Habs raise Hall of Famer Gainey's No. 23 to rafters

Updated: February 23, 2008, 10:14 PM ET
Associated Press

MONTREAL -- Bob Gainey drew a gasp from Montreal Canadiens fans as he showed a sold-out Bell Centre crowd a brief flash of the determined play that led to his number 23 being added to those retired by the storied hockey team.

Gainey, the team's current general manager, took a turn on the ice in full uniform in a ceremony prior to Saturday night's game against Columbus.

With his family and members of the 1985-86 Canadiens team he captained to his fifth Stanley Cup looking on, Gainey waved to the crowd as he skated alone throughout both ends of the rink, drawing an audible reaction of awe when he bore down at one point as if he was pursuing a phantom opponent before jamming down both skate blades to make a hard stop at center ice.

"I learned something new tonight," Gainey told the crowd moments later. "I learned I'm more comfortable now with a shirt and tie than in hockey equipment."

Gainey, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, singled out former teammates Doug Jarvis and Guy Carbonneau for special mention. The two centers, both members of Montreal's current coaching staff, were Gainey's linemates for almost his entire 16-year career.

"These are my superstars, these two here," said Gainey, who won the inaugural Frank J. Selke Trophy in 1977-78, his first of four straight awards as the league's best defensive forward.

Carbonneau, the Canadiens current head coach, won the award three times in five years from 1988-92, including each of Gainey's last two seasons with the team.

Jarvis, Montreal's associate coach, was a junior teammate in Gainey's native Peterborough, Ont., rejoining him for the Canadiens' run of four straight Stanley Cups from 1976-79. He also won a Selke trophy with Washington in 1984.

Gainey won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1979 after he recorded 16 points in 16 games.

He also acknowledged the off-ice contributions of former teammates Serge Savard and Jacques Lemaire for their roles in shaping the team Gainey led throughout the 1980s.

Chosen team captain in 1981, Gainey guided a youthful Montreal team that featured rookies Patrick Roy, Claude Lemieux and Stephane Richer to an unexpected Stanley Cup win over Calgary in 1986.

Wearing his No. 21 jersey, Carbonneau drew a big ovation when he was introduced as a member of that team along with former teammates David Maley, Serge Boisvert, Sergio Momesso, Mike Lalor, Lucien DeBlois, Chris Nilan, Ryan Walter, Brian Skrudland, Mats Naslund, and head coach Jean Perron.

The captain of Montreal's last Stanley Cup win in 1993, Carbonneau won his third and final championship as a player in 1999 after he was brought to Dallas by Gainey, who was then the Stars' GM.

Players from both teams sat on their benches throughout the ceremony. All of the Canadiens wearing No. 23 jerseys with "Gainey" nameplates.

The Blue Jackets, whose head coach, Ken Hitchcock, was Gainey's coach with Dallas in 1999, each wore No. 23 jerseys for the ceremony that will be donated to the Gainey Foundation, a charitable organization established in the memory of Gainey's wife Cathy, who died of cancer, and his daughter Laura, who was lost at sea in December 2006.

Gainey's number became the 13th retired by the Canadiens, who will celebrate their centennial in 2009.

His No. 23 joined Nos. 1 (Jacques Plante), 2 (Doug Harvey), 4 (Jean Beliveau), 5 (Bernie "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion), 7 (Howie Morenz), 9 (Maurice "Rocket" Richard), 10 (Guy Lafleur), 12 (Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer), 16 (Henri Richard), 18 (Serge Savard), 19 (Larry Robinson) and 29 (Ken Dryden).


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press