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A ping-pong anecdote or a nice parallel between the Penguins of the early Crosby era and the CH of today
Credit: Nov 12, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki (14) celebrates with teammates including forward Cole Caufield (22) after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

It’s sometimes said that history, with a capital H, is written by the victors. The invaded rarely have the luxury of recounting their vision of events. In this respect, sport is the exception.

Because all stories coexist at the same time. Yesterday’s winners can be tomorrow’s losers, and vice versa. The fact that the loser never disappears from the face of the earth is certainly a factor.

The Canadiens are currently among the NHL’s more or less well-defined losers. Going through a rebuilding process, that’s a bit normal, you might say.

But, if all goes well, he should one day emerge from this position, and he can draw inspiration from those who have done so before him.

Yesterday at the Habs golf tournament, Jeff Gorton dropped a very interesting piece of information that allows us to draw a parallel with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ journey before they became the powerhouse they are today.

The information is as follows: the core of the team has been training together in Montreal for almost a month now.

In his opinion, this shows that the guys want to be here and that it’s a big year ahead for them.

It may seem trivial, I know. Plus, as Radio-Canada’s Martin Leclerc points out in the most recent episode of Tellement field hockey, it’s hard to say how many points in the standings it gives to train together early in the summer (if any).

But there are signs of something building around the team that makes me want to dream a little.

Let me explain.

In the podcast, Leclerc relates an anecdote from somewhere between the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons. According to what he heard, back then, the Penguins’ young core was as tight-knit as ever. Sidney’s gang, which includes Evgeni Malkin, Kristopher Letang, Colby Armstrong, Maxim Talbot and Marc-André Fleury, is continually together. The players are literally inseparable. The guys are always at the arena. They train, on and off the ice, they eat, they play ping-pong and have fun. They’d sleep at the arena if they could.

The security guard literally had to kick them out!

This kind of shared experience, this group cohesion, meant that at some point they became one of the NHL’s powerhouses, winning the Stanley Cup three times. Together, they established the culture of the organization.

The talent was undeniable, to be sure. But an every-man-for-himself collective couldn’t have gone all the way, in my opinion, no matter how much talent was available.

I’m not telling you that seeing Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Juraj Slafkovsky, Kirby Dach and Kaiden Guhle constantly together guarantees we’ll see the Cup come home. No, I’m simply saying that if this was one of the spices that made the recipe work in Pittsburgh, I’d like to see history repeat itself in Montreal.

In fact, Leclerc’s colleague Alexandre Gascon was keen to point out that Nick Suzuki was no stranger to the phenomenon. According to Gascon, he took his role as leader very seriously and personally called some of his team-mates, including Slaf, telling them it would be “ fun ” if they joined him in town to help each other out.

Once again, I see a parallel with Sidney Crosby.

The guy’s a workout freak, that’s for sure. If you’re constantly with him, there’s no way you’re going to be dragging your feet. He’ll rub off on you, and you’ll have to try to keep up and train as hard as he does.

I see nothing but good in all this, and confirmation that Nick Suzuki was the right choice for the captaincy.

In short

– Post-career isn’t always easy when it’s not fully your decision.

– Expect the NHL to repeat this kind of marketing offensive.

– And when he sets foot in his university arena, he’ll remember that he’s playing for the Coyotes and probably be a little disappointed.

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