Guy Behind the Guy: Match des Etoiles
Keep checking this page now through Sunday for a behind-the-scenes look at the game and the Montreal Canadiens' centennial celebration. Use the form below each entry to contact Mike with questions and comments.
As always, you can also comment and discuss with fellow Caniacs on our message boards.
Au Revoir Montreal
Jan. 26, 9:10 a.m., Montreal/Trudeau Airport
All seemed right in Montreal last night. The Eastern Conference won in an exciting shootout. The game's biggest star, Alex Ovechkin shined again, netting the shootout goal to seal the deal. And the hometown hero scored two goals in regulation and one in the shootout to earn MVP honors. The words you heard an awful lot when leaving the Bell Centre last night were, "You couldn't have written it any better."
There was one last official party last night, as Versus hosted a post-game bash at the nightclub "Opera" in Montreal. Needless to say, after all the games and parties, there were plenty of tired eyes checking out of hotels in Quebec this morning. Despite the weather, it was clear that Montreal was an excellent host for the league's premier weekend, as the entire city opened its arms to hockey people from around the globe.
As for our own All-Star, Eric will head to New York city this afternoon, where he'll meet the rest of the Canes. The team practices in Raleigh later today before flying to the Big Apple, where the Hurricanes play the Rangers on Tuesday night. Back to the grind.
If you missed Eric's interview with Adam Gold and Joe Ovies on 850 The Buzz last night, you can hear it here.
See you on Thursday night, when the Canes host the Lightning at the RBC Center.
Comments for Mike?
The Goal Streak Lives
Jan. 25, 9:45 p.m., Bell Centre
Staal's first-period tally extended his All-Star goal streak to three games, as the Canes star has now found the back of the net during All-Star games in Dallas, Atlanta and Montreal.
After the game, Staal was able to escape the media crunch just a little quicker than he could last year. Which is a good thing, since his locker was directly next to this year's MVP, Alexei Kovalev. (At least Eric managed to keep the MVP award on his own line).
He did, however have to sign some autographs, as a number of his teammates had their sticks and jerseys signed either for their own personal use or to auction for their personal charities.
I grabbed some quick sound with Eric after the game, which you can hear here.
You can also hear an interview that Joe Ovies and Adam Gold did with Staal tomorrow morning at 7:03 a.m. during 850 The Buzz's morning radio show.
Jan. 25, 9:05 p.m., Bell Centre
This is the scene outside the Canadiens' locker room right now, as the crowd full of media and team P.R. people await the shootout.
Eat your heart out, Part II
Jan. 25, 7:05 p.m., Bell Centre Media Lounge
I am probably at risk of being accused of talking about food too much today, but I had to take a second to pay tribute to the Montreal Canadiens' press room hot dogs.
As the press meal at the RBC Center is famous for its impressive spreads and Carolina barbecue, the media lounge at the Bell Centre is renowned for its hot dogs, which come made-to-order and wrapped in fresh toast. I have seen media and visiting team personnel knock back entirely too many hot dogs here on many occasions, and I certainly can't claim innocence in that regard. The hot dogs are not only available during the pre-game press meal, they continue to be cooked up throughout the game, so one can devour them at each intermission.
Knowing no visit to the Bell Centre would be complete without one of these tasty treats, I made my way to the press lounge during the first period with hot dogs on my mind. I know one certain former beat writer would appreciate that effort.
You have to figure Alex Kovalev is the early favorite to take home Eric Staal's MVP award this year, though there's a lot of hockey left to play. My personal pre-game pick, that fellow who wears number 8 for the East, is still in the mix as well.
Jan. 25, 5:45 p.m., Bell Centre
I didn't see who the culprit was, but one of the Western Conference stars managed to shatter the glass directly behind the West's net during pre-game warmups. The shattered glass held in place for the rest of the warmups, allowing the Western starts to complete their warmups. Then the Bell Centre staff sprung to action to put in a new pane before pre-game introductions got going.
Enjoy the game!
Eat Your Heart Out, Paul Branecky
Jan. 25, 3:15 p.m., Harvey's
Fresh off a two-hour meeting with PR employees from the National Hockey League and the majority of its member clubs, I was feeling the need to satisfy both my hunger and my need for warmth during the walk back to my own hotel. As Caniac Matt had so kindly encouraged me to keep warm by eating "hot grits," I stopped at Harvey's to pick up some local fare to meet the same ends.
As I mentioned earlier, Poutine is basically french fries smothered in melted cheese and hot gravy. I am not sure whether Harvey's truly represents the pinnacle of poutine goodness, but it is sure hitting the spot right now.
