MONTREAL – Ten days after hitting the ice outdoors at Gillette Stadium, the Canadiens did it again – this time, on home turf.
Michel Therrien’s troops braved the extreme cold on Monday morning to help unveil the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation’s seventh outdoor multipurpose and refrigerated community rink at Parc Émile in Laval, built in conjunction with the BLEU BLANC BOUGE program presented by Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities.
BLEU BLANC BOUGE is the Foundation’s flagship project. Rinks are built in financially disadvantaged neighborhoods – five others are located in Montreal, while the sixth is based in Longueuil. All seven are gathering areas for sports and physical activity, in general, offering youth from these backgrounds the chance to engage in a healthy and physically active lifestyle year-round.
Prior to the start of practice, a group of 40 children from Léon-Guilbault Elementary School took to the ice to skate alongside the players. Then, it was off to work. The Canadiens kept things light at practice, enjoying the scenery and taking part in a game of on-ice baseball.
“It brings back a lot of special memories. I think the Foundation did a great job building this thing. A lot of kids are going to grow up and have a lot of cool memories for when they’re older as well,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who was happy to be on site with his teammates to mark the occasion. “It was fun to skate around with them and see them smile. It all takes us back to when we were that age, getting on the outdoor rink. You’re just out there having as much fun as you can and staying out as long as you can, too.”
While the on-ice session didn’t last long, it represented an important change of pace for the Canadiens amidst their recent struggles dating back to early December. Coming off a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins over the weekend – and with games against Western Conference powerhouses like Chicago and St. Louis on the horizon – Therrien’s charges were pleased to mix things up a little and deviate from the standard practice plan.
“It’s always nice to put things into perspective for us. We’re in such a bubble around the rink that I think sometimes it’s good to do some things like this and understand what’s important,” admitted Gallagher, who has 11 goals and 22 points in 26 games during the 2015-16 campaign. “To get out there with the kids, I know they enjoyed it, but we enjoyed it as well. We got a lot out of it.”
David Desharnais believes the timing for a practice like this one couldn’t have been better. The Canadiens are off until Thursday, so keeping things loose heading into a tough stretch of games is of primordial importance.
“Things like this are fun for everybody. It helps us forget our struggles a little bit. We do that once a year, playing baseball. It’s served us well when things aren’t going our way,” mentioned Deharnais, who, like the majority of his teammates, has been slumping offensively in recent weeks. “If we could string two or three good games together, I think our consistency would get back on track. We can’t panic. We can’t turn on each other. We just have to stick together and try to win games. We did it at the start of the year. We won nine straight. We have the same team. We’re capable of doing it.”
Canadiens owner, president and CEO, Geoff Molson, expressed similar thoughts on Monday in Laval.
“We have an excellent core of leaders on our team. They’re capable of finding a way out of this. I have confidence in our team,” stressed Molson. “The guys are happy to be outside today. This is a team that wants to find a way to overcome the challenges they’ve been facing. We’re seeing the passion from everybody. We’re hoping that it happens soon.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Words From The Room - Jan. 11
The Canadiens Children’s Foundation inaugurates its 7th outdoor BLEU BLANC BOUGE rink