Saturday, 18 October 2014

24 CH, 2014-15 season, Episode 1: Notes

As a Canadiens fan growing up, I'd devour La Presse's sports section everyday for any scrap of news of my team, for the photographs, the stats pages.  I wanted to see how far ahead of the competition the team was in the race for the championship, or Guy Lafleur was in the scoring race, how close behind were pesky Marcel Dionne and Bryan Trottier.

When I could get my hands on Le Journal de Montréal, 'fruit défendu' at my house, but which was often left lying around greasy spoons or other house we'd visit, I'd dive into that too, so many colour photos.  There were also the call-in shows like "Les Amateurs de Sport" on CKAC, which were huge in those days, before the internet, you'd dial and dial the phone for days and never get through to have a chance to speak your mind.

Add in a five minute sports news blurb on "Le Téléjournal" on Radio-Canada, and that was about it in terms of where you could get your information on your favourite team.  Compared to today, it was a relatively arid landscape.

Which is why 24 CH is such a treat for me.  I'm like the Depression Era children who grew up to hoard food and cling to a steady job like life itself, and their Baby Boomer offspring who grew up in a time of comparative growth and wealth and imbued their own children with the sense that the world was theirs for the taking and there was nothing they couldn't achieve.  I too have been formed by my environment.  I grew up wanting to know everything and more about my Canadiens.

So I watch 24 CH attentively, despite the critics who point to the slick packaging and the editorial control of management.  I understand these considerations, but to me they're not reason to not watch the show, just a brake on any conclusions to be drawn from the viewings.  It's still an additional, fresh glimpse into the inner workings of a team, it provides insight and context when evaluating our team.

This season's episodes are again narrated by Claude Quenneville, a veteran from "La Soirée du Hockey", who handled the between-periods interviews and general hosting duties at first, then the radio play-by-play duties once René Lecavalier retired from TV play-by-play duties, and Richard Garneau moved up a rung in the hierarchy.

Mr. Quenneville was a little younger than his more aristocratic colleagues, but had a killer voice and a wry, understated sense of humour too.  There were reports that he and Guy Lafleur were close friends and would socialize outside of 'work', that they would go to nightclubs together, which gave him fantastic cachet.  When I think of the standard 'Who would you most like to have dinner with' question, if I couldn't go my usual Natalie Portman-Elle Macpherson-Stefi Graf trifecta, Mr. Quenneville would definitely have one of the seats at the table.  Oh, the stories he could probably tell of those Canadiens teams of the 70's and 80's...


00:12  Opening montage of scenes of Montréal with a shot of Le Stade Olympique from a distance, probably from Mont Royal.  Sure, a white elephant of a boondoggle, but what a beautiful structure to look at from afar.  If I'd been mayor of Montréal back in the day, I'd have been panting to give Roger Taillibert whatever he wanted to get the thing built too.  What's a little budget overage between friends?

01:50  Judging strictly by our respective golf swings, I'm a better athlete than Alex Galchenyuk.  Mike Weaver takes a Happy Gilmore-swing for one of his drives.  The guy is jacked, and adds to his reputation as a glue-guy, a good teammate to have around who keeps everyone loose.

02:05  I'm also a better athlete than P.K. Subban.

02:30  Speaking of jacked, here's a shot of Mac Bennett doing dryland training at the practice facility.  His draft year writeups and scouting reports spoke of a skilled player and skater who was undersized and needed to work on his size and strength.  Here's a kid who put his four years at the University of Michigan to good use.  Last season at the prospect development camp, he was thrilled to report at the target weight of 195 lbs set by Player Development Coach Patrice Brisebois.  This year, they have him measured at 198 lbs.

03:00  Same goes for Jérémy Grégoire, he looks very powerful, especially when cut in with shots of a relatively slender Zachary Fucale.

03:15  Long segment focusing on the four Assistant Captains, who say all the right things about the move, their duties and their peers.  Maybe that media training that the players undergo every fall is coming in handy here, no missteps from anyone.

06:00  First glimpse at the renovations under way at the New Forum.  Everything is bigger, with more room, and focused on providing the players with the best facilities possible.

François Gagnon had spoken of these renos on L'Antichambre, and explained how Equipment Manager Pierre Gervais told of how team owner Geoff Molson approached him and asked how the team rink's facilities ranked compared to others in the NHL.  Mr. Gervais answered that at first they were top-notch, but fifteen years on they were maybe in the bottom third of the NHL.  I'm sure this wasn't the only reason, but following this conversation plans were made to tear down and start over at the New Forum, to ensure that it at least matched the excellent practice facilities in Brossard.

07:30  Quick shots of the rookie camp, with brief interviews with Christian Thomas, Jacob de la Rose, Tim Bozon and Jiri Sekac.

09:00  On to the main camp.  Quick shots of the regulars doing dryland training and testing.  One shot of Magnus Nygren with his shirt off and hair coiffed just so will be the reason I dislike him: not because of his comments about and flight from Hamilton last season, but because when you go to the pub with the fellas, if there's a guy like that in your group, you don't stand a chance, you get no attention whatsoever.

