Considering he’s been breaking drum sticks worldwide for nearly 20 years, it would be an understatement to say that Chuck Comeau of Simple Plan is a busy man. While they often travel from city to city to perform nightly in front of frenzied crowds, Comeau and his Simple Plan bandmates have always managed to find time – no matter what time zone they’re in – to stay up to date on the latest Montreal Canadiens news. We sat down with the 36-year-old symbol-smasher in the midst of Simple Plan’s ‘Taking One for the Team’ tour to learn more about his love of the CH.
How long have you been a Habs fan?
CHUCK COMEAU: Oh, since I was very young. My parents introduced me to the game and I quickly became a huge fan of the sport and of course the Canadiens. I would have to say my first memory traces back to around 1985-86.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
CC: My favorite player by far was Mats Naslund. He was the player who made me open up a special place in my heart for the Canadiens. I followed him throughout his career and I was inspired by the way he carried himself as a professional. I even had the chance to meet him! I was like a groupie when they meet their idol (laughs). He was such a gifted scorer who could also pass the puck with great precision. I was obsessed with him during the Olympics a few years ago. I was rooting for Sweden because of him when I should have been pulling for Canada instead.
Did you play hockey growing up? Did you act like you were Mats Naslund on the ice?
CC: Absolutely. The reason why I loved him as a player was because I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home defenseman or stop pucks like a goaltender; I wanted to score goals like Naslund did! (Laughs). But, like him, I was also one of the smallest players on my team, so I kind of saw myself in him. I even wore number 26 with every team I ever played for. I still wear the same number when I play for fun. I always try taking number 26. It’s my lucky number.
What is your best Canadiens memory?
CC: I can’t single one out, but my fondest memories date back to the early 1980’s. I’m talking about the era of Habs like Naslund, Brian Skrudland, Mike McPhee, Patrick Roy, Gaston Gingras and Stéphane Richer. I knew the rosters of those teams by heart. I would even use their jersey numbers to help me remember different phone numbers. For example, if a phone number ended in 2944, I would tell myself that it stood for Gingras-Richer. (Laughs)
Can the Bell Centre faithful count on your support?
CC: Whenever I’m able to make it out to a game, yes. But, around ten years ago, I lessened my grip on hockey to invest 100% of myself into music. What brought me back to the sport in the early 2000’s was our second album launch. We were in the midst of a big promo blitz. Things were starting to go well and we got this surprising call from Jose Theodore’s agent from his time with the Canadiens. We were told that Jose was a big fan of the group and that he would love to join us on stage and play some guitar. I wasn’t following the team as closely as I used to, but I obviously knew who Jose was. He was like the David Beckham of Montreal! It was fun. It was at the Spectrum during the 2004 NHL Lockout. I remember that the Journal de Montreal ran a headline on their front page in giant letters that read ‘Jose Theodore will play tonight’ and written below it in tiny letters was “….with Simple Plan.” (Laughs) We’ve actually stayed in contact and remained friends ever since. During the lockout, he played in Sweden and came to see our show in Stockholm with a few teammates. When the NHL started up again, I got back into the sport more passionately because I had a friend on the team.
I know you’ve played hockey on the Bell Centre ice before, but what does it feel like to play a show at the same arena that houses the Montreal Canadiens?
CC: The only issue is that our hockey games at the Bell Centre always took place very early in the morning. (Laughs) I may not have had the best performance on the ice, but just having been in the locker room and on the ice made it an incredible experience. One of the greatest moments our band had was when we performed at the Bell Centre for the first time as headliners. It was sold out, which was a bit of a triumph in itself just to be on stage in our city’s major arena. All of our family and friends were there, but it was actually a tougher show to play because we were all so emotional. I saw my family in the stands and felt like a hockey player playing in his first NHL game.
On tour, it must be quite difficult to follow the action. How do you stay current?
CC: We’d often watch Habs games while on tour. Sometimes, we would be in the middle of Europe, so the games wouldn’t start until very late. After our shows we’d stay on the bus in the parking lot and listen to the games if the Wi-Fi was good enough. We managed to stay up-to-date pretty often. When we’re on tour in North America, we have satellite TV which makes it much easier to access the games. I remember once when we were in Australia, but we still got together to watch the game on our laptops at nine o’clock in the morning.
As someone who has had international success for many years, do you proudly wear your Canadiens gear abroad?
CC: From time to time. If we’re going to the Bell Centre, then we’re definitely wearing some bleu-blanc-rouge. But, that can also get you some more attention overseas. Interestingly enough, we wanted to bring our Canadiens jerseys to the Winter Classic and wear them when we sang the anthem before the game and for our performance during the intermission. The NHL strongly recommended that we shouldn’t wear them, though. We were willing to do it, but on the eve of the game they weren’t as comfortable with it.
Speaking of the Winter Classic, how special was it to be a part of the festivities at Gillette Stadium?
CC: It was cool. Given what we do, we’ve had the luxury of participating in the experience and building unique memories. Never would I have thought that we’d ever be a part that day. As a big fan of hockey and the Canadiens, I consider myself lucky just to have been there.
On your last album cover, you are disguised as a hockey player. How did that come about?
CC: It felt natural for me to be the hockey player. The other guys in the band knew it would be me. In fact, the concept of the shoot was my idea. I had the idea that being in a band is similar to being a member of a sports team. You need to understand that you have to make sacrifices for the group in order to achieve success. If you’re selfish, it won’t work. That’s precisely why we’re still together after 17 years.
Which of the Habs would make the best substitute if a band member became ill?
CC: Good question. If our singer Pierre [Bouvier] got sick, I don’t know how good his singing voice is, but I would have to go with MVP Carey Price. The singer is the MVP of the band, and if you don’t have a singer you can’t go too far. If David [Desrosiers, bassist] got sick, we’d need someone with style because he is the most flamboyant guy in the band. So, I'd say P. K. Subban has the potential to be a true rock star. If I was sick, it would be Max Pacioretty. He’s kind of a quiet leader, just like me.
Who would make the best roadie?
CC: John Scott would be a good roadie. Nobody would be able to intimidate us with him around. (Laughs)
Who has broken more sticks; you on the drum kit or P.K. Subban on the ice?
CC: Very good question. Usually I break one or two drumsticks per show, but I think that P. K. has more power in his shot.
Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Jared Ostroff.
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