One Thousand Games No Breeze For Brisebois

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Update: No breeze indeed! I've just learned from CKAC that Brisebois is sitting tonight in favor of O'Byrne and Deandenault returning to the lineup. It's kind of weird that they make Brisebois wait this game out. Cue the old Meatloaf tune, "All Revved Up With No Place To Go!"

Tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers, Patrice Brisebois will become the 232nd NHL player to appear in 1000 games.

It's one big round number, and one big time achievement. It would have been nice for Patrice had it occurred in front of hometown fans and family, and it will surely be noted when the Habs return to the Bell.

Count on Serge Savard perhaps, to walk out the red carpet and hand him a silver stick signed by every player who ever beat him one on one current members of the Canadiens.

I won't be a hypocrite about this - I was never terribly fond of Brisebois.

I liked that he was a fairly good player for the Team Canada Junior in 1991 that had been drafted by the Habs. Two years later, I thought that for a young player making his way, that he held his own on the 1993 Cup champion Canadiens.

My apologies to those who are endeared by Patrice Brisebois, but I cannot in all honesty type an entirely favorable viewpoint on how he is perceived by myself and many other fans of the team.

I may not be able to escape my own thoughts on him after seeing him in the CH for 16 seasons, but I'll do my best to credit, critique, and point out what images and memories come to mind when his name is mentioned.

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First, in fairness, I'll lay down what I believe to be the reasons he has lasted so long on the Canadiens scene.

On the ice, Brisebois has the physique of an NHL calibre defenseman - obviously - and at his best, is a key componant in the transition game of defense to offense. Whenever he has been allowed that split second to make the proper up ice pass, he's usually faultless in his delivery. He reads breakouts on his side extremely well. When he is pressured - spin the roulette - it's a whole other story altogether.

His fluid skating stride is as strong today as it has ever been. It is what has kept him alive as an NHL'er more than anything.

Physically, he's more known for taking a pounding to make the right play than he is for dishing it out in tough contests. He'll take a beating, but rarely administer one.

At the opposite end of the rink, Brisebois has a plethora of offensive gifts. He has an above average lateral pass and a shot on net that can at times be both accurate and hard. His reading of when to empoy these assets are often undone by his eagerness to make a gamebreaking play rather than a safe one. The majority of his most costly errors over his career have habitually come from 140 away from his own goal rather than within the 80 foot length he is tasked with commanding defensively.

Here's ome random and specific Top 10 Brisebois moments, highlights, and lowlights.

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Boo you!

Not long after Bob Gainey takes over the Canadiens, the GM admonishes fans for getting on Breezer's case with regular booings at the Bell. Gainey states that fans such as those aren't needed by the team, and he'd rather such fans stay away from the rink. The jeering of Patrice has never become an issue since.

No dice, no Cup!

Late in the Rejean Houle era, it becomes known that he has traded Brisebois to New Jersey, pending Patrice's waving of a no trade clause. Brisebois nixes the deal, one that would have sent forward Sergei Brylin to the Canadiens. Instead Houle ships the equally maligned Vladimir Malakhov to America's armpit state and the Devils win the Stanley Cup. Brisebois stays put, and the Habs gain seven years of Shelson Souray as consolation.

Cover your eyes

The Habs are trailing 2-1 late in the game, and they're on the powerplay. The Canadiens are pressing in the opponents zone. You've seen this movie many times before. Brisebois is on the point. A pass from the corner board comes to him at the blueline. He bobbles it, and the Canadiens have to regroup. After some scrambling, the Habs powerplay settles. There's a pass to the point. Brisebois telegraphs his windup and fires it into traffic and it hits an oncoming set of shinpads. The player flies by him, grabs the pucks, and carries it he length of the ice into an open net.

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Almost a Flyer!

Yes, Habs fans would love to forget the February 1995 trade that sent John Leclair and Eric Desjardins to Philadelphia for Mark Recchi. The original trade proposed by then GM Serge Savard proposed Leclair and Brisebois, but Philly GM Bob Clarke wanted nothing to do with Breezer. When Clarke insisted upon Desjardins over Brisebois, Savard then insisted he take troublesome Gilbert Dionne in the deal.

Paid like a number one, but hardly one!

After the 2000-01 season, Brisebois is up for contract renewal. He's scored a career high 15 goals, but was a team high minus 31. Management pays him in excess of four million annually for the upcoming season, and fans start to get on his case when he fails to be more than he ever was.

