Montreal Canadiens defenceman Patrice Brisebois (left), age 22, his playoff beard freshly shaved, is photographed with team general manager Serge Savard in the Canadiens’ Montreal Forum dressing room on June 9, 1993 after the Canadiens had won the 1992-93 Stanley Cup.
Photograph by: Dave Stubbs, ANDRE (TOTO) GINGRAS, COURTESY PATRICE BRISEBOIS
“So, where were you 20 years ago tonight?” former Canadiens defenceman Patrice Brisebois was asked Sunday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 90 minutes before the start of the 44th Formula One Canadian Grand Prix.
“Um … playing in the Stanley Cup final?” he replied.
“In fact, winning the Stanley Cup,” he was told
“Yeah?” Brisebois said, his eyes brightening. “Honestly, you have to remind me of that. I know I won the Cup, but I don’t know the date.”
Brisebois was three months past his 22nd birthday, the youngest regular member of the Canadiens, when the Habs defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 on June 9, 1993 at the old Montreal Forum. The victory earned the Canadiens their 24th, and most recent, Stanley Cup in a five-game final.
And then all hell broke loose on the streets of Montreal with a widespread riot, the joy of celebration swallowed whole by violence and vandalism.
“I remember we stayed in the Forum until maybe 3 o’clock in the morning, drinking champagne,” Brisebois said. “We were so high on emotion, you couldn’t believe it.
“I don’t remember if I slept that night. All those years … the sacrifices, the people who helped you — family, friends, girlfriends, they all supported and helped you to finally reach your goal.
“You’re a kid and you say, ‘One day I want to make it in the NHL.’ And then, when you’re there, you think, ‘One day, I want to win the Stanley Cup.’
“Growing up, watching the Canadiens, the Stanley Cup parades, you’re saying, ‘One day, I hope that maybe that’s me.’ And then it is. The parade was one of the most beautiful days in my life. It was outstanding.”
Brisebois, 42, shakes his head when he considers that Sunday was the 20th anniversary of his Stanley Cup win.
“Maybe it means I’m getting older,” he said, laughing. “But you know what, time flies, it passes so fast. When you win the Cup at 22, after I’d had a very nice junior career and won two gold medals at the world junior championship, I thought, ‘I’m a winner, I’m going to win the Cup every year.’
“And after that, not another one. I’d say every summer, ‘This is it, the organization has made some changes, we have new players, we have a chance.’
“Sometimes, we’d have a good season and good playoff runs, but never enough to win the Cup. I don’t like to say you’re naive at that young age, but I don’t think I enjoyed the win like maybe Ray Bourque, who won his Cup with Colorado (in 2001) at the end of his (22-year) career.”
Brisebois would play 1,107 NHL games — 983 for the Canadiens, the rest for Colorado from 2005-07. He retired following the 2008-09 season, and last July was hired by Habs GM Marc Bergevin as the team’s player development coach to work with many of the organization’s young prospects.
His contract was for one year and an option, and he expects to be hearing from Bergevin soon to discuss the season to come.
“I have no idea. No clue,” Brisebois said with a smile about having his deal extended. “I loved working with our young guys this year. A lot of good things happened. We want to build a winning team and I really believe we’re going in the right direction.
“The draft (this month) is going to be so important. We’re blessed with (director of amateur scouting) Trevor Timmins and all the scouts. The combine last week was so important. We want to make sure we’re not missing any good players, so we’re doing our homework. Trevor and his team will be ready.”
It was hardly a surprise that Brisebois would have been at the Villeneuve track all weekend, a former Ferrari Challenge driver who still turns a steering wheel in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. He’s looking for sponsorship in a bid to run at least a couple of events on the latter circuit this summer.
It was with an envious eye that Brisebois watched the two Ferrari Challenge support races Saturday and Sunday, remembering the hard, aggressive driving the few times he took part.
“For sure I miss it. It’s a great series with great cars, one of the best cars in the world,” he said. “The five or six or seven guys in front are really good drivers, really competitive.
“It’s called a gentlemen’s series, but some guys, they’re so rich they don’t care if they hit you or blow their engine. They don’t mind if — Bang! — they drive into you to try to pass you.”
This survival of the fittest is how Brisebois also sees the Stanley Cup final between Boston and Chicago, a series he expects to go long but for which he won’t pick a winner.
“Maybe I’d give a little edge to Boston defensively with (Tuukka) Rask (in goal) and (Zdeno) Chara and (Dennis) Seidenberg (on defence), but offensively, wow, Chicago has (Marian) Hossa, (Patrick) Kane, (Jonathan) Toews, so many good players.”
Brisebois wasn’t surprised by the Bruins’ sweep of the Penguins, speaking of coach Claude Julien’s supreme preparation and that Boston mauled Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, throwing a blanket over them at every chance.
“And Patrice Bergeron,” he said, marvelling at the Bruins’ superb two-way forward. “He’s so good defensively, but he can hurt you offensively, too.”
Brisebois will be tuning in to the series once he’s knocked the Grand Prix exhaust out from between his ears.
Good friends with Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen, wishing him well — the Finn would finish ninth — he still said pre-race that he saw no way a Red Bull would lose here.
His crystal ball was working perfectly, Sebastian Vettel going wire to wire in a victory that seemed as effortless and convincing as the Canadiens’ historic win of 20 years ago to the day.
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