11:45 a.m., Sofitel
Eric had just a couple media obligations this morning, each of which were taking place at his hotel here in downtown Montreal. Many of the rightsholding networks try to grab as many of the players as they can during All-Star Weekend, with so many of the league's premier players gathered in one place.
This particular shoot was with TSN, who is putting together a lot of their materials for their Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage. As a player who has raised the Cup, Eric was an ideal target to have speak to the difficulties of winning a championship in hockey. As always, Eric was a pro during the shoot, experienced enough to understand what the director wanted him to do and get pretty much everything done in a take or two.
He has one other shoot for the NHLPA in just a little bit, and then he should be pretty much free until the Eastern Conference bus heads to the Bell Centre this afternoon.
Mel's Cite du Cinema
Jan. 25 8:30 a.m., Sheraton
The venue for the NHL's Saturday night party was an interesting spot. On the river not far from downtown Montreal, the gala was held at Mel's Cite du Cinema. It's basically a set of gigantic sound stages for the filming of major motion pictures. Each of the rooms in which the party was held highlighted a film created at the Cite du Cinema, including The Aviator, The Day After Tomorrow and The Mummy
The servers all went along with the theme as well, dressing as characters or extras from the movies featured in their areas. And guests were invited to sit down for a hair cut or to have their makeup done in the "Green Room," which also offered costume changes for those in attendance. It was definitely a little different type of venue for a celebration that large - an area that was big enough to host what had to be well over a thousand guests, but still had its very own flavor and character.
I also thought the signs for the washrooms at the party were pretty clever, and had to snap a shot with my phone.
All-Star Sunday will get going with a little business for the P.R. guy, as I head down the street to the Queen Elizabeth for a meeting with P.R. folks from across the league and the NHL office. Just a reminder that the NHL's 57th All-Star Game starts at 6 p.m. this evening, and will be televised in the U.S. by Versus.
The Big Man Comes Through
Jan. 24 10:30 p.m., Bell Centre
Probably the most electric moment of tonight’s Superskills competition came with the conclusion of the Hardest Shot contest, courtesy of the man our own John Forslund calls the “largest in captivity.” Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who stands 6’9’’, made good on his guarantee to win the contest in a big way, breaking Al Iafrate’s 16-year-old record with a 105.4-mph slapshot. With the blast, he not only turned the boo’s that the Canadiens’ fans had greeted their rival player with into cheers, he also earned $24,000 for a charity very dear to his heart.
Jan. 24, 7:55 p.m., Bell Centre
The one star you can't really appreciate on television tonight is probably the new JumboTron at the Bell Centre. Installed prior to this season, the 25'x 40' high-definition screen adds an exclamation point to the Canadiens' in-game production, which was already a cut above all others in the NHL (and any other sporting event I have ever been to).
He plays for our biggest rival, but it is hard not to love what Alexander Ovechkin brings to our sport. From the excitement of what he can do physically on the ice to the joy that his personality adds to the game, I think Ovechkin is the game's biggest star. My favorite quote of the day came from Mr. Overchkin on the red carpet:
"Every year is better and better with more people coming. More girls coming too."
Enjoy the rest of the Superskills Competition.
Jan. 24 4:15 p.m., Old Montreal
I guess it is sort of sad to think about the fact that we travel to all of these great cities all season long and never really have the time to really see the cities - or at to see the cities as the average tourist may see them. With a few free hours this afternoon, Mrs. GBTG and I headed down to Old Montreal to play tourist.
Though some of the sites in Old Montreal are closed this time of year, since not many people pick January as the time to journey through its cobblestone streets, we were able to see City Hall and Bonsecours Market before ducking inside for lunch in a café on Place Jacques-Cartier. We then winded down Rue Saint-Paul, home to eateries, galleries and hotels that I am sure are quite lively in the summer months.
Ultimately we made it to the landmark that I would guess is one the most visited around town, the Notre-Dame Basilica. Built in the 19th century, the Gothic Revival church is a pretty impressive structure inside and out, and worth the $5 even if just to get out of the cold. I am sure Larry O. would have organ envy if he caught sight of the Basilica's organ, with its 7,000 pipes.
I also wanted to answer one quick question from a special Caniac named Matt back in Raleigh. Matt was wondering what folks eat here in Montreal to stay warm, as he would enjoy "hot grits" on North Carolina. One Canadian delicacy that would surely warm the stomach is "poutine," which you can see a sign for in this picture Rue Saint-Paul. Poutine is basically fries smothered in hot gravy and melted cheese. I will try to snap a photo of some poutine at some point, if for no other reason than to make CarolinasHurricanes.com Webmaster Paul Branecky jealous.
