Saving the best for last

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

MONTREAL -- They have one goalie from France now and the other's from Switzerland, but back in 1971, the Canadiens had a goalie from a truly exotic location: Etobicoke.

Ken Dryden came from Upper Canada by way of Cornell University -- not the usual path for a member of Les Glorieux -- but he was feted last night as one of their own by the Canadiens faithful.

The reception for Dryden on the occasion of the retiring of his No. 29 was warm and he hit all the right notes in his 10-minute speech, showing the ability to be slightly long-winded in both official languages.

Dryden came to Montreal and made an effort to embrace the culture, not to mention the culinary delights of Schwartz's (smoked meat) and Di Lallo's (burgers), as he pointed out in his speech.

As an Anglo from Toronto, he was never going to be embraced the way Canadiens fans would a Quebecois, but last night there was a warm appreciation of his greatness and what he meant to those magnificent Canadiens teams of the 1970s.

Dryden's numbers speak loudly and eloquently in any language: Six Stanley Cups in an eight-year career. In those eight years, he lost but 57 games (258-57-74).

'Nuff said.

Dryden, who always had the ability to articulate what lived in the soul of the game (his book, The Game, is still the best one you'll read about hockey), was self-deprecating in his speech.

BUNCH OF CUPS

"A visual of me would have been me leaning on my stick, watching, not doing anything. That was pretty much what the '70s were all about," said Dryden. "That and a whole bunch of Stanley Cups."

His pose, arms folded on the top of his goal stick, is the iconic image of him, big, cool, angular, imperturbable, somehow above the fray.

Dryden wondered last night how he could thank the fans for giving him the Montreal experience.

All those Stanley Cup parades on St. Catherine St., seem like a pretty fair trade.

HEAR AND THERE: The Senators opted to deal with last night's delay because of the Dryden ceremony by simply structuring their day like the game was an 8:30 p.m. start. That gave them an extra hour to eat, sleep or, in the case of at least one media guy, time for a smoked meat sandwich AND a poutine ... One of the great stats about Dryden is this one: He played 237 games from the start of his career before he lost two straight games.

THE BUZZ: Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau confirmed at the morning skate that his starter in net would be David Aebischer. "Maybe I should start (Martin) Gerber," said Senators coach Bryan Murray, who had announced Ray Emery as his starter. He mused out loud about a possible matchup of the Swiss goalies: "Gerber never loses to Aebischer." Alas, Murray stuck with his original plan.

REVELATIONS: The last player to wear No. 29 for the Habs was the Maniwaki Mauler, Gino Odjick ... Dryden rose to prominence, of course, when he upset the powerhouse Boston Bruins in the first round of the 1971 playoffs. The irony is the Canadiens got the rights to Dryden from the Bruins. In exchange, Habs GM Sam Pollock sent Guy Allen and Paul Reid to the Bruins. Who? Exactly.

SPECULATIONS: The Habs really miss heart-and-soul guy Steve Begin, who missed his 22nd game last night with a bad back. With Begin in the lineup, the Canadiens are 16-8-0-5. Without him, they were 11-10 going into last night's game ... Winger Denis Hamel was the Senators scratch last night. Murray said the team wouldn't rush to make a roster move, but centre Mike Fisher could be back Saturday, so something is going to give, barring another injury.


Videos

Photos