MONTREAL – With a great season of hockey in the bank and a new northeast division banner to add to the collection, we took a look at a few current Habs who won titles, hoisted trophies and became champions long before taking their first strides in the NHL.
While it’s pretty rare to get the chance to play Junior hockey for your hometown team – and even rarer to win the Memorial Cup with that team the same year they’re selected to host the tournament – the Canadiens boast two players who have done exactly that. After Josh Gorges won the tourney in Kelowna as a member of the Rockets in 2004, forward Brandon Prust followed suit the next year, taking top honors at the tournament in 2005 in London, ON, as a member of the Knights.
After becoming an instant fan-favorite and making an immediate impact throughout the Montreal lineup in his first year with the Canadiens, Prust took a moment to revisit his Memorial Cup memories with the Knights and share his thoughts on what came together for his team during their epic championship run.
“I was playing for London back then, so I got to win in my hometown. Hoisting that trophy there is something that I’ll never forget – those were some fun times,” reminisced Prust, who after a strong season that saw him finish his OHL career with 111 points in 177 games, took the time to savor his Memorial Cup moment. “The final game when we beat Rimouski – that was probably the best experience. The whole run put together was great, but winning the Memorial Cup itself was pretty cool.”
|Brandon Prust with the London Knights |
Looking at what made his OHL championship team tick, Prust needed little time identifying the lessons he learned about what it takes to go all the way – whether you’re vying for the Memorial Cup or the Stanley Cup.
“We were an extremely team-oriented group,” recalled Prust, of the virtually unstoppable Knights of 2004-05 that set a record, going 29-0-2 for 31 games without a loss to finish the campaign 59-7-2. “We had a good group of guys and everybody knew their roles and their jobs. Everyone was on the same page, and we knew what it took to win.
“We also had some of the best players in the country at that time,” added Prust, of the team coached by Dale Hunter that included the likes of Dan Girardi, Dave Bolland and Corey Perry. “We had a little bit of everything. We had great goaltending. Our D was solid – we had some of the best pairings. We had a great team, we had skill, we had grit. Everybody was on the same page.”
Looking around the Canadiens’ dressing room following a late-season practice in Brossard, Prust had no difficulty drawing a few parallels between his London Knights squad and the group surrounding him in Montreal.
“We’ve got a little bit of everything here, too. That’s what you need – you need a little bit of everything, everybody going, everybody focused and everybody doing their jobs,” said Prust, who, with 14 points in 38 games in 2012-13, came up only three shy of his 17-point output in 82 games with the Rangers in 2011-12.
“We’ve got the goaltending, we’ve got the D, we’ve got the offensive-defensemen, we’ve got the defensive-defensemen. We’ve got the grit up front, we’ve got the speed and the skill,” he finished. “And, everybody plays physical, even our skill guys are playing physical. It’s good. We’re on the same page and everybody is buying into the system and fulfilling their roles. That’s a winning recipe.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
Memorial Cup memories: Josh Gorges
Memorial Cup memories: Colby Armstrong