Retro Carbonneau

  Season 12: 1987-88  



In Montreal, a hockey player’s life includes everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. As far as Guy Carbonneau’s Montreal experience, the 87-88 season illustrates this as well as any.

SoftballIf the reader is not familiar with the Québécois attitude about hockey, suffice it to say that in this province the sport is a religion and its players are demigods. There is tremendous pressure to perform both on and off the ice, to be a hero in every aspect of life. So while Carbonneau’s focus was on the game, on continuing to do his best as a checker and penalty killer, on chasing another Stanley Cup and his first Selke Trophy, there was so much more to being a Canadien than that.

Let’s review some of Carbo’s adventures during the 87-88 season:

During the summer months, the Habs donned bleu-blanc-et-rouge pinstripes and participated in the NHL’s annual softball tournament. This was followed by a 10 game softball series across Quebec, to raise money for local sports groups; the attendance at these local games was never less than 4,000 people. And then, before hockey started again, there was the annual Canadiens Charity Golf Tournament. This was one of the years in which Guy won, with a score of 82—no surprise to anyone familiar with his skill on the links.

FaceoffIn December the Habs held an Open House at the Forum, when fans could visit the dressing room and skate with their heroes. The players also made their two annual Christmas visits to patients in local hospitals, and their wives held a holiday food drive. In February Guy literally bled for the team at the annual Canadiens Blood Drive. Meanwhile, his wife Line was in charge of organizing a fashion show; among the Habs kids modeling to raise money for charity was little Anne-Marie Carbonneau. The day after the show, poor Line gave birth to their second daughter! The trials of being a hockey wife in Montreal…

Throughout the season, the producers of Hockey Night in Canada presented a post-game show—"Hors-Jeu"—every Wednesday night on Quebec TV. Each program focused on a particular player. This was no ordinary talk show, although hosts Mario Tremblay and Michel Beaudry did do interviews (for example, they interviewed Guy’s parents about their "rogue" of a son). But the real focus of the show was the crazy improvisational skits the players were required to perform. Carbo got to play a lawyer while his beautiful secretary was portrayed by Mario. The show’s director later said, "Of all the Canadiens, Guy seems the be most gifted for the stage. He’s a great comedian. Of Sketchcourse, he’s practiced these talents a long time on the ice, in his discussions with the referees."

Personal appearances, TV…and then there was print. Over the Montreal years Carbonneau’s image and/or autograph appeared not only in the expected places—magazine articles, trading cards, stickers, posters, calendars, schedules—but on a spiral notebook, a "credit card" from 7 Eleven, placemats from both Pepsi and Coke, a sports watch, a coffee mug from Nescafe, a life-size growth chart from Kraft, advertisements galore, and a plastic figurine distributed by Provigo supermarkets. This season Guy even got to star in his own coloring book, in which two fabulously lucky neighbor kids get to help him wash the family car. (The little girl is rewarded for her efforts with a kiss on the forehead from her hero—no doubt many a young Québécoise daydreamed about that!)

The team’s official magazine, Les Canadiens, devoted itself to revealing every possible tidbit about the players’ lives (fortunately for us latter-day biographers without access to the man himself, who really need to know he is good at making cheese omelettes). The magazine was also a forum for educating its readers about hockey, and this year Guy was featured in a photo story on faceoffs. Les Canadiens also presented truly goofy comic strips and live-action photo skits featuring Canadiens players. In 1987 Guy got to participate with Claude Lemieux and Patrick Roy in a comedy sketch with Quebec’s answer to the MacKenzie Brothers, Ding and Dong. The photos certainly look like Carbo was having fun.

But of course it wasn’t all fun…sometimes the high exposure, pressure of public opinion, and lack of privacy had to be 88 Selketruly trying, especially to a man who at heart was an introvert and treasured his private life. Carbonneau managed to achieve a difficult balance between fulfilling his expected extroverted role as a Canadien and being true to his own introverted, private character. Glenn Cole, who covered the Canadiens for CJAD-Radio, put it this way: "While there are some players in the NHL who will try to buddy up to the pencil and microphone pushers, Carbonneau is not one of them. He will sit patiently and answer questions on most nights. The answers are thoughtful, interesting, and provide an excellent analysis of what has happened on the ice. There have been nights, however, when Carbonneau snapped a few answers to the media cluster, but that usually happened only after a particularly frustrating evening. He has not been an easy man to get close to."

Despite this whirlwind life of charitable events, photo shoots, sketch comedy, and the birth of a new baby, Guy managed to accomplish one other thing this particular season:

He won his first Selke Trophy.

Resources:

Les Canadiens, Oct./Nov. 1987
Les Canadiens, Nov./Dec. 1987
Les Canadiens, Jan./Feb. 1988
Les Canadiens, Apr./May 1988
"Who is Guy Carbonneau?," by Glenn Cole, Goal, February 1987

Year's Stats:
 Events:
Regular Season
GP G A Pts PIM
80 17 21 38 61
Playoffs
GP G A Pts PIM
11 0 4 4 2

 

  • Led the Canadiens in shorthanded goals (3).
  • Second daughter, Kristina, born.
  • Won first Selke Trophy.
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