When the Predators travel to Montreal to take on the Canadiens for the first time since Dec. 18, 2003 on Saturday night, it will be a homecoming of sorts for a pair of Quebec natives. Both J.P. Dumont and Martin Gelinas grew up in the Montreal area, so with family and friends in attendance the trip is sure to be a memorable one.
“It is always special when you have a chance to go play back home, and for me it is even more special since I am from Montreal directly,” Dumont said. “I will have a lot of friends and family at the game and it will give me a chance to see them as well.”
With the National Hockey League going to a schedule with more emphasis on divisional rivalries starting in 2005-06, it is the lone opportunity for a reunion this season. Prior to signing with Nashville in the summer of 2006, Dumont played with Buffalo, who like Montreal, resides in the Northeast Division, making trips home quite routine. In his first seven seasons in the league, Dumont racked up 19 points in 27 contests against his hometown team. But, with trips home now a rarity, the ticket requests are still coming in.
“I am still counting the ticket requests, but it is just once a year so I am trying to get my close friends and family to the game,” Dumont said. “We also get the chance to be there a day earlier, instead of being in and out, so I’ll get to spend some time with him.
Though he didn’t grow up right in the heart of the city like his teammate, Gelinas still cherishes every trip to his home and native land, and unlike Dumont who was a Quebec Nordiques fan, Gelinas bled the “bleu, blanc et rouge” of the Canadiens.
“I grew up watching the Habs, and there is a lot of tradition and players I cheered for over the years that played in there,” Gelinas said. “Also, everyone in Montreal and Quebec love hockey and they will be watching and into it. It is always fun to play in that atmosphere.”
Similar to his teammate, Gelinas signed with Nashville after playing for Florida, an Eastern Conference team, so he went from regular trips, to one every three seasons – the Shawinigan, Quebec native played 47 games against the Canadiens, notching 19 points from 1988-2007.
“It makes it even more special now with the new schedule,” he said. “You only go there once so you have to make the best of it. It will be a fun few days.”
The memories run rampant for both players when thinking about the old Canadien dynasties of their childhoods and games at the historic Montreal Forum, but each had their own unique recollection that sticks out.
For Dumont, it was as a wide-eyed kid:
“When I was about 12 years old playing peewee, our team got picked to represent the Canadiens at a big tournament in Quebec City. We had a chance to practice and have a skills competition day with the team, and I had a breakaway against Patrick Roy in front of a sold-out Forum. I didn’t score, but I still have the picture and it is something special I’ll always remember.”
Gelinas, meanwhile, was lucky enough to capture a piece of the Forum’s aura which still graces his house today:
“My favorite player was Guy Lafleur. When they tore down the old Forum, I had the option so I bought a seat autographed by Lafleur. On my thousandth game, he also called and left a message on my phone which was special. I have a lot of good memories of the Forum.”