QUEBEC CITY – The Montreal Canadiens were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by Philadelphia on Saturday night, but some of their stars will still shine on Quebec ice. Belarus, in particular, is excited about receiving reinforcements, and other World Championship nations could benefit too.
While the storied NHL franchise is best-known for its 24 Cups, players who’ve worn the CH logo have also frequently made their mark in IIHF competition over the years. Of course, it hasn’t always been the way they’d have liked.
Between 1985-86 and 1999-2000, Shayne Corson played 10 full seasons for Montreal after being drafted eighth overall in 1984, and his finest international moment was tallying seven goals in seven games at the 1986 World Juniors in Hamilton, Ontario. But the gritty Canadian forward was disappointed to wind up with silver after the Soviets beat his team 4-1 in the final.
More high-profile examples of tough times for Habs include Guy Lafleur, who had to bow out of the 1981 IIHF World Championship after getting hit in his debut by Rick van Gog of the Netherlands (a Canadian-born player), and Patrick Roy, who backstopped Canada to the 1998 Olympic semi-finals but lost out to Dominik Hasek in the crucial shootout versus the Czechs.
Still, much like Guy Carbonneau’s 2007-08 Habs will try to take the positives out of what they accomplished this season, there are plenty of great international moments that Montreal fans can relish. Here are ten of them.
His Habs File: Drafted fifth overall in 2005, the 20-year-old from Williams Lake, British Columbia became Montreal’s number one goalie this season after Cristobal Huet was dealt to Washington before the February trade deadline.
His IIHF Feats: At the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship, Price recorded six wins, including a stellar shootout performance in the semi-finals versus the USA, en route to Canada’s third straight gold medal at the event.
His Habs File: He’s the first European-born captain in Montreal history, and he’s filled that role since 1999, scoring 591 points in 727 career games.
His IIHF Feats: One of international hockey’s best forwards, Koivu has two IIHF World Championship silver medals (1994, 1999), plus two Olympic bronzes (1994, 1998) and a silver (2006). But the plucky centre’s top achievement was leading Finland to its first-ever IIHF gold at the 1995 Worlds in Stockholm.
His Habs File: He was initially seen as frail when he defected from Czechoslovakia to join the Canadiens, but the savvy defenceman became the first Czech to play more than 1,000 NHL games. His highlight in the bleu-blanc-et-rouge was winning a Cup in 1986.
His IIHF Feats: Svoboda scored the biggest goal in Czech hockey history on February 22, 1998. His blueline drive beat Russia’s Mikhail Shtalenkov at 8:08 of the third period in the Olympic gold medal game, giving the Czechs their first-ever title at the Winter Games.
His Habs File: Nicknamed “The Little Viking,” Naslund played eight seasons with Montreal. The crafty left wing won a Cup in 1986 and the Lady Byng Trophy in 1988. He left the NHL after the 1989-90 season at the comparatively young age of 30 and returned to Sweden before staging a brief comeback with Boston.
His IIHF Feats: Along with Tomas Jonsson and Hakan Loob, Naslund became one of the first three members of the IIHF Triple Gold Club (Olympic and World Championship gold plus the Stanley Cup) in 1994 when Sweden edged Canada for the title at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. At the 2008 Worlds, he’s Sweden’s GM.
His Habs File: This Montreal native was certainly never as well-known as Maurice Richard or Jean Beliveau. Nonetheless, the 1932-born forward teamed up with them en route to two Cups, playing seven games in the 1957 playoffs and one in 1958.
His IIHF Feats: Broden retains the unique distinction of being the only player to win an IIHF World Championship and a Stanley Cup in the same year. He accomplished the feat in 1958, when the Habs loaned him to the Whitby Dunlops, an Ontario senior hockey team who represented Canada at that year’s tourney in Norway. Broden produced a tournament-best 11 goals and seven assists before heading back to Montreal.
His Habs File: This one’s pretty thin. Rundqvist only played two games with Montreal in 1984-85.
His IIHF Feats: Two accomplishments stand out for this star forward of Sweden’s Farjestad and Austria’s VEU Feldkirch. When Tre Kronor captured gold at the 1991 Worlds, his 10 points earned him a tournament all-star berth. And in 1993, he became the first player ever to score an OT winner at the Worlds, giving Sweden a 3-2 decision over the Czechs in the semi-finals.
His Habs File: Since being acquired from the New York Rangers in 2004, this 1994 Stanley Cup champion has alternated between enthralling and exasperating Montreal fans. Perhaps the finest stickhandler in hockey, Kovalev recorded his best-ever season in Montreal this year with 84 points at age 35.
His IIHF Feats: 1992 was huge for Kovalev. That year, not only did the Togliatti native win World Junior gold with the CIS squad, earning 10 points in 10 games, but he was also the only Russian named to the tournament all-star team. Better still, he then won Olympic gold at the 1992 Albertville Games. He’s captured more medals since then, but it hasn’t gotten any bigger.
His Habs File: An NHL journeyman, Rucinsky has suited up for seven different franchises. But the 37-year-old Czech winger’s longest tenure was with Montreal, where he played between 1995-96 and 2001-02. His first year was his best, as he had 60 points.
His IIHF Feats: Rucinsky was a cornerstone of the Czech “golden generation” between 1998 and 2001. After garnering top spot in Nagano, he lit it up at the 1999 Worlds, earning an all-star berth with his 10 points in 12 games. It was the first of three straight World Championships for the Czechs, and Rucinsky would be part of another one in 2001, not to mention the 2005 title in Austria.
His Habs File: The small but gritty centre from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario was chosen 102nd overall by Montreal in the 1990 NHL Draft. He suited up for the Habs between 1991 and 1995, and was part of their last Cup-winning team in 1993.
His IIHF Feats: After his NHL career, DiPietro went to Europe, and he’s played in Switzerland since 1998. He married a Swiss woman, gained citizenship, and joined the national team in 2005. That opened the door for his improbable heroics at the 2006 Olympics, where his two goals gave Switzerland a 2-0 win over Canada, the first-ever victory in 86 years.
His Habs File: From 1983-84 to 1989-90, the hard-nosed, gifted American defenceman starred with the Canadiens, going twice to the finals and winning once. One of his three Norris Trophies came with Montreal (1989).
His IIHF Feats: At 46, he’s the oldest player in the NHL, and he also became the oldest American ever to compete at a Winter Olympics when he captained Team USA in Turin two years ago. It was his fifth Winter Games, and he won silver in 2002.