Just a reminder that the Red Carpet Arrivals show is being broadcast live from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. on the NHL Network, or streaming live right here on CarolinaHurricanes.com. The Honda/NHL Superskills starts at 7 p.m. and is on Versus in the United States.
Jan. 24 12:30 p.m., Sheraton
I am back at the hotel thawing out, fresh from the Eastern Conference practice and what would normally seem like a short walk back to the hotel. Amazing how -2° F (-21° F wind chill) can make a five-minute walk seem like a 50-minute one.
But the weather is not the reason they picked Montreal to host an All-Star Game. What happened during this morning's practices put that explanation on full display, as a pretty much jam-packed house showed up at the Bell Centre. For a practice. No hot young music act playing to increase the attendance, just the 50 or so greatest hockey players in the world going for a light morning spin around the Bell Center ice. And it was loud, really loud. Again - for a practice.
Eric got some attention as always during the media scrum after the practice, and I grabbed some sound with my BlackBerry as he addressed reporters from TSN, Sportsnet, the USA Today, CTV and others. After fielding a few questions about fighting in the game, he had a chance to talk about the crowd at the Bell Centre and the honor (honour, as they spell it here) of playing in his third consecutive All-Star Game.
During my five-minute walk back to the hotel, I walked past the gigantic tent where the league's "Jamboree" is set up. The Jamboree is like a Fan Fest, with interactive activities and games for fans to enjoy in celebration of the All-Star weekend here. Our boy is prominently displayed on the tent itself, with a gigantic image just to the right of the main entrance.
Lining the street adjacent to the Jamboree are the jerseys of all 30 NHL teams, frozen in gigantic blocks of ice. Clearly, there is little concern that the ice will melt.
"We throw the torch"
Jan. 24 10:50 a.m., Bell Centre
One advantage of an Eastern city hosting the All-Star Game is that our players get to use the home team locker room. It's taboo for those of us who work for the team to go into the home team's locker room when we are on the road, so we don't often to get to see how other teams are set up. But today Eric Staal's gear hung directly next to hometown hero's Alexei Kovalev's, affording us an opportunity to check out the Habs' digs.
The Canadiens' dressing room at the Bell Centre is built to look and feel a lot like their old room in the Montreal Forum. On one end of the room, the Montreal Canadiens logo is flanked by wooden panels featuring the rosters of every Canadiens' team in history, along with that season's result. The carpet covering the middle of the room is a replica of the ice rink. A marble slab in the room indicates every trophy individual winner in Habs history.
But perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the room is a line of poetry. On either side of the room, black-and-white photos of every single former Canadiens player who is now enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame line the space above the players' stalls. Above those photos are words from a poem by John McCrae, posted in English on one side and French on the other. In English, the words read:
"TO YOU FROM FAILING HANDS WE THROW THE TORCH BE YOURS TO HOLD IT HIGH"
The words are from McCrae's poem, "In Flanders Fields," composed during World War I. McCrae, a Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel, wrote it on May 3, 1915, after witnessing the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, the day prior. In the poem, McCrae refers to the poppies that grew in the Belgium field where war casualties had been buried, and thus poppies have grown into a popular symbol for the Canadian holiday, Remembrance Day (You have probably noticed hockey coaches wearing poppies on their lapel pins around that holiday each season). A portion of the poem is also on the Canadian $10 bill.
Former Montreal Canadiens' General Manager Frank Selke was a fan of poetry. In 1952, he chose the line from "In Flanders Field" to be posted in the Habs dressing room to inspire his own troops. The slogan became a permanent fixture in Canadiens' history, and made the move with the team into the Bell Centre, where it is displayed appropriately above the photos of the greatest players to wear Habs colors.
I just heard the sad news out of Raleigh today. My condolences to the entire Wolfpack family and anyone whose life has been touched by Kay Yow, and I know that means an awful lot of people. She was truly a special woman.
Bag Arrives / Hockey News Party
Jan. 24, 8:45 a.m.
All’s well that ends well with the luggage situation, as my Hurricanes team-issued Reebok duffel bag found its way to our hotel last night. As much as I would have enjoyed a Ste-Catharines Street shopping trip this morning, I nonetheless exhaled a sigh of relief upon being reunited with my packed clothing. As for the $15 I paid to check that bag…
Last night’s party was lovely, as guests including All Stars past and present enjoyed an evening out compliments of The Hockey News. The venue was decorated with gigantic, blown-up covers of The Hockey News, the publication whose primary focus has been our sport for the past 62 years. Among the covers featured was the one pictured here, which not only displayed Canadiens great Patrick Roy, but also a certain Buffalo Sabres netminder who is now a member of our coaching staff.
