MONTREAL – Some of the greatest players to ever don the storied Montreal Canadiens jersey say today’s generation of players sometimes forget what it means to be a Hab.
The team must always come first, retired stars Jean Beliveau, Yvan Cournoyer and Henri Richard said Thursday as they weighed in on the embarrassing arrests this week of Hab rookie Ryan O’Byrne and veteran forward Tom Kostopoulos.
“They are young kids and they forget, they don’t think about what the Montreal Canadiens mean … they think about having a little fun,” said Henri Richard, a former Habs captain and 11-time Stanley Cup winner as a player.
“I feel sorry for them, but they’re going to learn,” Richard said.
O’Byrne and Kostopoulos were arrested at about 3 a.m. Monday outside Whiskey Park, a Tampa, Fla., nightclub following the team’s annual rookie dinner.
Police say O’Byrne, 23, stole a woman’s purse while Kostopoulos, 29, resisted an officer without violence.
Both players were released on bail and the hockey club didn’t discipline either.
It should have been a night of team bonding. O’Byrne had just been recalled from the minor leagues and was one of three Hab rookies to split an expensive tab at a Tampa steak house before the party moved to the club.
Rookie initiations are nothing new, but a rookie dinner wasn’t possible in the playing days of Yvan Cournoyer, a 10-time Stanley Cup winner.
“If we had to spend $20,000 on a dinner, that would have been my salary for one year,” Cournoyer said.
Cournoyer says that sometimes the players forget the meaning of having the CH emblazoned on their sweaters.
He says players who wear that storied jersey should behave with a certain decorum that doesn’t go in the laundry with the shirt at the end of the game.
“I always respect the team and the CH,” said Cournoyer. “It’s an image we have.”
But Cournoyer, a speedy, diminutive forward nicknamed The Roadrunner, says 3 a.m. combined with a lack of sobriety can be a dangerous mix.
“I think a lot of people have made a similar stupid mistake,” said Cournoyer, who also spent four years as team captain from 1975-1979.
“I hope it’s going to be a good message for him and the rest of the team to act like a gentleman and not do things like that again.”
Venerable Habs great Jean Beliveau said initiations were the name of the game during his time.
Beliveau said he didn’t like the idea of a rookie dinner.
“Why are the veterans asking the rookies to pay for a $600 bottle of wine? Myself as captain, I would never do that,” said Beliveau, who was attending an auction fundraiser announcement for his foundation.
Beliveau, who also captained the Canadiens for a decade, said he’d oversee rookie initiation.
“My last ten years I was captain, so I’d let it go up to a point,” Beliveau said.
None of the three greats would go into any detail about what exactly the old time rookie initiation entailed. They did say it usually occurred on lengthy trips by train to other cities and involved food, booze and some other unmentionable acts.
“It was a crazy initiation,” said Richard with a mischievous smile.