Picture if you will a place where hockey is talked about day in and day out.
A place where newly drafted soon-to-be superstars high-five you for being hockey fans going into a bar.
A place where an NHL head coach could charm the pants off of just about any woman he wants to in the bar while he’s just as hammered as you are and you’re stuck standing around in awe of the whole scenario unfolding in front of you.
A place where 10 year-olds have no fear, ignore their grandparents and approach a group of hockey-centric strangers just to heckle a Bruins fan.
A place where out amongst the late night drunken revelers, loud and animated discussions about John Tavares erupt out of the blue.
A place where an inebriated 4:30 AM trip to McDonalds turns into a mind-blowing experience when you realize said McDonalds is across the street from what used to be the Montréal Forum.
A place where running into everyone you’ve ever cited or made fun of in the hockey blog world convenes to share a beer or twelve together.
This is what Montréal was during NHL Draft weekend. Part surreal, part unreal, completely incredible.
I’ll say this about Montréal:
It’s a city I loved before making this trip. I’d been there a few times before and had some incredible times up there and the city has always left an indelible mark on my memory for about a thousand different reasons.
This time will go down as one of the most incredible experiences for me because not only was this about being somewhat immersed in the middle of the madness that is the NHL Draft, but it also helped that it doubled as an end of the year convention for those of us in the “alternative” hockey media.
Oh sure, most of us may not have press passes and we may be playing the role of angry columnist at times (OK all the time over here), but anywhere you went in downtown Montreal this past weekend had hockey going on with it.
If you were out to grab a beer at a local tavern, you might run into some front office guys from an NHL team.
Need to get some dinner in Old Montreal? You might see folks from the Penguins stroll down the street with the Stanley Cup, much the way some of the other NHL Tweet Up folks did on Saturday night.
Going to Peel Pub to soak in the frat boy type of nightlife? Downstairs you might get high-fived by a celebrating Kyle Palmieri or you could head upstairs and see Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski among others.
That’s just a sample of how things went down and, even still, there was more going on than all of that. I don’t need to break down how the picks went or the backroom nonsense that was going on or any of that, you’ll find enough about all of that elsewhere.
What I can say is that I’m glad I’m NOT in Montréal now after the announcement of the Christopher Higgins trade to the Rangers for Scott Gomez that also, seemingly, included the Canadiens top defensive prospect Ryan McDonagh.
The reaction to this deal, for Montréal fans has been, to put it lightly, hysterical. Not the funny kind of hysterical but the manic, crazed and angry kind of hysterical. For a good example of what it’s like to be a dyed in the wool fan of Les Habitents, check this thread at Hockey’s Future that reads like an Internet car crash turned into rally with pitchforks and torches. As of this writing, the thread based on this deal alone was up to 35 pages.
Now take folks like that and put them all in one city and have them dialed into what goes on with the hometown team 24/7. That’s Montréal. Hockey all day, every day.
Heaven… I just don’t speak the language in heaven is all. Well, the main language anyhow.
This kind of seemingly moronic deal sets the table quite nicely for the NHLs National Day of Insanity: The start of free agency.
We’ve already seen one highly-dubious contract handed out to Dave Bolland of the Blackhawks for five years and $3.375 million per year. He’s on the young side, but he also notched a mere 47 points last year. The Blackhawks are banking on Bolland improving and making this deal into a bargain in future seasons.
Yeah, good luck on that.
Adding this to the dubious Rangers-Habs trade today you can see why I look forward to this each year, it’s just funny that Glen Sather is on the positive end of the spectrum this time around. Perhaps he’ll give an asinine contract to Christopher Higgins (a restricted free agent) to make up for it and we can mock him endlessly once again.
Bizarre part about this deal for Montreal is that they had oodles of cap space to work with and instead lock themselves into having Gomez as their top centerman, essentially kiss captain Saku Koivu goodbye and take themselves out of the running for the Sedin twins since Gomez is due over $7 million a year on the cap until forever.
Like I said: Seemingly and most likely a terrible development for the Habs.
For the Rangers, it’s an interesting start and one that’s rumored to continue into a deal for Senators winger Dany Heatley sooner than later. Should that happen, well, perhaps the Rangers will realize that they dealt the wrong centerman to Montreal as Gomez would work quite well dishing off to Heatley.
Chris Drury? Not so much…
All of this though is just the appetizer for July 1st. I’ll be doing a lot of snap judgments through the day tomorrow on Twitter, so follow along with me as idiocy runs wild.