Canadiens goalie Carey Price, sitting in an old seat from the Montreal Forum, is surrounded by Canadiens teammates, from the left: Travis Moen, Colby Armstrong, Josh Gorges, Brandon Prust and Brian Gionta at Moishes restaurant in Montreal Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, to have dinner with Gazette and Hockey Inside/Out reader Caroline Tardif and a guest. She won the honour by having bid $3,300 to The Gazette Christmas Fund.
Photograph by: John Kenney, montreal gazette
So what if Colby Armstrong’s Movember moustache doesn’t bring us world peace, as he pretty much guaranteed this week that it would? So what if it won’t be so awesome that the planet will never be the same, as he vowed?
Armstrong, with a starved caterpillar on his upper lip, and five Canadiens teammates will make the holidays brighter for many less privileged Montrealers, and if that’s a more modest accomplishment than global harmony, so be it.
An Oct. 11 challenge that I threw out to Armstrong on Twitter — that he photograph himself and tweet the photo from an exhibition-game bench that night in Quebec City — grew into something unimaginably special Wednesday evening.
This was social media used for much good: one tweet ultimately saw Montrealer Caroline Tardif and her partner, Éric Legault, dine at iconic 76-year-old Montreal steak house Moishes with Armstrong and fellow Habs Brian Gionta, Carey Price, Josh Gorges, Travis Moen and Brandon Prust. They were joined by myself and Lenny Lighter, the Moishes co-owner who for nearly four hours uncorked some fabulous wine, on the house.
Caroline was the high bidder, at $3,300, in a five-day eBay auction that would give the winner and a guest two seats at our dinner table. Every penny of her bid goes to The Gazette Christmas Fund, this season in its 47th year of putting food on the tables and gifts under the holiday trees of less fortunate Montrealers.
Caroline entered the bidding late, winning on just her second bid, but confided to me Wednesday, “I know how to win an auction!”
(Lenny, our host, could have saved a few pennies on his Hydro bill; Caroline’s smile alone illuminated the stately dining room from first sip to last forkful.)
“It sounds like an odd thing to say, but I was happy to see how really ‘normal’ all the guys were,” Caroline said later of the players. “They’re so down-to-earth and easy to talk to. They totally made us feel included and welcome, like we were part of their group, not two outsiders just looking in.
“The strangest thing was to sit with a group of guys you feel you know from their stats and having read about them, watched interviews and followed on Twitter, and they didn’t know Éric and me at all. They’re a wonderful group of guys and we’re absolutely thrilled to have gotten a chance to meet them.
“I’m also happy to think I may have contributed in helping less fortunate Montrealers enjoy a more pleasant holiday season,” she added. “As for me, my Christmas sure came early this year and I’ve loved every second of it.”
Missing from the dinner was former Canadien Mathieu Darche, who in Quebec posed with Armstrong for the Gorges-snapped in-game photo that gave birth to the charity auction.
Darche was in New York as a member of the NHLPA’s negotiating committee, in meetings trying to hammer out a new CBA that might finally get the 2012-13 NHL season underway. We raised a glass in his honour, a nod to the man who didn’t get to satisfy his desire to sample Moishes’ new filet mignon poutine.
Before we were seated at 7 p.m., the Canadiens signed a blue Forum seat that The Gazette will auction next summer at our golf tournament, proceeds of that going to the 2013 Christmas Fund. The seat arrived with Gazette marketing coordinator Amanda Di Rienzo, a huge fan of Price who might still be beaming after having had a photo taken with her favourite.
My hat is off to Amanda, Gazette marketing director Nadia Orobello and the many others behind the scenes at The Gazette who organized the digital and print promotion of the auction to ensure its success.
And thanks to the players, who stirred interest not only in the charity event with their participation, but created awareness generally of the Christmas Fund, which for decades has been generously supported by Gazette readers.
Armstrong, as expected, was a riot, from the moment he asked that his multi-angled nose be photographed straight in a pre-dinner picture, to the tantalizing hockey scoops he threw at me, knowing I wouldn’t report them, to his gracious near-midnight text message that included: “Thanks for the heads up on the dress code!”
The players’ jeans and casual sweaters in fact set the tone for a relaxed evening of laid-back storytelling from the rink, dressing room and far beyond that Caroline and Éric won’t soon forget.
Let’s face it, not every fan would be privy to conversation — all cleared from the table with the dishes — that included Price and Gorges discussing their respective wedding plans; some candid insight into last January’s mid-game trade of Michael Cammalleri to Calgary; and delicious tales about the Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara.
Together, the stories and main courses were a carnivore’s delight, our host’s chicken the only plate not filled with Moishes’ world-class steak. This wasn’t entirely surprising since Lenny, a tremendously fit competitive cyclist, might eat at his own restaurant four times a week.
I sat directly across from a bottomless pit named Price, who said he’d trained hard that day and arrived at the restaurant hungry.
Price opened with Moishes’ legendary coleslaw and dills, then followed with bread to cleanse the palate before he got serious: a beef tartare appetizer preceded a chopped salad, a 22-ounce rib-eye steak that barely saw the plate, grilled vegetables and a massive Monte Carlo potato. He finished off with pumpkin-puréed cheesecake, evidently no room left for coffee.
In fact, Price chose to pass on dessert — until he opened the menu. When he suggested lightly that his fiancée, Angela, would kill him for having the cheesecake, I helpfully recommended that he take her home a slice as a peace offering.
“No, she’d kill me for that, too,” he replied, laughing, tackling his portion.
“Prustie, help me finish this, will you?” he finally pleaded to the teammate seated at his right elbow which today might have tendinitis.
Prust laughed, then took one of the two forkfuls of cheesecake that remained.
None of the goaltender’s teammates went hungry. Gorges, a Moishes veteran, proved as deft with a steak knife as he is blocking shots. Captain Gionta surely left the restaurant up a few weight classes.
At the end of the table, the square-physiqued Moen was dangerously quiet, tabbed by Price to be his choice for the evening’s best appetite. That couldn’t be substantiated, but Moen was last seen helping Armstrong destroy a monstrous slab of chocolate cake.
It was nearing 11 p.m. when we thanked Lenny for his hospitality and lumbered into the night, Price declaring that he’d be on the treadmill in the morning to burn off his dinner.
“Until when? Sunday?” I asked.
He laughed weakly, and replied something to the effect that he might not need a bedtime snack.
Caroline Tardif’s blog account of her special evening: tinyurl.com/bycac2t
The Gazette Christmas Fund welcomes every donation, big or small. Donate online at tinyurl.com/a73ssna or use the coupon on Page B8 of Saturday’s Gazette.
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