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Canada loonie for Habs, Lidstrom gets cut

by Phil Coffey

A few random thoughts as we count the days to the All-Star Game in Montreal.

A very big deal -- There are certain signs that you’re a big deal -- you know, being able to get into a popular restaurants or score primo tickets to a concert.

But when a country like Canada is minting a dollar coin with your logo on it, well friends, you are a very big deal. And that is exactly what is going to happen this season as the Montreal Canadiens celebrate 100 seasons. The club announced a long list of special events for their centennial season Wednesday, and having the club’s distinctive logo minted on a dollar coin -- known as a "Loonie" -- is one very cool part of the program.

Approximately 10 million Canadian dollar coins honoring the Habs will be struck by the Royal Canadian Mint and issued for circulation.

"I think it's because of that history and the sacrifices that so many people made that we have the privilege of being able to go to the government of Canada and ask if they would stamp a particular coin for us in honor of our centennial year, or that they would come up with a stamp program," Canadiens owner George Gillett said. "This is a hockey club, and to have that kind of respect is pretty amazing."


In addition to the coin, other highlights of the Canadiens' centennial plans include 4 million centennial stamps issued by Canada Post, a series of 12 Centennial Jersey nights featuring throwback sweaters from the club’s early days, a variety of commemorative DVD box sets, a special edition of Monopoly and a set of 200 Upper Deck legends hockey cards, as well as an all-time Canadiens team in EA Sports' NHL 2009 video game.

The Canadiens also will unveil a "Ring of Honor," a rinkwide mural honoring the team's 44 Hall of Famers, at the Bell Centre during its season opener on Oct. 15.

Coaching legends Dick Irvin, Toe Blake and Scotty Bowman will be saluted Oct. 28, and Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy's No. 33 will be retired Nov. 22. The Canadiens also will host the 57th NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25 and the league's entry draft at the end of June.

Rough Night in Motown – The Detroit Red Wings hit the ice for the first time since they carried off the Stanley Cup.

Unfortunately, there was more carrying done last night, but there were no celebrations.

Montreal defenseman Mathieu Carle was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a first-period collision with Wings forward Tomas Kopecky. Carle was knocked unconscious by the hit, but was in better shape when he arrived at the hospital.

"He was awake when he went to the hospital," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau told reporters. "We gave him a couple of quick tests and he was fine, and he's going back with us."

There was another scare in the third period when All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom was hit above the right eye with a shot puck. He suffered a cut on his face, and was taken to the hospital for X-rays, which revealed a broken nose. The Wings announced the six-time Norris Trophy winner would miss at least the next three preseason games.

"He's got a broken nose, but everything is fine," Wings coach Mike Babcock told the team's Web site. "He got hit in the head with a puck, so he wasn't feeling fine and he didn’t even come to the rink. He'll be back tomorrow and be rolling in no time."

The Canadiens won the game in a shootout, 3-2, with Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov scoring the lone goal in the penalty-shot contest.

Darth Gerber? – Ottawa Senators goalie Martin Gerber will be sporting some new headgear this season, and the theme will delight kids and science fiction fans everywhere.

According to TSN, Gerber plans to ditch the all-black mask he used last season, and which earned him the nickname “Darth Gerber,” and jump right into the Star Wars theme, with the villainous Darth Vader on the mask.

Gerber, who only recently began watching Star Wars, told TSN he wasn't sure if he would be wearing the mask during the regular season.

"We'll see," he said. "I'm going to try it over the next few days and see how it goes. It (the design) was more from Itech. We thought it was an interesting subject to put on, while still being dark and not too flashy. I think it was a really good design."


On the comeback trail –
Speaking of villains -- just kidding Pepe -- there is talk that Claude “Pepe” Lemieux is contemplating a comeback.

Lemieux, 43, told RDS that he wants come back to the NHL, apparently inspired by Lance Armstrong’s return to cycling.

“It's pretty obvious the majority of people are going to think I'm crazy, but I miss being on the rink ... you only have one life and if you feel it in your heart and in your head, you have to try,” Lemieux told the network from his home in Arizona.

Lemieux made his announcement among old friends, being interviewed by former Canadiens coach Jacques Demers and former teammate Benoit Brunet, who are RDS analysts.

Lemieux scored 379 goals and 785 points in 1,197 NHL regular-season games with the Canadiens, Devils, Avalanche, Coyotes and Stars. He gained a reputation as a strong playoff performer, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s MVP in 1995. For his career, Lemieux scored 80 goals in 233 playoff games.

Singing the Blues – You just have to feel terrible for St. Louis Blues defenseman Erik Johnson, who is expected to miss the entire 2008-09 season after tearing two ligaments in his right knee in a freak accident.

"In our business you get a few curveballs," Blues President John Davidson understated. "This is a pretty good curveball."

Johnson, 20, was injured during a team golf outing Sept. 16, when his right foot got caught between the accelerator and the brake of his golf cart. The Blues had to wait for swelling in the knee to go down before a diagnosis could be made.

Two surgeons determined that Johnson tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the knee, which will require an operation to fix.

Davidson said the swelling in Johnson's knee must subside before surgery will take place. Davidson said Johnson isn't expected to play this season, but would have a "100 percent" recovery, so at least that’s good news.

Johnson played in 69 games last season as a rookie, totaling 5 goals and 28 assists. He is considered the centerpiece of the team's youth movement.

"To say Erik is distraught would be using a kind word," Davidson said. "He feels responsible, but we told him we're still with him. He's still going to be a big part of our team.

"We still have our same goals. We're going to get up tomorrow and think about winning. You have to be able to adapt."



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