Man crashes Canadiens' practice with 'nothing to lose'
MONTREAL -- Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore has stopped a lot of shots in his day, but nothing like this: A stranger in hockey equipment jumped on the ice during practice and shot a puck at him.
"He couldn't beat me," Theodore said. "That's the main thing."
The practice crasher was chased to the side boards by coach Claude Julien, but wouldn't get off the ice until he was pulled away by an arena worker. The intruder called Theodore a "great goalie," adding he didn't score because "I didn't have time."
The 28-year-old man, a recreational hockey player intent on showing he could play at a top level, identified himself as Raphael. Police spokesman Olivier Lapointe said that although two officers spoke to the man, it was "not really a police matter," and he was not arrested.
He went onto the Verdun Auditorium ice when most of the players were at the far end of the rink. Wearing skates, full gear and a white hockey jersey, Raphael skated in on the star goalie with a stick and a puck. He was poke-checked on his first attempt, and Theodore then stopped a weak wrist shot to the high glove side.
"I didn't really know what was going on until the guy came on," a grinning Theodore said. "He came at me with his head down so I just wanted to say 'Welcome to the big boys.' I poke-checked him to say, `You have to keep your head up.' When he came back, I thought about going out of the net and not playing into his game, but then I thought he had the [courage] to go on the ice, so I let him have a free shot at me."
Raphael said he crashed the practice to show the Canadiens what he could do on the ice.
"For many years I wanted to play high-caliber hockey," he said. "I had nothing to lose."
A security guard was on duty at the rink during practice.
"The situation turned out to be harmless," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press. "But hopefully it will serve as a reminder to all of us of the importance and need for ensuring adequate security to safeguard the health and safety of our players."
The Canadiens practice at the suburban arena when Bell Centre is unavailable. That was the case this time because of a Rolling Stones concert. About 15 to 20 fans, mostly youngsters, were on hand Monday.
The man had spent most of the practice sitting in the seats in hockey gear. Winger Alex Kovalev wondered if he was a player waiting to go on after the Canadiens practice. Then the man moved down next to the boards, tightened his skate laces and jumped on the ice.
"Maybe he was wondering if we need a right-handed shot and tried to prove he can play on our team," Kovalev said. "You need one of those things to give us a laugh."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press