Beyond gigantic Hockey News covers, the venue also included bars made completely out of ice (I wouldn’t suggest sitting your diet coke on one of these bars – I saw at least half a dozen people make this mistake), a faux JumbTron projecting BlackBerry advertisements, and the most famous trophy in sports. There were also ice-carved replicas of the Cup on display, but clearly the real thing was, as it tends to be, the featured attraction.
In just a couple hours, Eric will take to the ice at the Bell Centre for the first time this weekend, as the Eastern Conference All-Stars practice beginning at 11 a.m. Staal and his teammates will head back to the Bell Centre this evening around 5 p.m. for their “red carpet” arrivals prior to this evening’s Superskills Competition (The NHL Network will air the “Red Carpet Show” tonight from 4-5:30 p.m., and live streaming video will also be on this Web site). The Honda NHL Superskills will be broadcast live on Versus tonight at 7 p.m.
Jan. 23, 6:00 p.m.
I just wanted to check in quickly before my wife and I head out to dinner. With a busy couple nights ahead, tonight will be pretty much our only chance to get out and have a nice dinner together. We also may swing by the big Friday night party here, which is hosted by The Hockey News.
Hurricanes fan Danielle chimed in to ask what events Eric Staal is participating in for the tomorrow night’s Superskills competition. My understanding is that Eric actually will not be in any individual events this year – he will be a part of the various relay events Saturday night, including the Elimination Shootout. As for the events Eric won’t be a part of, I definitely think the Breakaway Challenge is one to keep an eye on. I would be surprised if Alex Ovechkin didn’t have a few tricks up his sleeve for tomorrow night, after wowing the crowd in Atlanta with a near-miss last year.
I also wanted to wish our own Anne Nelson all the best as she moves on to the next stage of her career, leaving the Hurricanes after more than a decade. Anne is a true Hurricanes old-schooler, one of the few left who remembers what our offices in Morrisville looked like or that the fourth floor of the RBC Center (ESA) used to be the sixth floor. It’s always tough to see a friend and co-worker say goodbye, especially when it was someone who has been around as long as Anne has – someone who understands the commitment it takes to work in our industry for that long. Sorry I missed the going-away party today, Anne. All the best to you and your beautiful family.
And for those of you interested, WRALsportsfan.com has a feature up today about the Triangle’s prospects of hosting the NHL All-Star Game, perhaps even as soon as 2012. Along with the feature story, there are audio interviews with the RBC Center’s Davin Olsen and Hurricanes Director of Defenseman Development Glen Wesley.
Jan. 23, 5:45 p.m.
After a slight delay at the airport – our bags didn’t quite make it from the Raleigh-Chicago plane to our Chicago-Montreal plane – our pair of Hurricanes staffers finally arrived in downtown Montreal. Only Hockey Ops specialist Mari Jeter and I are representing the Hurricanes front office at the All-Star Weekend this winter, though Hurricanes CEO/Owner/Governor Peter Karmanos is also here to attend the Board of Governors meeting.
Upon arrival, I went directly to the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, where the Eastern Conference All-Stars’ media availability was already underway. The Queen Elizabeth has serious significance in the hockey world – it is where the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft was held between 1963 and 1979. When I arrived, our own Eric Staal was already busy charming media folks from all over the world. Sharing a table with New Jersey Devils star Zach Parise, Eric fielded questions from media outlets including The Hockey News, E! Canada, CBC Radio, TSN, The Score, ESPN and many others. He also sat down for another live interview on XM Radio, joining XM alongside Boston Bruins netminder Tim Thomas.
After snapping a few fashion-style photos with Getty Images, Eric completed the official access period around 4 p.m., slipping into a waiting room for the Eastern All-Stars where he and Sidney Crosby had an opportunity to discuss their game against each other three days ago. It is always neat to see the greatest players on the planet relate to each other on a personal level, away from the stresses and pressures of the NHL regular-season grind.
The Hurricanes PR guy then made Eric jump on the phone for a few interviews back home in Raleigh – speaking with 99.9 The Fan’s Mark Thomas and Scott Jackson, WTVD’s Kerith Burke and 850 The Buzz’s David Glenn. After that, Eric was finally released to enjoy the bitterly cold Montreal evening with his lovely wife, Tanya.