Cover your eyes, part duh!

The Habs are pressing. They've missed a wide open net and hit a goalpost with the man advantage. Everyone's buzzing the net. A puck comes loose along the side board. Brisebois makes a move for it. You've seen this before - it's a rerun nightmare from hell. Brisebois hesitates just enough, and the puck is chipped by him, clearing the zone. After having committed himself to too deep a pinch, Brisebois is helpless that stop the rush passing hin. The opponent strides the ice's length and nets a shorthanded winning goal.

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His biggest!

Brisebois scores the biggest goal of his career against New Jersey in the 1997 playoffs. It happened three periods into overtime on April 24, and it helped stave off elimination for the Habs. The win marks Jose Theodore first in the NHL, and it comes one game after Martin Brodeur scores into an open net in game three of the series.

A change of scenery

Coming off the 2004-05 NHL lockout, GM Gainey decides that money paid to Brisebois is better spent elsewhere. He buys the player out during the NHL's initial buyout phase, and Patrice becomes a member of the Avalanche, where he first dons the number of his year of birth.

Cover your eyes, trois

The Canadiens are on the attack. Shots are being fired from every conceivable angle. Brisebois misreads his partner's pinch with no one to cover for him. He dashes back towards his own goal, getting position as he skates backwards frantically, ready for a one on one break. Just as Brisebois seems in place, the opponant dipsies, then doodles, throwing Brisebois off balance and flat footed, As he is about to pivot, the opponant double dekes, and Brisebois augers himself into the ice as his foe strolls past him. The player cuts to the middle and roofs one as Brisebois dusts himself off. 

About Paris!

Early in 2003, the relationship between Brisebois and fans at Bell has gotten so bad, that team doctors ordered him onto stress leave from the club. Complaining of chest pains that were preceded by a nagging back injury, doctors diagnosed a stress induced heart arrhythmia in Brisebois, and ordered him to rest at home. Somewhere along the way, the wires of these instructions got crossed, and the club was horrified to learn that while the team was losing games, Brisebois was on a European vacation in Paris. Breezer later stated that the rest instruction was not made clear to him. The media levelled him, noting that jet planes and heart arrhythmia are somewhat counterproductive.

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Habs Love 

I was witness to Brisebois' dedication to being Montreal Canadiens player, upon the occasion of the first Habs Inside Out Habs fan summit in October 2007. Brisebois had been a controvercial resigning of the club that summer, with as many fans wondering why he'd return to Montreal as those who wondered why the team would ask him back. Lots of ink was spilled detailing that for Brisebois, playing hockey for the Canadiens was the only thing that mattered to him.

Truly, it was a noggin scratcher as to why he would return to the scene where he had been so despised in his previous incarnation.

That fact was evident that October day. As our group was being prepared for a Gazette photo shoot, Brisebois made his way into the Bell Centre behind us. It disrupted the whole shoot for a spell, as everyone turned to catch a glimpse of him so close to the main east side doors.

Brisebois was nattily attired in a long black trenchcoat, strolling by as we all shouted out his name. The Gazette photographer had quite the task keeping us camera focused, as we all turned to look between being posed for shots.

As Brisebois was passing throught the backdrop of our shoot, we needed to wait as he stopped to sign autographs with a pen at the ready, pose for pictures with fans, and kindly chat with those who stopped to greet him. The destraction that Brisebois was to our shoot lasted a good five minutes, and from where I stood, I never saw his huge grin leave his face.

Now I've imagined myself in the skate laces of many a great Montreal Canadiens player in my 46 years, but never have I seen it more respectfully exemplified than I did that day, as Brisebois paused to mingle with fans of the team.

You had to see how happy he looked to truly appreciate the moment.

I gather that with my hockey skills, had I ever been fortunate enough to walk in such shoes, slide in such skate strides, I'd have killed to live every single day, and then just one more, to be a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

I'd take the darts and slingshots of critics, the boos of boobirds, and all the wrath I could handle to keep on living that one extra day, to help the team I held so warmly in my heart get closer to where it was headed.

In his one thousandth NHL game, Brisebois might just embody and represent the common fan in a lot of us. Seeing it that way, booing him would feel like booing myself.

Now, score that shootout winner in Atlanta, Patrice!

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