MONTREAL – After making Habs history against the Leafs, Patrice Brisebois decided it was time to thank his longtime fans. The feeling was mutual.
After scooping up three assists to run his Montreal career total to 364 points to grab the No. 5 spot on the Canadiens’ all-time list among defensemen, Brisebois knew he couldn’t let the moment go to waste.
Named the game’s No. 1 star, Brisebois skated out practically to center ice, before removing his helmet, taking an extended lap around the ice and waving to the capacity crowd at the Bell Centre.
“I just really wanted to thank the fans. On the bench when it was announced I couldn’t really thank them at that point,” explained Brisebois. “I thought it was a perfect chance to thank them for being behind me. You don’t always get a second chance like this and I’m just trying to savor every minute of it.
“I’ve got be honest, at the time I didn’t even know myself,” said Brisebois of passing Jean-Claude Tremblay on the Habs’ list. “When you stop to think about all those great defensemen like Robinson, Harvey, Lapointe, Savard and Tremblay, it’s a really special accomplishment. It’s the kind of thing that just motivates me to keep going. Sure it took me 18 years to get there, but it’s better late than never.”
The second-oldest player in the Habs’ dressing room at only two weeks shy of his 38th birthday, Brisebois wants no part of an early retirement plan or reduced workload.
“My old legs, what about them? I don’t know why I should take games off when 38-year-old Robert Lang doesn’t do it,” reasoned Brisebois with a laugh. “I feel good, really good. I’m really enjoying playing with this group. It’s easy to wake up in the morning and go to work when you love what you do. I really appreciate what I’m living right now. I can’t tell you whether this is going to be my last season or not, but I’m trying to milk it for all it’s worth.”
Former teammate turned head coach Guy Carbonneau knows Brisebois better than anyone and doesn’t take his veteran defenseman’s contributions for granted.
“He’s done a lot for us not only this year but last year, too,” said Carbonneau. “We signed him as a potential seventh defenseman or as a precautionary measure. That was the plan, but things can change pretty quickly in this business. Patrice knows his limits and he’s playing well.”
While Brisebois is busy enjoying his second honeymoon with Canadiens fans, his approval rating in his own dressing has never been higher.
“It’s pretty incredible when you think about it. To hear the announcement on the bench that “Breezer” is now that high on the list, I think most of the guys just went ‘Wow’,” admitted Francis Bouillon, Brisebois’ longest current blue line teammate with the Habs. “Year after year, all you hear is people doubting him, wondering what he has left in the tank. But he just does what he’s always done, work incredibly hard in the offseason and he came into camp in amazing shape.
“He’s a really popular guy in the room and we’re all glad he’s here,” added Bouillon. “I just hope this isn’t his last season because he obviously still has a lot to give.”
And whatever Brisebois that is, you can bet it going to go where it’s always gone—to the Canadiens. Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
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