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Hey Kovy! We're Proud Of You Too!

If you happened to watch last night's game on RDS, there was a brief interview with Alex Kovalev shortly after his introduction as the game's third star.

During the short Q & A, reference was made to what went on with him last season, and the transformation within himself that brought about a career year this season.

Acknowledging the interviewer's noting of the crowd response - a minute long ovation for having won this year's Molson Cup - Kovalev didn't bat an eye in his usual frankness when assessing the roaring approval for the seaon he has given the team.

The fans, obviously wanted him to feel their love, respect, and admiration.

"I'm proud of myself", Kovalev stated, something I don't think I've ever heard an athlete say in response to such a mass gesture of goodwill.

His answer didn't just catch me off guard - it knocked me out!

One can imagine that Kovalev must have been so tormented by what he had offered to us as a game last season, so profoundly confused as to how and why it happened, and so angered by it all, that he drove headlong deep into his own psyche to take himself apart piece by piece and rebuild himself into something he could stand to look at in a mirror.

Kovalev is an honest man who speaks his heart and mind quite instinctively. He is not unlike the Maurice Richard or Guy Lafleur before him, in that sense. He has something to say - it is said.

"I'm proud of myself" was far from an answer I expected to hear, but it was the right one. It was true. And it was right.

The Canadiens leading scorer is by no means a predictable interview subject. He's a singular thinker who will rarely deviate from a team first state of mind.

Earlier in the year, after a Canadiens win over Washington that featured some highlight reel Alexander Ovechkin moments, Kovalev stopped a reporter as soon as a second Ovechkin question left his lips.

"I don't want to talk about him. We have many good players on this team. Let's talk about that."

When Kovalev was passed by for an appearance at the NHL All Star game, but considered as a last minute replacement, he balked at the notion when questioned about it. He wouldn't go under such a circumstance.

"I have my own All Star Team here", slammed that query to a fast close.

All of those responses struck me, as it might have with other fans who had heard them.

I spent a good deal of time at this site last season, slagging Kovalev like there was no tomorrow. I termed him an enigma at every turn, and at the season's disappointing conclusion, hoped that Habs management would buy out his contract and make him walk the plank.

Today, I am glad I was so wrong, and that Bob Gainey knew enough about this man's insides and heart, that he knew some good old straight talk might fix things.

During Kovalev's offseason, there were stories of him connecting with fans, and just a few weeks back he released a DVD, for which proceeds would go to his charity of choice.

Giving is what he has done best this season.

Before last night's game, I had heard about Kovalev receiving the Molson Cup, and learned that fans were getting poised to give his season a rousing thumbs up ovation.

Not often do I make it a point to catch such opening game ceremonies, but this one I did not want to miss.

The Bell Centre fans gave it up for Kovy last night, bigtime.

What he has given this season, was returned in cheer with the gesture.

During that minute, the camera zoomed for several closeups - on Kovalev's eyes, his sheepish smile.

There was an intent spoken in Kovalev's eyes in that moment that said "We are not done yet!"
It was an appreciative and focused stare that said, "We have a game to win tonight".

All season long, Kovalev's game has epitomized passion. Game in and game out, he has brought it and has delivered it. His leadership has enabled the post season the Canadiens are about to experience.

What Kovalev has done for the Habs in 2007-08, has made him a great Montreal Canadiens player. True to the tradition.

Kovalev has all the right to exclaim, "I'm proud of myself".

We are proud of you too Kovy.

Damned proud!