If you’re from Canada, the Montreal Canadiens are still one of the National Hockey League’s respected franchises. This Original Six team owns more Stanley Cups than any other team and the franchise is a cultural icon north of the border.
Since defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic
(injured) and Jason Demers
(Worcester) are unavailable, San Jose will dress just one Quebec native: forward Torrey Mitchell
. The Greenfield Park, Quebec native may have gone to prep school and college in the United States, but his roots are firmly planted in Montreal.
“At Christmas or my birthday, the big present was to go to the Montreal Forum or the Molson Centre,” said Mitchell of going to one or two games a year. “You’d sit there and dream of playing for them.”
Mitchell will never forget a “brush” with Patrick Roy.
“I remember in the old Forum they had the four seats between the benches,” said Mitchell, who was about 10 at the time. “My brother, mom, dad and I sat between the two benches. Patrick Roy came out toward the ice and I jumped up and hit his shoulder. The security guard yelled at me.”
Another childhood memory was attending a game day morning skate.
“I went to a pregame skate and got to meet Saku Koivu,” Mitchell said. “He was injured and in the stands and I went and got his autograph. I was probably 12 or 13 and I was really nervous.
Mitchell will also have many friends and family staying up late in Quebec.
“There are a lot of family and friends back home,” Mitchell said. “It’s fun.”
There’s some irony in all of this. Mitchell’s parents are in San Jose visiting their son.
“It’s my dad’s spring break and my mom retired at Christmas,” Mitchell said.
Even for players without the Canadian background, playing an Original Six club is still a big deal.
“It’s an Original Six club, so it’s even more fun in their building,” American Joe Pavelski
said. “They have the history behind them.”
While his roots are in Quebec, Mitchell is like most who’ve come to the Bay Area to work, but soon realize what it’s like to live in Northern California.
“This is the best place to play,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell’s French has slipped over the years, so that left the French interviews solely up to defenseman Dan Boyle
. He’s from Ontario, but grew up near the Ontario-Quebec border and speaks excellent French.
He also enjoys getting to use the language, even if he is a bit rusty.
One other player hopes to soon assist with the French interviews down the road.
“I went to a French immersion school until grade nine,” rookie forward Jamie McGinn said. “We had to talk to our teachers in French, even if we were asking to go to the bathroom.”
However, he isn’t quite comfortable in front of the cameras yet.
“I haven’t used it in six years,” McGinn said. “I can understand it, but to say things back properly is hard. I’ve been thinking about taking an online course. I don’t think it will take me too long.”
He has been sneaking in a little French when he’s been in Worcester.
“(Defenseman) Samuel Groulx and Demers speak French all the time and I try to jump in,” McGinn said.
Defenseman Jay Leach was claimed off waivers from Montreal in December. He will be dressing and while he’s looking forward to playing his former team, he has to stay focused.
“I’ll just do the same thing I’ve been doing,” Leach said. “Just go out tonight like any other night.”
IT’S ALL IN THE PRESENTATION
When Patrick Marleau
’s name was announced in Vancouver upon winning the gold medal, it was given the French flavor that was likely the correct pronunciation generations ago. Marleau said he didn’t even notice in the euphoria of the moment.
THE 900 CLUB
Center Joe Thornton
will skate in his 900th NHL game Thursday night.
It looks like Coach Todd McLellan will start tonight’s game with the line combinations he finished with the last game. Thornton and Dany Heatley will be paired with Devin Setoguchi, while Marleau will center Pavelski and Manny Malhotra. Who takes the faceoffs for the second trio will depend on who’s on the strong side.
“The lefty on one side and the righty on the other,” McLellan said.
This morning’s pregame skate was attended by members of the Worcester Sharks Booster Club.
A RARE PAIR
It may have been in a quirky way, but San Jose’s loss to New Jersey on Tuesday, combined with their defeat in Buffalo prior to the Olympic Break, gave them two consecutive games without earning a point for the first time this season.
The Sharks will play hosts to Montreal tonight at 7:30. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.