Montreal Canadiens fans, bags

Bribing public officials isn’t unique to Chicago, Washington DC or even this country. Canadian officials are down for a little quid pro quo although their demands are uniquely America Jr.

Montreal is caught up in the rapture of the Charbonneau corruption inquiry. It’s got everything you would want. Bribery, mafia involvement, bid rigging, price fixing and free hockey tickets.

A half-dozen employees from the city’s engineering department have testified and every single one of them has admitted to taking free hockey tickets whenever they could get them.

They were wined, dined and bribed by construction bosses. Some took gifts ranging from golf vacations to free home renovations. Some accepted money, some said they refused it. One witness said he drew the line at prostitutes and declined to accept the paid company of young women.

But nobody said no to Habs games — the hottest ticket in a hockey-mad town.

Imagine if Richard Daley could have bought off Chicago aldermen with nothing but Blackhawk tickets. Flying cars and moving sidewalks everywhere. A Kuma’s and Tuman’s Alcohol Abuse Center on every corner.

Habs tickets are serious business in Montreal. Individual tickets can go for almost $100 before they hit the resale market. Once they do, forget about it unless you work for the city of Montreal.

Some Montreal municipal employees managed to get tickets for $0.

In exchange, they did a few favours for construction bosses.

Some allegedly doctored work plans, approved false expenses, or shared inside information that ensured certain companies won bids and subsequently inflated the price of a project.

Their work helped businessmen set up a construction cartel in the city, in which a small cabal rigged bids and overcharged for public works. Under that system, illicit profits were divvied up between companies, municipal officials, political parties, and the Italian Mafia.

In at least one case, the hockey tickets appeared to have been as coveted as a bribe.

Taking Habs tickets in return for favors was “standard procedure”.

Hockey tickets also work as currency at the national level. Ottawa is flush with lobbyists handing out Senators tickets like hot cakes. One can only hope they’re more discreet and have a little more pride than Mayor Adrian Fenty and the DC City Council members who fought over Nationals tickets like children. That’s nothing new to DC residents.

Then there was the recent report of a Canadian diplomat charging taxpayers $10,000 to host business officials in a private box at a game in Pittsburgh — a practice that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird ordered stopped.

Forget international fact-finding junkets to exotic locales. We goin’ to Pittsburgh to see the Pens and get some Primanti Bros. for the drive back to Ottawa! Saku Koivu! That’s what I’m talkin’ aboot!

It’s good to see the Canadians aren’t letting a little inquiry get in the way of business as usual. The Star reports that the Montreal City Council is still awarding contracts to construction firms that are still under investigation. Keep it réel, Habs.

Former Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig had some strong words on Wednesday about his ex-teammate Alexander Ovechkin’s work ethic, or lack thereof:

“For Alex, it’s a work ethic,” Kolzig said. “He just has to get back to being the way he was in his younger days and maybe not get wrapped up too much in the rock-star status that comes with being Alex Ovechkin.”

“ …Alex was getting away from playing the hard, no-nonsense, honest type of hockey, exuberant hockey that he displayed the first three years that he was in the league.”

Ouch. Of course, everyone knows now that statistically Kolzig is correct. You can compare his first 3 years with the next 4 right here on Hockey-Reference and see for yourself. The numbers don’t lie, his production has fallen as he has gotten older. But why have the numbers dropped when he should, by all means, be right in the middle of his prime hockey playing years? Well, what you might want to zone in on within Kolzig’s statements is the timing of it all:

“…the first three years…”

What happened after the first three years I wonder?  OH RIGHT!  Alex Ovechkin signed a 13 year extension in the middle of his 3rd season with the Washington Capitals for $124 million. He was just 22 years old then and here’s what he had to say at the time:

“I know it’s extra pressure, but I have to play the same,” he said. “If you think of pressure, it’s hard for you. I have to play the same way — play more, play better.”

Hmmm…he thought he could handle the pressure but, so far, the results of his play would say otherwise. He’s definitely not playing the same way he was, as Kolzig pointed out on Wednesday, and he’s certainly not playing better. Ovechkin also stated during the contract extension press conference:

“Hockey is my life,” he said, shrugging, “and money is money. … If you think about money, you stop playing hockey.”

