BROSSARD – There were some very happy people heading to work on Monday morning in Brossard.
As thousands of Montrealers returned to the office or the classroom after the holidays, few people were as excited to be back to their normal routines as the players, coaches and team brass who finally got to set up shop permanently at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday. Even before team owners and governors headed to New York to cross the T’s and dot the I’s on a brand-new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA, the focus at the Canadiens’ practice facility was already on the future.
“I saw some players this morning coming to the rink for the first time and they had big smiles on their faces,” shared Habs head coach Michel Therrien, who has been looking forward to running his first official practice in a Canadiens track suit since being hired on June 5. “They’re excited for the season and they’re already asking questions. You can see the excitement on everyone involved.”
With the league’s truncated training camps set to begin after the CBA is officially ratified this week, the wheels are already in motion to make the most of a shortened season with less time to prepare for the opening puck drop at the Bell Centre.
“There are three things we’re going to concentrate on at camp: the [on-ice] timing from the players, the conditioning on the ice and teaching our new system that we’re going to try to put in place in Montreal,” confirmed Therrien. “Our camp is going to be focused on that. It’s a fun challenge and we’re all excited about it.”
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin confirmed there will be between 25 and 30 players attending this year’s training camp, hoping to lock down restricted free agent P.K. Subban as soon as possible. With less time for players to battle for coveted roster spots and earn ice time before the season starts, the new GM has made no secret of how prospects hoping to crack the opening night roster can impress him.
“We want to be a team that’s hard to play against every night,” he stressed. “You know it’s going to be a rush. We only had 10 or 11 players who were playing [in Europe] this season so it’s going to be a challenge but it’s a fresh start. Character, grit and hard work are the things we want to base our team on and elements we brought to the Montreal Canadiens over the summer.”
With so few games on the schedule, Therrien knows it will be hard for any team to make up for lost time or get back on track if they get off to a slow start. That’s something he’s looking at as a potential opportunity, not an excuse.
“The challenge is the same for every team in the league,” explained the veteran bench boss. “Every game is important if you want to make the playoffs. Two points can make a big difference, especially in a shortened season like this. You have to show up every single night ready to play.
“A hockey team is a family and this family has been apart for the past four months,” stressed Therrien. “Seeing the players back together this morning was great. It’s going to take commitment from them to make sure we’re ready to go night after night. I know the players want to erase the memories of last season. The best thing about this situation is we’re starting from scratch.”
After an offseason of bringing in new talent on the ice and in the front office, Habs owner and president Geoff Molson couldn’t be happier to be out of the boardroom, getting ready to see his team head back on the ice.
“On behalf of the organization of the Montreal Canadiens, I’d like to thank the fans, our season ticket holders, our suite holders, our business partners, our sponsors, and all of the employees of the Montreal Canadiens who have been behind us through this difficult period and who have supported us throughout,” expressed Molson. “We’re all very much looking forward to a great season that starts now. Today is a great day.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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