BROSSARD – After a tough run with the Maple Leafs, Colby Armstrong has his sights set on a comeback season with the Canadiens.
For Colby Armstrong, inking a one-year deal with the Habs also meant swapping sides in one of the longest standing rivalries in NHL history. Luckily for the gritty winger, there weren’t many mixed emotions involved – he’ll be joining the side he’s wanted to be on since his first days as a hockey fan.
“It’s really a dream come true for me. I’ve always been a fan of the Canadiens,” shared Armstrong, during a phone call from his Saskatoon home. “I don’t even remember how it all started. Over the course of my career, though, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some cool moments, getting to play with guys like Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Lyle Odelein. I also got to play against Kirk Muller when he was coaching, which was amazing for me because he was always my favorite player growing up.”
With a childhood spent in Saskatoon surrounded by Flames, Oilers and even Jets fans, rooting for the Habs wasn’t always the most socially acceptable choice for a kid.
“I was on my own a bit in that regard, for sure. My brother got on board a little though, and we both became members of the Canadiens Fan Club at the same time,” explained Armstrong, also pointing out that more than a few closeted Habs fans have shown their true colors since his signing in Montreal. “After getting picked up by the Canadiens, I’ve been finding out that there are a lot more Habs fans than I knew about in my area… and they’re all my friends.”
Hooking up with the Canadiens will also give the 29-year-old winger the chance to work with a certain head coach who played a major role in his introduction into the NHL.
“Michel Therrien was my coach in the minors for a few years and then again when I was playing in Pittsburgh. I’ve known him for a pretty long time, and I know what his style of coaching is all about,” said Armstrong, who’s played 41% of his games in the NHL under the direction of the Habs’ current bench boss. “I know that he can be extremely demanding and hard to please at times. But I know what to expect and I know he’ll help bring out my best game. It’s a great fit for me.”
In 2012, Armstrong laced up for only 29 games with the Maple Leafs, repeatedly being shelved by injuries including a concussion sustained in December in addition to an ankle injury.
“I had some pretty bad luck. I’d never dealt with injuries before my two seasons in Toronto. I’m hoping that this change of scenery will help put that behind me. One door closes, and another one opens – knock on wood… a lot of wood,” he added, after seeing the last year of his contract bought out by the Maple Leafs on June 30, 2012.
“My Twitter account has already blown up with people taunting me and calling me a traitor,” continued Armstrong, otherwise known as @armdog in the Twitterverse. “I’m enjoying it though. Like I said, my time in Toronto didn’t really go according to plan. I think the decision to come to Montreal couldn’t have been a better one for me.”
Armstrong will do double-duty this summer, splitting his time between prepping for his 2012-13 debut in the bleu-blanc-rouge, while also prepping his two-year-old son to be as big of a Habs fan as he was.
“He absolutely loves hockey. He’s ready to be a Habs superfan this season – we’re working on it already. He’s singing a lot of songs with ‘Habs’ in them right now,” laughed Armstrong. “At that age, they’re pretty easy to influence. Now all that’s left to do is switch out his Leafs mini-stick for a Habs one.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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