UPDATED: Pacioretty headed home from Switzerland

Max Pacioretty

Max Pacioretty in action during his first of five Swiss A League games for Ambrì Piotta.
© Photo courtesy Yvonne Leonardi

DAVE STUBBS
The Gazette/Hockey Inside Out

After five games, one goal, three games on the sidelines for reasons not entirely clear and no shortage of murky rumours at the end, Max Pacioretty’s three-week NHL lockout adventure in Switzerland has come to an end.

The Canadiens forward left his Swiss A League cellar-dwelling Ambrì Piotta club on Tuesday and prepared to return to North America. He was expected to fly back to his native Connecticut on Wednesday and resume on- and off-ice work with longtime trainer Ben Prentiss for the 2012-13 NHL season that might or might not take place.

The tidiest explanation for Pacioretty’s departure from Swiss hockey – a little speculation based on information from solid sources on two continents – might be the curious manner in which he was used by a team that imported him from North America with much fanfare.

This much is certain, no matter Tuesday’s official team smokescreen:

Pacioretty was scratched his final three games, the first two with what the team insisted was the flu. But there’s little question the 23-year-old was fit enough to play the second game and, probably, the first, having taken part in that morning’s skate.

The third game, played last Saturday, saw Pacioretty left out of the lineup by Kevin Constantine when the coach believed his team was on the brink of snapping its 10-game losing streak. It did, upsetting Rick Nash and Joe Thornton’s Davos at Ambrì.

As Pacioretty packed up to leave Tuesday, he was nearing two weeks without having played a game, dealing with a minor elbow injury and practising with team spares.

More details about his exit from Ambrì should emerge in the days ahead to shed more light on an experience that reads, as Gordon Lightfoot famously sang, “just like a paperback novel, the kind that drugstores sell.”

On Tuesday, there was no reading Pacioretty’s mind – or having a word with him – as he packed up for his trip home. Just rest assured that the NHL hasn’t cornered the market on dysfunctional teams.

Shortly after 6 p.m. Swiss time Tuesday, Pacioretty saluted Ambrì fans with a farewell message on his Twitter account:

“Thank you #HCAP fans for all of the support. It was an honor to play in front of you especially in Valascia,” he tweeted, referencing the club’s open-ended, fresh-air arena.

There’s also no question Pacioretty grew close to his teammates during his short stay and will cherish many memories of his first-ever trip to Switzerland.

In five games with Ambrì, he scored once, six minutes into his first match, took four penalty minutes and finished minus-2 with 22 shots on goal.

He never tasted victory, arriving in the tiny village with his club two losses into what would be a 10-game losing streak, Ambrì sinking into the 12-team league basement.

The club reported Tuesday that Pacioretty never fully recovered from his flu and asked to be released, saying he’d be welcome to return at any time. The club also said he was suffering from inflammation of an elbow that all believed would be better treated in North America.

Alex Schall, Pacioretty’s agent, said Tuesday that while the player is nursing a couple of minor, lingering injuries, they in no way will impede his preparation for the 2012-13 NHL season, assuming it happens.

Pacioretty had left home for Switzerland the last week of September with high hopes, both for himself and the team of Constantine, a 1978 Canadiens goaltending draft pick who from 1993-2002 coached 377 NHL games in San Jose, Pittsburgh and New Jersey.

“(Constantine) called me to tell me their situation – that they haven’t made the playoffs in six years and that they’re not looking for someone who wants to come over on vacation,” he said of the coach’s recruiting pitch.

“I explained to him that I have intentions of helping them win and playing my heart out. I was happy to have that conversation with him. … I told him the truth: that I want to go over there and play and work on my game and help them win.”

Pacioretty’s departure deprives Swiss fans of an anticipated head-to-head duel with Canadiens defenceman Raphael Diaz, whose EV Zug travels Saturday to face Ambrì.

Swiss-native defencemen Diaz and Yannick Weber, who plays for league-leading Geneva-Servette are the two Canadiens who remain in the Swiss A League.

Diaz, riding an eight-game point streak, is tied for second in league scoring with 13 points on three goals and 10 assists. He’s plus-4 with four penalty minutes and 22 shots on goal.

Weber has six points on three goals and three assists. He has 14 penalty minutes, having taken four minors in his second game, and is minus-4 with 33 shots.

With a couple weeks training at home in Connecticut, there’s a good chance Pacioretty will join the barnstorming Tournée des joueurs. The Canadiens forward has stayed in touch with several of the players taking part in the charity event, which is in Drummondville this Thursday and Sorel-Tracy on Friday.

