Former Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, photographed last Saturday in the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast booth at the Bell Centre.
Dave Sidaway, Gazette
• Gazette feature: On his 50th birthday, Carbonneau looks ahead and back
• Texte en français: At CKAC Sports
Guy Carbonneau turns 50 on Thursday, happy with the many good things in his life.
And this birthday promises to be less eventful than No. 49.
A year ago to the day, Carbonneau sat before a news conference at the Bell Centre, nine days after he’d been fired as the Canadiens’ 28th head coach, a job he’d viewed as his destiny.
He answered questions for nearly an hour, addressing his dismissal by then GM Bob Gainey that had taken him and many others by surprise.
Today, Carbonneau is impressed by what he sees of his former team, for whom he played for a dozen years, served as captain and coached 230 games with a regular-season record of 124-83-23. He is busier than ever as a husband, father and grandfather of three who is moving painlessly on two new surgically replaced hips, serving as a Hockey Night in Canada analyst, starring in a TVA hockey reality show and soon heading to Belarus as head coach of Canada’s under-18 world championship team.
Good things in the present and the future. But Carbonneau still hasn’t gotten closure over his firing. He says his relationship has changed with Gainey, his former teammate and mentor in Dallas and Montreal who handpicked him to coach the Habs.
At the very least, the timing of the firing was puzzling: when Gainey pulled Carbonneau’s plug, alone or with pressure from above, the Canadiens were in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, having turned the corner from a horrible 1-11-3 skid in January/February, and Carbonneau, a finalist as NHL coach of the year the previous June, was only five months into a new three-year contract.
I sat Saturday at the Bell Centre with Carbonneau, who spoke at length about all of the above. There is no bitterness in him; he’s moved on and is loving his life. But he won’t lie to you – he was angry to be fired, and he still wouldn’t mind knowing the whole background behind his dismissal.