General Manager Bob Gainey expressed concern Friday over published reports in Montreal that linked three of his players to an individual arrested in an organized crime investigation.
"I can only go on what I know today, and what I know today is not good. It's not good for our team. It does not reflect well on our team, it does not reflect well on the individuals. It cannot be extinguished as a possible inhibitor to our performance."
-- Canadiens' GM Bob Gainey
La Presse reported Friday that Pasquale Mangiola, who has been arrested on drug and weapons charges, has been acquainted with Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn
, two Montreal players. Sergei was recently sent to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League by Gainey in a series of hockey-related moves to help snap the team out of a slump. The paper reported the two Canadiens have been seen with Mangiola at Montreal bars and restaurants.
Also mentioned by La Presse was defenseman Roman Hamrlik
, who was said to have been acquainted with Mangiola.
"We're very concerned, we're very concerned," Gainey said at a Friday afternoon press conference. "Because we know that this person who became involved with these players isn't the only person who wants to find a place to enter the inner area of the hockey team.
"We turn people away every day and it could be a sports psychologist, masseuses. It can be somebody with any kind of program that wants to find a way inside to the team and have access not only to the players, but the Montreal Canadiens
as an organization."
Mangiola was arrested last week and the police are said to have tape recorded phone conversations between Mangiola and the players.
As of Friday afternoon, Montreal police officials had no comment on the La Presse report, noting the ongoing investigation.
Gainey also was at a loss for some of the details, but was not pleased with the developments
"I can only go on what I know today, and what I know today is not good," he said. "It's not good for our team. It does not reflect well on our team, it does not reflect well on the individuals. It cannot be extinguished as a possible inhibitor to our performance."
Montreal has struggled since hosting the NHL All-Star Game last month and sits in sixth position in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games and fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins
Thursday night, 5-4.
In addition to sending Sergei Kostitsyn
to the minors, Gainey told veteran winger Alex Kovalev
to remain home during the team's road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh. The Canadiens also made a trade with Atlanta, acquiring veteran defenseman Mathieu Schneider
"I'm not naïve," Gainey told reporters Friday. "I played, I was around, it was a different generation and a different time, but when a player does not arrive to perform at his maximum because of his own making he really lets his teammates down."
Gainey said he addressed the team as a whole Friday.
"I have not spoken to those three players individually," Gainey said. "I spoke to the players in general about the articles in the paper today and lifestyle and decisions about people, acquaintances and choices.
"They have to make strong choices, stronger choices," Gainey said. "We've upped the message and we've upped the intensity.
"We've made the players aware that this is not the kind of conduct that is part of people in our organization and for them individually as young athletes, as professionals who are trying to attain their goals, that they have to make stronger choices than the person beside them."
Gainey continued while addressing the media: "There are also not good people, who are looking for either trophy friends or the possibility of being close to somebody who earns a million dollars plus, young people who are still developing their ability to reason, take in information, some of them could still be in high school."