Jan. 23, 2009
7:55 a.m. RDU Airport
We're sitting in the beautiful new Terminal 2 at RDU Airport, waiting for the first flight of our two-leg journey to Montreal, which will take us through Chicago's O'Hare Airport. This is actually my first time in the new Raleigh terminal, since most of my flights out of here are obviously with the team charter. I definitely think the new terminal does a better job of featuring our local flavor. I especially enjoyed this wall at the Carolina Ale House's Terminal 2 location
The reason I am blogging from the airport isn't neccesarily to comment on the interior decorating of eating establishments here, it's actually to throw in a few media alerts. Most importantly, since it will happen before I get to Montreal, Eric Staal will be on NHL Live today at 12:30 p.m. The live show is broadcasting from the Jamboree, the fan-oriented festival next to the Bell Centre in Montreal this weekend. Eric will be calling in to talk with Bill Clement and Don LaGreca, and you can hear the interview on XM Radio's NHL Home Ice channel or on television on the NHL Network. I should be getting an audio file of the interview later today, which web guru Paul Branecky should be able to post here.
Also, Eric will be calling in to two local Raleigh sports talk shows this afternoon, during the Eastern Conference All-Stars' media access period this afternoon. The media access happens from 2:30-4 at a hotel in Montreal, so I would expect his interviews with 99.9 FM's Insiders and 850 The Buzz's David Glenn will each air during the 3-4 p.m. hour.
Eric actually arrived in Montreal last night, since he has a few obligations this morning in Quebec. When I get to town, I will be dropping my bags and going directly to the hotel where his media access is happening.
Jan. 22, 2009
3:15 p.m. Raleigh
With Eric Staal heading to his third-consecutive All-Star Game, I will be flying to Montreal Friday to make sure everything goes smoothly for the defending All-Star MVP. I’m going to attempt to keep this blog fresh throughout the weekend, with updates on the various events and activities surrounding the weekend, as well as information about the host city and Eric’s various appearances and experiences. I likely won’t be able to keep things as fresh as Mr. Branecky did last year in Atlanta, since this blog is not my primary or sole responsibility this weekend in La belle province. But I’ll do the best I can with blogs and photos sent from my BlackBerry.
It should be a pretty special weekend, centered around the two main events at the Bell Centre – Saturday night’s Superskills Competition and Sunday’s All-Star Game. Montreal is the host city for both the NHL All-Star Weekend and the NHL Entry Draft this year, as the Canadiens celebrate the 100th Anniversary of their storied and decorated franchise.
Founded in 1909 as part of the National Hockey Association, the Club de Hockey le Canadien first played in the Jubilee Arena, which seated about 2700 fans. The Canadiens captured their first Stanley Cup in 1916, defeating the Portland Rosebuds in the fifth and deciding game of a five-game series, and joined the new National Hockey League when it was formed in 1917. Ninety-two years later, the Habs have 24 Stanley Cup banners and 15 retired sweaters hanging from the rafters of the Bell Centre, the arena they have called home since 1996. According to the Habs’ website, 45 former Canadiens players are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
I never had the chance to step foot inside the historic Montreal Forum, the Canadiens’ home from 1926-1996. But I can say that the Bell Centre is my favorite NHL arena, a place where you can count on a simply electric atmosphere every single game of the season. And Montreal is a beautiful city to visit – almost like exploring a European city without the transatlantic flight. (Though, if you have Southern blood you may want to wait until the summer to do so. Sunday’s high is expected to be around 3°F, with the low dipping to about -13°F.) Mrs. Guy Behind the Guy, who is currently about 22 weeks into carrying a little Guy Behind the Guy, will be joining me in Montreal, so hopefully we’ll be able to carve a little time out of the busy hockey weekend to bundle up and play tourists.
Please feel free to fill out the form below with questions, comments or suggestions throughout the weekend!
A few other resources you may want to check out in conjunction with All-Star Weekend:
- The NHL’s Official All-Star Game Page: The league’s page is pretty comprehensive this year, keeping fans up to date on breaking news, events and participants. There’s a nice history section and plenty of video for fans who can’t make it up to Montreal. You can even learn a little hockey-oriented French. Today’s French term is “juge de ligne” or “linesman.”
- The Montreal Canadiens’ History Page: The Habs launched this site to commemorate their 100th Anniversary this season. It’s a great place to explore the history of hockey’s most storied franchise, broken down by season and including information on every player who ever donned bleu, blanc et rouge.
- Montreal Tourism Site: Includes a pretty cool, two-minute video exploring the city on its opening page.