Season 20: 1995-96
The home of longhorns and oil magnates, that hotbed of footballDallas, Texas? Yes, that was the Dallas that Guy spoke of because he already sensed that if there were anywhere in the league that might recapture the spirit of the Habs, Dallas was it.
St. Louis was in payroll trouble and the veteran Carbonneau was an obvious target for a cut. According to Guy, "When Mike Keenan decided to unload his salaries he gave me a chance to go somewhere I wanted to go. Thats when Bob called."
Bob meaning Bob Gainey, the Stars GM, another renowned former captain of the Canadiens. Guy would also join the man whose number he inherited as a rookie with the Habs, Assistant Coach Doug Jarvis, as well as Montreal teammates Mike Lalor, Brent Gilchrist, and longtime friend Craig Ludwig. A number of other former Canadiens would join the Stars in years to come, including two more former Habs captains.
Ludwig was especially thrilled at the trade, which took place on October 2 and was an even swap for Paul Broten. "I was so excited because we had just played [in St. Louis] a couple nights earlier. I cant remember exactly but he said, I dont think theyre going to protect me, theyre going to put me in the waiver draft, or something like that. And we went and talked to Bob about it and it was funny, [Guy] called me like two days later and he said, Pick me up at the airport, I get in at one oclock."
Gainey was pleased with his acquisition as well: "Guy still has the ability to help you win games. He does small things within a game that are going to help your team. It might be a goal, it might be a play to set up a goal. But it can just as easily be a blocked pass or a blocked shot, or a won faceoff. He has a very, very good instinct for where the game is and what needs to be done at a certain time."
The move indeed made Guy feel more at home although in terms of hockey fever, Dallas was even less like Montreal than St. Louis had been. "[In Montreal,] from the papers to the guy who sold you milk you heard about it. While it was a problem at times, I miss it. It was really important to the fans and that was a nice feeling. Ever since Ive been down here I feel like I have fit in more. It has been a little tough for my family to move twice in two years, but Im happy here."
Sure, he had enjoyed the pressure of the scrutiny in Montreal, but from a personal standpoint, the shy and peace-loving Guy didnt mind being less famous. "It has been an adjustment. Youre used to certain things, going to restaurants and being recognized. But now its a lot of fun. My personal life is more relaxing, more enjoyable. I think its turned out pretty good. I fit in better here and its a lot more fun. Of course, it used to be a lot easier to get reservations."
Carbo wasted no time in making his mark with his new team. On October 14, 1995, he participated in setting the Stars franchise record for the fastest three goals in a game, 44 seconds. It was also the only game in NHL history in which a team trailed by two goals in the final minute of the game and came back to score three goals and win in regulation. The Stars trailed Boston 5-3 in the third when Kevin Hatcher scored off a rebound at 19:11. At 19:44, Mike Modano fired a wrist shot past Craig Billington to even the score. On the ensuing face-off, Mike Kennedy dug the puck loose from the corner and sent a centering pass to Carbonneau, who fired the puck past Billington at 19:55 for the win.
On February 6, Carbo played his 1,000th game, a 5-2 win against St. Louis. He contributed an assist. Said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock, "You have to be awful good for an awful long time to get 1,000. He has done the things that make a team win and hes still doing those things."
However, surely the most poignant occasion of the season was the final game played in the Montreal Forum, when Guys new team faced his old one. Wrote the Stars P.R. manager, Kurt Daniels: "For Guy Carbonneau, the return to Montreal on March 11 was a homecoming like no other. This was his home, his life. He was not just someone who wore a Canadiens uniform; he was the Canadiens. He represented everything the franchise believes, what their fans believe: success, leadership, class. No other hockey organization carries the reputation and mystique of Montreal and, at one time, no other player carried that same aura as Carbonneau."
In the closing ceremony after the game, a torch was passed from one former Habs captain to another. Both Gainey and Carbonneau donned la Sainte Flanelle, the revered sweater of the Canadiens, and the former handed the torch to the latter, who passed it in turn to the current captain, Pierre Turgeon. Surely Guy had to marvel at the strange crossroad his career had just passed.
Its true the Montreal Forum is no more, and neither are the Canadiens of Gainey and Carbonneau. Nevertheless, Guy was right that the spirit still lives.
Even as far
south as Dallas, Texas.
"Carbonneau happy at 1,000, but misses intense scrutiny," by Mike Heika, The Hockey News, Feb. 23, 1996.
1995-96 Official Game Program, The Dallas Stars.
NHLPA interview with Ludwig and Carbonneau, Dec. 1998.