With Habs centreman David Desharnais also taking part in the travelling show, Pacioretty might eventually be reunited with his two linemates from last season:

Winger Erik Cole checked in by text message Tuesday  to happily report he’s now officially locked out – seriously, he did – having rehabilitated a months-old lower-body injury to the point that he’s been declared fit to play by the Canadiens medical staff.

“Can’t say enough thank-yous to Graham and Nick for getting me healthy!!” Cole texted about Habs head athletic therapist Graham Rynbend and his assistant, Nick Addey-Jibb.

dstubbs@montrealgazette.com
Twitter: @Dave_Stubbs

62 Comments

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  2. geo_habsgo says:

    Lebrun reporting that the offer is at least 6 years. God dammit just take the deal. At this point, I’d go through it again if it means I get hockey now and at least for the next 6 years. I know that is very narrow thinking on my part but I’m pretty desperate for my Habs.

    Marinaro also reporting that this proposal is tabled with the mind to play the full 82 game schedule this season. That would be good for us as viewers but a terribly busy hockey schedule since I am sure that they’d just cram the games in rather than have hockey going until July.

  3. TommyB says:

    So the owners have put forward a revised deal, with some seemingly meaningful changes. I say seemingly, because I don’t know for sure exactly what the NHLPA is seeking. Clearly, the NHL has taken a step forward in the PR department, and just as clearly, the puck is now in the players end of the rink. The reply from the NHLPA should be crucial, as far as a signal to the fans and media goes, as to how much longer this farce will continue. I don’t get a real warm and fuzzy feeling. Maybe a bit more Bailey’s in my coffee might help. The good news is that they actually appear to have discussed the real issue. How to divvy up the suckers’, er, I mean, fans cash.

  4. habs-fan-84 says:

    NHL offers 50/50 split.

    Players better take it!

  5. shiram says:

    More proposal details : Pierre LeBrun tweet #4
    Am told in NHL offer there is a proposal designed to “protect” players for salary reductions in the initial years

    Pierre LeBrun tweet #5
    Also league has taken off table some of the systemic changes to player contracts which they asked for in initial July offer

    good on the player contracts stuff, that was just awful.

  6. Ron says:

    LeBrun also saying the NHL has put forth within their proposal a portion that would protect players salary from salary reduction in the initial years.

  7. Thanks for the story Dave… I’m waiting to hear the ‘way more to the story’ part!!
    You made the frontpage of teliopost.com!
    Nice reporting…we need more like this please!

    The greatest Canadiens and NHL news-site: http://teliopost.com/
    Twitter: @teliopost

  8. L Elle says:

    Come and listen to a story about a man named Ed
    A poor billionaire, barely kept his family fed,
    Then one day he was shootin’ at some fool
    And up through the ground came a babblin dude

    Bettman that is, black heart, Texas Stars

    Well the first thing you know ol Ed’s a billionaire
    Kinfolk said “Ed screw the fans out there”
    Said Philly is the place you ought to be
    So he loaded up the Jag and ruined hockey
    So he loaded up the Jag and ruined hockey

    Pucks that is, fantasy pools, hockey stars

    Well now it’s time to say good-bye to Habs and all their fans
    And they would like to thank you folks fer kindly dropping in.
    You’re all invited back again to this locality
    To have a heapin helpin of their hospitality

    Our money, that is. Set a spell, buy a jersey.

    Y’all suckers come back now, y’hear?

  9. habsfan0 says:

    “More details about his exit from Ambrì Piotta should emerge in the days ahead to shed more light on an experience that reads, as Gordon Lightfoot famously sang, “just like a paperback novel, the kind that drugstores sell.”

    “If I Could Read Your Mind” Stubbs, I’d say family reasons were behind Patches decision to leave Europe.

    • Ron says:

      Stubbs just twitted more new info on Max’s return coming shortly.

    • Luke says:

      That was an awful big stretch to try and squeeze some Lightfoot into this article.
      As much I appreciate Gord, and I do love a ‘pop’ culture reference (hey it was pop culture at one point…) I’m going to have to toss out a red flag and challenge this one.

  10. English is not a Crime says:

    I personally found this to be the most bizarre part of the story

    “Constantine is reported to have told Le Journal de Montréal’s Jonathan Bernier that Pacioretty was not, in fact, a victim of the quota on Saturday, but not dressed because the coach didn’t want to tamper with a lineup that was showing signs of life.”

