Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier announced that he had traded the 6-foot-5 defenseman just prior to the Habs’ pre-game skate in Boston. The news that he was about to become an Avalanche was bittersweet for O’Byrne, who had been a healthy scratch for the Habs since October 13.
“I haven’t been traded since my second year of junior so it’s a different feeling obviously,” admitted the 26-year-old Victoria native. “At the same time, it’s an opportunity for me to play. We have a pretty deep defense corps here in Montreal and I haven’t been playing much. I’m a young defenseman and you have to play. That’s the bottom line.
“I’ve had some talks with the hockey department and Greg Sherman, the GM of Colorado and he’s indicated to me that they want me to come to Columbus tomorrow with the possibility of being in the lineup tomorrow night,” added O’Byrne. “It’s pretty sudden but at the same time it’s an opportunity I’m looking forward to.”
About to leave the only NHL team he’s ever known, O’Byrne reflected on some of the memories he’ll be taking with him to his new home.
“Getting drafted by the Montreal Canadiens is something I’ll always remember. Being part of the 100th anniversary is something I’ll always remember,” offered the Canadiens’ 79th overall pick from the 2003 Draft. “But I think the number one memory for me is having my No. 3 retired in that ceremony and being the last guy to wear the No. 3 is something I’ll never forget. I mean, it wasn’t retired for me, but that’s something that will stick with you.”
“It’s going to be tough to leave these guys. I know a lot of these guys really well and developed some close friendships,” explained O’Byrne. “Unfortunately that’s the business; that’s hockey. One second you’re having breakfast with them and laughing with the guys and the next second, you’re booking flights to Columbus.”
After spending the last three years together, Josh Gorges was happy to see his friend get a new opportunity, but sad to see him go.
“It’s hard to put into words when something like this happens,” admitted Gorges. “He’s been like a brother to me for four years and to say goodbye to a guy like that is tough. We spent everyday together.
“We were a couple of the guys who didn’t have wives with us so we would eat dinner together, we’d watch movies together and we hung out together all the time. He was like my hockey wife,” joked the 26-year-old blue-liner. “He’s a good teammate and a good friend and for him it’s an opportunity to start fresh.”
Gorges is one player who might know exactly how O’Byrne is feeling, having been traded to Montreal mid-way through 2007 from San Jose.
“I’ve been there and I told him, the first week or two suck; you’re going to a new place with a bunch of guys you don’t know,” offered the young veteran. “But you’ll learn real fast that hockey guys are the same. They’re a good group of guys and they’ll take him in. Once he gets comfortable, it’s an opportunity to show what he’s capable of doing.”
With a game against the Avalanche scheduled for December 19 in Colorado, Gorges won’t have to wait long for the reunion.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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