MONTREAL – It’s pretty safe to assume no one will ever forget the night Bob Gainey’s No. 23 joined other Canadiens immortals. Gainey even dusted off his equipment bag to make sure of that.
The evening had the classy looks of what one has come to expect from a Canadiens ceremony. Former players were dressed to the nines while the red carpet was rolled out in anticipation for Gainey’s big moment in the sun.
Once Gainey’s name was announced by co-emcees Dick Irvin and Richard Garneau, everyone had their eyes glued to the tunnel where Gainey was expected to make his grand entrance. However, Gainey had other plans.
The cheers reached new heights when Gainey instead appeared at the Zamboni entrance in full equipment with his trademark No. 23 on his back. As the crowd roared, Gainey took a few laps around the ice, even picking up the pace and spraying a little snow on the red carpet for good measure.
Despite repeated attempts to get the rest of the ceremony underway, the crowd wouldn’t have it. Gainey’s standing ovation spilled over five minutes, as Garneau and Irvin did all they could to go on with the show. But the show on this night was standing at center ice, dressed in full equipment, skates and all.
The normally reserved and stoic Gainey basked in the outpouring of affection from the fans who started cheering for him as a young player in the 1970s and never stopped doing so.
One more ovation was still to come as Bob took the podium to say a few words.
“Let me start from the end and say thank you, Montreal!” began Gainey. “You learn something new every day. Today I learned that I’m now more comfortable in a shirt and tie than in my hockey equipment.”
It was his night and Gainey looked like he was ready to skate a few shifts against the Blue Jackets as he continued to work the mic like a seasoned pro.
“I want to say thank you to the entire Canadiens organization for this incredible honor you have bestowed on me and my family here tonight,” continued Gainey. “I couldn’t possibly begin to name all of those who impacted me over the years.”
While the many who helped Gainey win five Stanley Cups were impossible to name, Gainey motioned behind him for his two most loyal pals to join him in his crowning moment.
“Come on out here Doug Jarvis and Guy Carbonneau,” said Gainey. “Rarely was I ever on the ice without one of those two guys right by my side. I first became teammates with Doug in 1971 and we went on to win four Stanley Cups together with the Canadiens. In 1980, I met a young centerman named Guy Carbonneau and we won a Stanley Cup together in 1986.
“I played with the Drydens, Robinsons, and the Lafleurs,” reminded Gainey. “But these two are my
Flipping effortlessly from English to French, Gainey left no stone unturned as he distributed his thank yous.
“I want to thank my mom who is watching back home at 353 Mark Street in Peterborough,” said Gainey with a smile.
With his children Anna, Steve and Colleen, his big sister Maureen, close family friend Christine Pickrell, and of course the dozen or so teammates from the 1986 Canadiens by his side, Gainey continued to shower his adopted Quebec home with praise.
“It’s tough to explain all the ways my time here has impacted my life,” said Gainey, the Habs’ GM who also spent his entire 16-year, Hall of Fame career with the Canadiens. “My association with this incredible organization has filled my life with adventure and success, and that’s all thanks to the Canadiens and the best city in the world, Montreal!”Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com