    This was a team that was on a 10 game losing streak and the coach didn’t want to risk tampering with the lineup???? Is Constantine a JM disciple?

  11. arcosenate says:

    What’s hockey related revenue again?

    http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=407490

  12. Ron says:

    LeBrun twiting NHL gave new proposal to NHLPA containing 50/50 split on HRR starting in 1st year. 82 game schedule starting Nov 2.

  13. Cal says:

    Have to give it up for the Euro Leagues and their clown outfits. Advertise on the ice and boards; the jersey should belong to the team and its fans.
    That’s why soccer jerseys look so stupid. No logo, just an ad. Ridiculous.

    • Habfan10912 says:

      Agree with you Cal. Seems like they try to squeeze every nickel out of the market with no thought given to the fans enjoyment. See the new Yankee Stadium as an example.

      BTW- I resent my message to you.

      ———————————–

    • English is not a Crime says:

      The second they do this in the NHL is the second that I never tune in to watch another NHL (commercial/game)

      • Luke says:

        I’m sure a lot of people said that when they added rink board ads…

        • English is not a Crime says:

          Big difference between ads on the boards (which never phased me in the least) and becoming the Montreal Rothman’s/Penzoils/CocaColas/WalMarts/Journals/RDSs/ESSOs/Candiens … oops we need to make room for a new sponsor, let’s get that CH thing off the chest…..

  14. shiram says:

    Apply your own grain of salt to this one, but it does seem alot more likely than contraction and it could be a “gift” to the fans after the locout.
    Jason Kay Jason Kay ‏@JKTHN

    There’s strong speculation the NHL could announce two expansion teams for Canada once CBA deal struck: Quebec & Toronto. More in Oct. 29 THN

  15. Timo says:

    There is always Russia. I bet the training facilities there are top notch. Restaurants, strip bars, saunas, massage parlors with happy endings. What more a professional athlete would want?

  16. frontenac1 says:

    Maybe he got fed up wearing that vulgar costume they call a uniform. Look at Him! Poor bugger.

  17. twilighthours says:

    I hope that all the people who have spent the past few days ripping Stubbs/Hickey for their lack of stories will be lining up to apologize to Dave.

  18. Dave Stubbs says:

    Way more to this story than I can report now, based on what I’m told by sources I trust. More details will emerge in the days ahead. But for now, let’s just say Max will be much better served training at home. Hockey overseas isn’t suited to everyone; not every situation is ideal.

    Dave Stubbs

    Hockey Inside/Out
    Sports Columnist/Feature Writer, Montreal Gazette
    • On Twitter: @Dave_Stubbs
    • Email: dstubbs@montrealgazette.com

    • shiram says:

      Intriguing to say the least, thank you mister Stubbs for keeping us all in the loop.

    • HabinBurlington says:

      Appreciate the report Dave. To me this is just another example of why the KHL is not a long term answer for most North American born hockey players.

      I would think the conditions in Switzerland would be better than Russia, understanding the league may not be as high level. But the infrastructure and economic conditions of Switzerland would be much better than that of Russia.

      • geo_habsgo says:

        From everything I’ve heard, Patches swiss club sounds like it isn’t doing well financially. I’d imagine that would mean that their facilities are less than top-notch. When a guy like Patches is used to first class facilities as a member of the Canadiens I’m not sure this club could match up.

        Clearly there is something pretty juicy here.

      • ed lopaz says:

        The Swiss are a very “proud” bunch and a little less tolerant then one would think.

        They would look at the addition of Max maybe favorably at first, but then they would expect results.

        Many people overseas are less then thrilled to have NHL players take jobs from local players.

        Its one thing for a national like Diaz or Weber to come home and play. Its another thing entirely for a Canadian or an American to go over there and take a Swiss job away from a local player.

        That’s why there are limits on players called “imports” – like in the CFL – these rules on imports exist to satisfy the nationalist image of the league that aims to protect local talent.

        Its accepted that certain foreigners will play in the Swiss league every year. But these players are making a full commitment to the team and the league. They are not using the league as a place to stay sharp and stay in game shape so they can bolt back to North America as soon as the lockout is lifted.

  19. Kooch7800 says:

    Wow, I can’t believe Patches can’t crack the Swiss line up. He is a heck of a hockey player

  20. habs-hampton says:

    First! (I’ve always wanted to do that).


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