UNIONDALE – The Canadiens lost a member of the family on Wednesday night. He may be gone, but Eddy Palchak’s legacy will never be forgotten.
A part of 10 Stanley Cup winning teams, Palchak was the man behind the men for over three decades in Montreal. The most decorated equipment manager in NHL history, Palchak helped ensure everything was taken care of off the ice so legends like Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey and Patrick Roy could focus on winning hockey games.
“The guys loved Eddy,” explained current Habs head equipment manager, Pierre Gervais, who apprenticed under Palchak for 10 years. “That was one of the things I was most surprised about when I came to the team in 1986, just how much the players absolutely loved him and respected him.
“Early on, he was very close with Ken Dryden; Ken would invite him over for dinner at his house and stuff like that,” added Gervais. “He and Serge Savard had a great relationship, too. At one point they owned horses together and they were close when Serge played and then even more so when he became the GM. He was quite a character and the guys loved being around him.”
|Palchak surrounded by members of the Canadiens' 1970's dynasty. |
Palchak’s attention to detail never went unnoticed by the players he watched over during his 31 years with the team. From making sure Roy’s lucky puck was always tucked neatly inside “Charlotte” – the superstar netminder’s glove – between periods, to prepping a cup of ice for Scotty Bowman to chew on while drawing up championship-winning plays, Palchak was an unsung hero behind the bench.
“My time with him was short but he’s a guy who made you feel comfortable right away,” described former Habs winger Sergio Momesso, who spent three seasons with Palchak from 1985-86 to 1987-88. “There was never a feeling like ‘You’re a rookie – don’t ask me for so much because I have to take care of the stars first’ kind of thing. He was great with everyone.”
Look through any team photo with the Cup during Palchak’s time with the team and it’s almost impossible not to find one with the beloved trainer surrounded by smiling players.
“Eddy was one of the guys. He was such a loveable character,” explained Momesso, who won his only Stanley Cup as a member of the Canadiens in 1986. “You could joke with him and most importantly you could trust him. We really appreciated everything the trainers did for us. Every Christmas we’d all chip in money to give them a tip as a thank you.
“If we went to the playoffs, we’d get NHL shares for every round we won and we’d always give shares to the trainers,” he added. “They work so hard – we’d get in to the hotel late at night on a road trip and Eddy and the guys would head to the rink and unpack all the gear at 3:00 a.m. to make sure everything was perfect for practice the next day. We always wanted to make sure they knew we appreciated them. He was part of so many Stanley Cups and all those dynasty teams. He was one of the gang and part of the group even though he didn’t play. He was part of the family.”
After officially retiring in 2000, Palchak remained close with the organization, taking part in events, alumni games and imparting wisdom on readers as part of his popular “Ask Eddy” segment in CANADIENS magazine over the years. A man who spent 31 of the team’s 103 seasons to date with the organization, Palchak’s last public appearance as a member of the Canadiens was a fitting tribute to his illustrious career.
As part of the team’s Centennial Game celebrations, Palchak walked out of the players' tunnel in his vintage Habs jacket with a bucket full of pucks just as he had for so many years, all while chants of ‘Eddy! Eddy! Eddy!’ rang down from the Bell Centre faithful.
“It was funny because anytime I’d be walking in downtown Montreal with Eddy it was amazing how many people recognized him and were excited to see him,” described Gervais of his former mentor. “He just loved being around the team and the Centennial was special for him. I was right behind him on the bench that night so I could watch him. That was a great moment to see him walk out with the pucks like he always did – that’s something I’ll never forget.
“The Canadiens were his family and the team was his life. I’ll miss him a lot. He was a great guy with a big heart.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSO
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