MONTREAL – The surprise trade of Jaroslav Halak by the Montreal Canadiens was met with shock and anger as the team’s rabid fan base lamented the loss of a playoff hero Thursday.
Habs fans lit the Internet ablaze with infuriated rants as news spread quickly throughout the city that the Habs had traded the key player from their best playoff run in nearly two decades.
In Old Montreal, The Canadian Press interviewed about 10 locals and not one supported the deal.
“Incredible,” one fan replied upon hearing the news.
“After a great season where he brought us where we got, it’s incomprehensible. I’ll be interested to see what they got in return.”
The incendiary reaction even extended to the House of Commons in Ottawa, where two local Liberal MPs weighed in on the deal through their Twitter pages.
“WHAT!?!? Halak for two hockey sticks and a bag of magic beans… I miss Bob,” Liberal MP Justin Trudeau wrote, referring to former Habs GM Bob Gainey.
The deal elicited a partial obscenity from Denis Coderre, who then added on his own Twitter page: “Nice way to thank Halak, who took us so far in the playoffs. Pathetic.”
Positive reviews were in the minority as most were dumbfounded over the turn of events, even though it had been expected that one of the team’s two young goalies would be dealt.
“No! No! No! You’re joking? No way,” another distraught fan told The Canadian Press, unable to believe the news.
“Why? I’m shocked, not saddened. How could they do that?”
Halak was toast of the town during the playoffs as the Canadiens pulled off back-to-back upsets over the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
During that run, one local newspaper paid tribute to Halak by superimposing his face, jersey and mask on a painting of Jesus Christ surrounded by adoring apostles.
General Manager Pierre Gauthier defended the unpopular decision on Thursday, one which made him a lightning rod for criticism from fans.
Gauthier told a conference call that the Canadiens were thinking long-term and made the decision that former first-round pick Carey Price was their man.
“When we discuss players, we discuss what they’re going to do in the future,” Gauthier said. “We’re very comfortable with Carey Price.”
Many fans weren’t convinced.
“We’re never going to get anything as good as Halak. We smelled the Cup with Halak,” said one fan milling near Notre Dame Basilica.
On the web, commentary was fast and furious as “Halak” and “Gauthier” quickly became trending topics on Twitter. Some applauded the move as gutsy; many others weren’t quite as generous.
“Halak for a couple of prospects? I hope you know what you’re doing, Pierre Gauthier, because this looks like it sucks,” a fan wrote on Twitter.
The intense goaltender debate had long divided Canadiens fans. The trade of Halak on Thursday finally settled the long-simmering goalie debate.
“I thought Price was going to be the one to go,” said a fan in Old Montreal