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Five things to know: Habs in Winnipeg

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Bobby Hull Night: The Canadiens’ first visit to Manitoba to take on the Jets was a hugely anticipated event for the city of Winnipeg. Every ticket for the Dec. 15, 1979 matchup between the Canadian teams had been bought up for days. The showdown at the Winnipeg arena was set to be broadcast across the country from coast to coast. Fans and staff alike were dressed to the nines in honour of “Tuxedo Night” and the building was full of Hall of Fame inductees. The icing on the cake? Legend Bobby Hull was poised to make his comeback to professional hockey after being coaxed out of retirement. But despite the impending high-profile game, Jets’ head-coach Tom McVie had no qualms about making sure no player on his team – superstar or not – got preferential treatment. When Hull, The Golden Jet, unaware that the game’s start time had been shifted to 7 p.m. for the national broadcast, arrived late to the dressing room, McVie quickly benched him in favour of the other Jets who had showed up on time. Hull, who also happened to be one of the Jets’ owners, followed his coach’s orders nonetheless and traded his triumphant return in for a spectator seat. The Canadiens would open the score 44 seconds into the game on a goal from Mark Napier, but would ultimately come up short at the end of 60 minutes, losing 6-2 to the Jets.

At Least One for the Road: The Canadiens visited the Manitoba capital a total of 23 time during the Jets 17 seasons in the NHL, posting a record of 10 wins, eight losses and five ties on Winnipeg ice. While that marks a more than respectable road-record for the Habs, it’s also worth noting that the Canadiens were never once shutout at the Winnipeg arena. They were held to a single goal only twice, but scored four or more goals while visiting the Jets on 12 occasions.

Canadiens’ Dozen: How many times over the course of their history did the Canadiens score at least 12 goals in a game? Drum roll please... The answer: 12 times – last of which coming on Oct. 19, 1983 in Winnipeg when the Jets were left reeling in the wake of an offensive explosion from the Canadiens. Bob Berry’s troops would down the Jets 12-2 with Mats Naslund enjoying the most productive night for the Habs, scoring two goals and adding another three helpers. Fourteen other members of the team picked up at least a point before the final whistle blew.

‘Til the Next Time: The Canadiens haven’t played a game in Winnipeg since Dec. 12, 1995. Jocelyn Thibault was in nets for Montreal playing his first away-game with the Habs since arriving from the Avalanche as part of a mega-trade that saw Patrick Roy head to Colorado. The Habs would win the game 6-5, with tough-as-nails Turner Stevenson playing one of the best games of his career, picking up three assists.

Pick-me-up: When defenseman Robert Picard left Montreal for Winnipeg on Nov. 4, 1983, the Canadiens were handed a third-round draft pick from the Jets in exchange for the veteran blueliner. The Canadiens’ general-manager, Serge Savard would use what turned out to be the 51st overall pick to select a young goalie by the name of Patrick Roy. A little over a year later, the future Hall of Famer would register the first his first NHL win against Winnipeg, and the next year on Jan. 15, 1986, his first shutout – also against Winnipeg.

Alexandre Harvey is a writer for Translated by Justin Fragapane.

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