Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back to Beersics

After 100 years, some things change and some things don't -- The Montreal Canadiens are once again owned by the Molson family.

George Gillett Junior was an awesome owner. Since he wasn't a Montrealer, he was able to look at the team with an outside perspective. He knew that the team needed a GM with good experience, a level head and a feel for the town -- bringing in Gainey after the string of fools who had been in charge was a great move. (The only downside was losing Andre Savard, who was a genius in spotting young talent.)

Gillett spent the money that the previous ownership was unwilling to spend; and when the team got gutted, post 1993, it was difficult to build back up to glory.

Gillett had a plan: he wanted to give Montreal its 25th cup on its 100th birthday. He wanted to celebrate the Habs rich history and success, not bury it in politics. He brought the fans back, but didn't interfere with hockey operations.

Gillett was exactly the kind of owner this team needed, and still needs. He will be missed.

Not everything was perfect, to be sure. After finishing 1st overall, the Habs crashed with a second round exit. The rookie sensation Carey Price has a lot of people holding their breath, the firing of Carbonneau was a little suspect (did Gillett meddle?) and the 100th anniversary was more smoke and sizzle than steak. And now the team is left in limbo for its 101st year -- and we'll see what the new owners want to do. In the end, Gillett was in Montreal for 8 years; and although the team "improved" and finally got some world class talent, it sure doesn't feel like 8 years. It feels more like 3 or 4 -- in other words, it took a long time to reverse the damage that was done in the late 90s, and still hasn't fully recovered.

But for my money, Gillett was the one who brough hockey back to Montreal.

Molson's is a good ownership group -- in that they aren't a telecomm. They are a iconic Canadian family, and I am happy to see them back in a position to be owning the team (I know I've done my part for their stock). But the Molson's aren't mad team owners, like Illich or Charles Wang. Although I don't support these ridiculous 10yr contracts, successful teams need to know they can spend money. Last time Molson's ran things, the purse strings got cut -- and the team suffered terribly.

If Molson's is interested in running the team for their own gain -- as a way to expose their brand and sell more beer, and constantly looking at the Montreal Canadiens as another wing of their marketing department -- then we will not see a championship anytime soon. If the Molsons are scared of hiring a GM / coach because people wil stp buying their beer in protest, then they will not have the best intests of the team in mind. And that will be really sad.

I hope the Molson's stay committed to the goals that Gillett set forth -- and I hope they show as much passion for the hockey team's success as Gillett did. Gillett didn't get his trophy, and its too bad he had to sell because of the economic meltdown, but I hope Molson will stay the course! Send the money, build the team, keep the traditions and history alive!

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