Among the remarkable accomplishments being bandied about by blogsters and reporters ahead of the big event, the thing that stands out most is his winning of the Conn Smythe trophy in the 1978 Stanley Cup playoffs. On a team with a multiple Art Ross trophy-winner, a former 60 goalscorer, 8 future hall of famers, the most successful goalie (percentage-wise) to play post-WWII, and several Conn Smythe trophy winners and winners to be, the task was no easy feat. Perhaps even more impressive was him leading the playoffs in scoring that year.
In addition to all that Larry Robinson never once missed the playoffs. Of course, he played in a league where it was near impossible for a team like the Canadiens to ever miss, but he did keep the streak alive with the LA Kings, perhaps with a little help from Gretzky…
Of all the reports on “Big Bird”, one in particular got my attention – probably for the wrong reasons. Francois Gagnon of La Presse (aka, the sane one on 110%) wrote at length about the ceremony, but his twist (or hook, if you will) was that Larry had quite an unusual choice as announcer for his ceremony.
It turns out, of all his friends and former teammates, Larry Robinson chose Lou Lamoriello to announce at the ceremony. Gagnon briefly points out that the Canadiens maintain that the choice was up to Larry and they had no say in the matter. However, before pondering a list of possible alternates, M. Gagnon feels the need to point out that Lamoriello is an anglophone American. In what may have well been a throw away line, he states: Yet another night where French is pushed aside:
Il faut dire que la sélection de Lamoriello, un anglophone américain, mettra une fois encore de côté le français dans cette portion de la cérémonie.
While it may be puzzling to us why Robinson chose Lamoriello for a ceremony recognizing his outstanding play and contribution to the Canadiens, I’m sure it would be no mystery if we all got a chance to hear what Larry had to say about it. I can only speculate that Robinson and Lamoriello are very good friends and Larry wanted him to be there in some official capacity.
Although I don't think it was a well-thought out gibe at the Canadiens for laying the French language battle aside for a few minutes while they honour a great player, it's the recurring nature of these comments that gets me going. This could have been a story about Komisarek or Higgins after a game, or Koivu visiting children or Markov giving his first interview of the season.
Quite frankly, I could just shrug my shoulders and say “That’s just how they are”, but I don’t think that’s right. If I didn’t think it affected the team in any way, then I could let it slide, but let’s face it, it does. I think it's time the Canadiens are left alone to think about putting together a dominant season for the first time in ages. The Bell Centre should be a battleground for well fought hockey games, language battles have their place elsewhere.
Here I was innocently thinking Gagnon’s blog title “Sans ligne rouge” referred to hockey, when it may be that the red line he was referring to was the three rows of General Wolfe’s men who loosened the French hold on North America (and hence the NHL) on the plains of Abraham.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I hope he can stick to the stuff going on the painted ice from now on.
In any case, here's to Larry and his friends having a great night...