Coaching in the NHL is a stressful, thankless occupation, but at least you have to regularly stand at a podium in front of a bank of television cameras and submit to impertinent interrogation from a battery of beat reporters.
Montreal Canadiens head man Michel Therrien is an old hand at this, and has delivered some of the more memorable media performances in recent NHL history, like the “lack of respect” rant in last year’s playoffs and his justly famous post-game speech in Pittsburgh a few years back, which you can watch in all its glory here.
After the pre-game skate ahead of Thursday’s match-up with the Columbus Blue Jackets (7:30 p.m., RDS, TSN-Habs), where the Habs will try and run their winning streak to four games, Therrien was in fine form.
When asked off the top if there was an update on injured winger Max Pacioretty, he mumbled the usual platitudes about how ’you’ll know when we know’ and that while his top-scoring forward from last season had undergone an MRI, it hadn’t yet been analyzed by team physicians.
Venerable Montreal Gazette hockey writer Pat Hickey cracked wise at the response, suggesting maybe the team needed to find a different doctor, Therrien threw up his hands and said “hey, I’m just a hockey coach.”
The upshot is Pacioretty won’t play against Columbus – a more detailed update on his sore left leg is expected Thursday afternoon – and if flu victim Rene Bourque isn’t well enough, the Habs will dress seven defencemen and use one of them to bolster one of the forward lines.
When radio play-by-play man Martin McGuire followed up in French a few moments later, Therrien offered similar evasions on Pacioretty, which were met by snickers (full disclosure: the author of these lines was among the snickerers), at which point he stopped, narrowed his eyes and said “why are you laughing?”
“I’m just as anxious to know as you are,” he said, waiting a beat before adding, “maybe even a tiny bit more.”
Cue the guffaws.
But the biggest laugh came near the end of his press conference, when Hickey mused that the team might consider invoking a rule to have players wear overcoats – he had seen several in chilly Winnipeg (although not Bourque) wandering around in suit jackets and open-collared shirts.
Therrien, visibly stunned by the query, leaned on his lectern with what can politely be described as a quizzical expression.
“I. Was. Not. Expecting. That. Question,” he said. “I’m going to take it under consideration.”
After working his way through the answer he seemed to suggest it might not be such a bad idea.
As TSN radio reporter Jess Rusnak asked the final question of the session – about George Parros, who it appears is nearly free of concussion symptoms and is working out in the gym – Therrien grabbed the podium with both hands and muttered to himself.
“I’m sweating,” he said, to a burst of laughter from the room.