I wonder if Ovechkin has forgotten his own advice? Seems like Kolzig thinks that he has.

There must have been a lot people skeptical about his maturity, being an instant superstar at age 20, since it seems that everyone was asking him how he would handle the gigantic payday. It’s entirely possible that after his huge payday, with all the partying and easy living, Ovechkin has just gotten soft.  Ted Leonsis, back in 2005, thought he could handle it all:

“My bet is the money won’t affect him,” Leonsis said. “He’ll play every shift like it’s the seventh game of the finals of the Stanley Cup, and that’s what we’ve come to love about him.”

Well, I think we can all say that prescient statement has not come true…yet.  There’s still time for Alex Ovechkin to find that hunger and intensity which he used to play every game with but with each passing season of losing without any financial penalty on his part…he might have little incentive to do so.

Hopefully Ovechkin will take Kolzig’s advice and play with the drive he had before the payday, if anything just to prove his doubters wrong…otherwise this Leonsis might live to regret this contract nearly as much as the $88 million deal he gave Jaromir Jagr.

Guess Who’s Back?

Sidney Crosby came back to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, in a big way. Sidney scored 2 goals and had 2 assists in his first game back from two concussions sustained last season while routing the Islanders 5-0. While I am no fan of the Penguins, having Crosby back playing hockey is a good thing for the NHL as a whole. The guy is just electric, he is a star. If the NHL is going to attempt to absorb some NBA fans that are giving up on basketball during the lockout then this guy needs to be on the ice. Check out all four of his points here, including his first two goals in over a year:

I don’t care where your allegiances lie, what Crosby did tonight was fantastic. I dont think I could perform my day job that well coming back from a year and a half break. Lets just hope the kid stays healthy and he doesn’t become the next Eric Lindros, Paul Kariya or Pat LaFontaine.


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And this

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Bet you wish you watched it now, huh?

It looks like Alexander Ovechkin will get onto the golf course early, yet again, this off-season as the Washington Capitals were swept in the 2nd round of the NHL Playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning. This marks the 2nd straight season where the Capitals were a #1 seed that could not make it past the first or second rounds of the playoffs. Despite what Ovie thinks, the Caps by no means dominated the Lightning in this series.

At times the Capitals played some very inspired hockey, most notably in my mind was the the 2nd period of Game 3 where they dominated the puck for the entire 20 minutes, but in general the Caps looked sloppy against the sharp play of the Lightning. Sure, maybe the Caps just ran into another blazing hot buzzsaw of a team (this is the Lightning’s 7th win in a row during the playoffs) just like when they got bounced by the Canadienes last year but I don’t know if anyone actually believes that this is the case.   The system and team that Tampa’s coach Guy Boucher and GM Steve Yzerman put together played right into the Captials’ main weakness, utter lack of discipline.

The Lightning could basically sit back and wait for the Capitals to make a mistake because everyone in the building knew that they would screw up somewhere and whenever it happened, the Lightning would strike (pardon the pun) and generally it turned out in their favor. The Caps can talk all they want about the lucky bounces that the Lightning got throughout the series but, to me, that is loser talk. Most successful people say that you make your own luck. Preparation, practice and most importantly execution make your luck. The Captials, despite having several days to prepare for this series, in hindsight were never prepared for this series.

The coaching staff didn’t adjust, despite ample time to come up with a game plan for the Lightning, the players couldn’t adapt to the circumstances and they regressed to the sloppy/over-aggressive play of the last few years (or just stopped playing whatsoever [see Backstrom, Nicholas or Semin, Alex]) and the team’s management and fans could only sit and watch as yet another season as a top seed gets wasted away.

As a lifelong Washington Capitals fan, being disappointed by this team is by no means a surprise. They always disappoint. Its what the Capitals do. Its happened one way or another every year that I have followed this team. Its par for the course. I feel at this point that if they ever do win the Stanley Cup I might just be disappointed that they finally did not disappoint me. I can’t start thinking that way though, I’ll just get let down again somehow.