Lots of stability and range of motion tests, to detect any imbalances or problems that can lead to injuries.  These are the tests where maybe P.K. and Alex might have a slight edge on me.

09:45  We see Tomas Plekanec undergoing the newfangled power test for bench press, which involves an Olympic bar rigged to an elastic band and pulley, and must have a dynamometre in the system somewhere.  This is a newish test for me, in that I'm more familiar with the NFL 225 test, which has you doing as many reps as possible with a 225 lbs (100 kg) weight.  The NHL scouting combine used a modified version of that test, with a 135 lbs weight, basically one plate instead of two on the bar.

Of course this is more of a strength test, good for predicting one-rep maximums for candidates.  The Canadiens don't tend to scrimp on things, they're rather at the forefront, and I assume their trainers felt that a power measurement was more useful, but it's still an interesting deviation from the industry standard.  I have to believe they think it's a more useful measurement for a player, that power is more what a hockey player should strive for instead of strictly strength.

It's also on trend with the new training methods and crazes, with 'isolation' no longer being the be-all and end-all when it comes to conditioning and gym philosophies, it's all about compound or even total-body movements now and functional strength.  Notably, Crossfit training eschews the classic bench press, preferring to train the chest with movements like pushups, dips and burpies, which involve the whole body and the aerobic and anaerobic systems when done in long enough stretches and with brief rest periods.

What world do we live in when you can no longer ask another person "How much ya bench?"

10:00  Lars 'wins' the sprint test on the treadmill, another test I'm not familiar with.  He does look a little trimmer than last year, when he came in looking like Thor.  Some asked whether he was too bulky and heavy, and whether it affected his skating, quickness and agility.

10:50  Canadiens getting to see the new digs for the first time.  P.K. and Dale Weise are agog, like kids at Christmas.  Manny Malhotra, who's traveled quite a bit in his career and is in a position to compare, raves that they are first class.

Marc Bergevin takes P.K. by the arm and leads him to the players lounge, more colleagues than boss-employee.  Hard to see any residual tension after a tough summer of contract negotiation.

Geoff Molson proudly touring as well.  He greets prospect and Bulldog Greg Pateryn by his first name.  Details.

Maybe not the same conviviality between Head Coach Michel Therrien and Greg.  He's not as easygoing in his demeanor as the team owner and General Manager, as we've seen in the past, more gruff and sometimes awkward.

Gally and Chucky ignore everything and go right for the foosball table.  Those two kids, I tell ya...

Marc Bergevin, fully aware the camera is on him, approaches Francis Bouillon and asks "Do you know what paid for all this?  24 CH."  They have a good laugh, and you have to think this refers to a previous discussion the GM had with Francis or the team in general.

12:15  Geoff Molson at the Canadian Club.  He preaches, over and above financial contributions and investment in worthwhile causes, community involvement.  We see footage from last season's trip by the team to Lac Mégantic, to support the town after the catastrophe that destroyed their central core.

13:00  Segue to footage of the now annual meet and greet by players for fans attending the free Blanc-Rouge scrimmage at the New Forum, while Mr. Molson speaks of the impact the team can have for the fans.

"It's clear that the ultimate goal is to win.  To win, to succeed, it's the details that count.  It's the development of the player, not only on the ice, but also off the ice.  The development of the person, with the media, ..."

14:00  Behind the scenes footage of the new campaign with Jay Baruchel.  Should be good.

15:00  Exhibition games.  A win against the Bruins, then the Avalanche in Québec.  Brandon Prust humble-brags about calling his shot for his game-winning goal, he'd told Jiri Sekac on the bench beforehand that he'd close his eyes and shoot, and that it worked.

17:00  Game against the Capitals, and the big hit by Jarred Tinordi on Nate Schmidt that got him ejected.

17:45  Brandon and P.K. appear on a French-language TV show.  The host appears to know Brandon already, probably from being media personality Mariepier Morin's boyfriend.  P.K. is a ham and a star, shining in the spotlight as usual.  Brandon, P.K. and Mariepier end the show by shooting orange road hockey balls at the host, apparently wearing goalie gear for the first time.

19:20  Nathan Beaulieu admits to a difficult, up and down year the previous season, and vows that things will go different this year.

19:30  Exhibition games against the Senators.  I know Ottawa is a convenient team to play against in the pre-season, at least geographically, but I really like the suggestion from some fans that we avoid them in future, if only to punish/protest their goon tactics.

As is argued, they derive a financial benefit from all the Canadiens fans who buy tickets at their barn to see the Habs play, let's remove that benefit.  Marc Bergevin probably used his connections with Chicago to get us a game against them in the pre-season, let's do more of those, or with more 'neutral' geographic neighbours like the Sabres and Red Wings.

20:45  Closing montage.  The narrator speaks of constancy coexisting with change and upheaval, as we see shots of Greg Pateryn, Christian Thomas and Francis Bouillon, who don't make the cut at the end of camp.  We end with a shot of the team picture, with Dustin Tokarski at the right hand of Carey Price.

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