It was quite a week for professional sports. Mario Lemieux, part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, announced his retirement from retirement. The legendary superstar will once again don the familiar number 66 and attempt to lead his employees, I mean teammates, to the Stanley Cup. A chap by the name of Alex Rodriguez signed himself a sweet little deal that will pay him the tidy sum of $252 million (U.S.) over ten years to, get this, play baseball. And, unknown to most of the world, the Montreal Canadiens traded forward P.J. Stock and a 6th round draft pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for the rugged Gino Odjick on Thursday,
December 7, coincidentally the same day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, but that’s another story.
It was quite a week for Odjick, the Vancouver Canuck’s fifth choice (86th overall) in the 1990 NHL entry draft. First he was traded to Montreal, then his wife gave birth. Gino is now the proud father of seven kids, and all this by the age of 30! Where does he find the time to play hockey? Odjick, from Maniwaki, Que., now has the opportunity to play for the once great franchise that he dreamed of playing for as a young boy. His acquisition doesn’t guarantee Montreal a playoff spot (unless he suddenly blossoms into a 30-40 goal scorer overnight), but he does bring his formidable physical presence to the team and he might even chip in a few goals here and there.
P.J. Stock is as game as anyone in the league, and backed down from no one, but due to injuries to other local tough guys like Enrico Ciccone, now retired after playing only three games in a Canadiens jersey. Stock, officially listed at 5’ 10″ and 190 pounds, was left with the unenviable task of doing battle with NHL heavyweights night after night. Odjick, at 6’3″ and 217 pounds, brings some much-needed size to a team that is struggling at just about every aspect of the game. It’s not that the Habs aren’t tough enough, they’re just not intimidating enough. In the past year we lost the services of Shayne Corson, Turner Stevenson, and Scott Thornton, three guys who brought a hard-nosed attitude to the rink every time they played. While it is true that size isn’t everything, it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Poor Gino. he might be playing for the dream team of his childhood years, but they’re looking more and more like a nightmare on skates. Odjick’s first shift against Ottawa last Saturday resulted in a penalty and. lo and behold, the Senators scored while the former Laval junior cooled off in the sin bin. The Habs went on to lose the game 4-2. and were outshot by an incredible 24-1 margin in the third period. The newest member of the Canadiens might as well get used to it, as there are many nights like that if you’re wearing the red, white, and blue these days.
Wednesday night’s tussle with Calgary, not exactly one of the league’s elite teams, provided fans with more of the same. Did I say fans? In fact, the announced attendance of 18,337, in a building that holds 21,273. was the smallest crowd at the Molson Centre since the Canadiens relocated there in 1996. There were also an estimated 3,000 empty seats due to no shows. The devoted who did bother to turn out. got to see Odjick nailed with a five minute penalty in the first period after laying a concussion on Flames defenseman Phil Housley. Calgary scored on the power play, and added another goal just six seconds after the penalty expired. “We had a 3-on-2 and Housley was hooking me from behind,” said Odjick. “I just swung my arm back to lose him. I don’t know where the ref got that five-minute penalty from. I barely brushed him.” Coach Michel Therrien laid the blame directly on the newest flab, suggesting that. “Gino’s penalty cost us two goals.”
While Odjick isn’t exactly off to a great start, it would be sheer madness to blame the team’s woes on him. How bad are the Habs right now? Well, let’s just say that they might do well to try and raise the spirits of Maurice Richard. Doug Harvey, and Jacques Plante from the grave to help right this sinking ship. With their track record in recent years they probably have a better chance of communicating with the dead than they do of scouting talent and drafting well. As for Gino, keep you chin up lad, it’ll get a helluva lot worse before it gets better.