three with the Montreal Canadiens, on a lot of successful teams. There are a lot of reasons, but probably for being a leader and a good teammate are big reasons why I chose him."
Seeing names and numbers from glories past must certainly have been a treat for fans at the Bell Centre or watching the historic game on TV, but it was an experience not lost on the players either - even if they weren't even close to being born when their chosen legend was busy making history.
"It's probably a once-in-a-career kind of thing. I don't know if they've done that in the past, but it was really cool to see all the jerseys, all the names and numbers. Especially for myself, it was really cool wearing that jersey," expressed Nick Suzuki, who paid tribute to Howie Morenz, often described as one of the League's first star players and who died in 1937. "All those guys were such great players for this organization. It was great to represent them; it's an honor."
Suzuki said the guys were even calling him 'Howie' on the ice while he was wearing Morenz's No. 7 pregame.
"We were all calling each other different names for the jerseys during warmups," cracked the rookie following the Habs' 4-2 win over the Islanders. "It's cool to see all the history on the ice there."
The warmup jerseys have been autographed and are now being auctioned off with profits being donated to the Canadiens Children's Foundation in support of their RadioTéléDON. Fans wishing to purchase one of these collectible items can bid on them by visiting habs.signaturepro.ca or by texting "HABS" to 514-900-2220.
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