Sunday, February 25, 2018

In Memoriam

PLEKANEC, Tomas "Pleky" - Traded reluctantly away at the Bell Centre in Montreal, hardworking, reliable centreman, Tomas Plekanec, in his 35th year.

Born in Kladno, Czech Republic on Halloween night, 1982, Plekanec began playing hockey at an early age. At 18, he was selected in the third round of the NHL entry draft by the Montreal Canadiens, 71st overall.

While playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs as a young prospect, he narrowly escaped getting traded to the New York Rangers in exchange for Alex Kovalev. Rangers GM chose Josef Balej instead, which worked out well for the Canadiens. Plekanec would go on to centre Kovalev on the Habs most productive line in twenty years.

It was also in Hamilton that Plekanec discovered a fondness for his signature turtleneck. The two spent a very happy fifteen years together.

Known as an excellent two-way player, Plekanec was often given the difficult task of shutting down the opposition's top centres during the playoffs, which he did without complaint, even if it meant not scoring as much himself. He always put  his team first, including while discretely carving up opponents with his stick in the corners. It's to his credit that Brad Marchand and Sidney Crosby admitted hating his guts.

A man of few words, when Plekanec did speak, he told the unvarnished truth. This included describing his play as being that of "a little girl" on one memorable playoff occasion. It also got him into trouble with the Washington Capitals when he pointed out their team's goalies weren't as good as the Canadiens'. He saved himself by scoring a thrilling overtime winner in the first playoff game between the two teams in 2010, becoming known, briefly, as Tomas Jagr.

On February 25, 2018, Plekanec was indiscriminately dispatched to Toronto, ensuring he won't get to play his thousandth NHL game this year, and Habs fans can no longer cheer for him because it would mean a leaf Cup.

He leaves to mourn thousands of loyal supporters who felt his pain at the dozens of stone-handed linemates he got stuck with over the years.

He will be sadly missed.