While Colby Armstrong’s brief career as a Canadien came to an end, Daniel Brière’s was just starting as he put on his No. 48 Habs jersey for the first time Saturday morning and went for a skate at the team’s Brossard practice facility. He also posed for photos and spoke with some youngsters playing in a summer three-on-three league (including brothers Theo and Jacob Haley in photo above).
Brière also had his three sons with him and they toured the Habs’ locker room.
“I grew up a Canadiens fan so pulling on that jersey for the first time today was special,” Brière said.
“Today was my first time in the dressing room. I’ve seen the Bell Centre a lot but it’s nice to see it from the good side.”
At the same time, Armstrong was in an SUV driving back to his Saskatoon home, expecting to arrive sometime Saturday.
“I’m in a Lexus SUV loaded to the nuts with three dogs in here,” Armstrong told The Gazette’s Dave Stubbs with a laugh while describing his journey.
“Three tiny little golden-doodles, about 25 pounds a pop. They’re good passengers, for now. I made them a little area in the back, a little dog pound. That’s where I want them to stay, but they keep trying to shnizzle up onto my lap.
“I’m having none of that. I keep backhanding them into the back seat,” he joked. “It’s an ongoing battle. I figure by the time I get to Saskatoon, I’ll need physio for my right arm and shoulder.”
The 30-year-old veteran played only 37 games with the Canadiens last lockout-shortened season, missing 10 with a knee injury suffered April 1 at home vs. Carolina. The Habs chose not to retain the plugger whom they had paid $1 million as a 2012 free agent, arriving with 439 NHL games played over seven seasons for Pittsburgh, Atlanta then Toronto.
With limited interest in his services expressed on the NHL’s open market, a call from the Växjö Lakers of the Swedish elite league grew from an intriguing possibility to become a one-year contract. Armstrong will leave Saskatoon, his off-season home, for training camp on Aug. 18.
“The Canadiens were my childhood team,” Armstrong, a native of Lloydminster, Sask., told Stubbs while reflecting on his brief Habs career. “Just being part of that organization — looking around in the room at the plaques with guys’ names on the wall.
“Even though it was a shortened season, knowing that my name will be on the plaque of last season’s team, to be part of the history? I couldn’t have imagined that when I was a kid.
“My enduring memory is just being on the ice on that rink with the fans. It’s a feeling like none other in any city. The support and passion you can actually feel from the Montreal crowd was an honestly awesome experience.”
(Photo courtesy of Haley family)