MONTREAL – Nearly five years have passed since Josh Gorges last sported Canadiens colors, but that’s all about to change next week.
The 34-year-old former defenseman is one of seven Habs alums participating in the fifth annual Montreal Canadiens Fantasy Camp, which begins on Thursday, March 21 and runs through Saturday, March 23.
Joining Gorges for the sold-out fan experience will be Hall of Famers Guy Lafleur and Yvan Cournoyer, along with Gaston Gingras, Sergio Momesso, Guy Carbonneau and Stephane Quintal.
Hitting the ice at the Bell Centre for a practice and a Red vs. White game will be extra special for Gorges. He called the building home for seven-plus seasons before closing out his 13-year playing career as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
“Even when I was back playing with Buffalo, I always found myself looking up in the rafters and checking things out, checking out all the banners and remembering all the memories and what it was like. It’s funny because in any other building I’ve ever played in, I never ever did that. I was looking on the ice and focusing on what’s in front of me,” said Gorges, who announced his retirement just two months ago. “But, there was always something about coming back to Montreal. You always took a moment, looked around. I’m excited to get back out there on that same ice.”
He is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to don the CH a second time around, of course. The jersey means as much to him today as it did when he was still patrolling the Habs’ blueline and sacrificing his body for the shield.
“I never thought I’d get a chance to do that,” said Gorges, who proudly wore No. 26 for the duration of his stay with the club. “I guess I better give [Jeff] Petry a call and see if it’s alright if I wear the number again.”
We’re confident Petry will be just fine with it, and we know Gorges will be cheering him and the rest of the Canadiens on for a pair of games during his stay.
That’s something else the Kelowna, BC native has circled on his calendar, having never enjoyed the Bell Centre experience from the stands before.
“I’ve never sat in the Bell Centre and watched the game as a fan. To go there and just experience it without any type of care, worry or thought, I’m just going to enjoy the atmosphere and enjoy the games,” mentioned Gorges, who will be taking in contests against the New York Islanders and the Sabres as well. “I’ll be able to watch a few of my old buddies on both teams, so it’ll be fun.”
As will re-connecting with a few familiar faces around the facility, in addition to good buddies Carey Price, Shea Weber and Brendan Gallagher, among others.
“When I came back to play games, I always liked to talk with all of the security guys that used to help us out, the people that were in the wives’ lounge and everyone that you become so familiar with. They were so great to us over the years,” praised Gorges. “I’m excited to go back and see them, people I used to bump into on a daily basis. I’m sure I’ll see a few other people at the game as well.”
Most importantly, though, Gorges is looking forward to interacting with the 30 campers whose passion for the League’s winningest franchise is simply incredible.
“I’m sure there’ll be some really big fans out there, some guys that are really excited about the game,” said Gorges. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re a hockey fan, you’re a hockey fan. Just to be able to tell a few stories here and there, you see their eyes light up. It’ll be fun to see how excited they get.”
No doubt Gorges will ultimately be leaving his former hockey home with photographs aplenty to commemorate the experience, and some of them might just find their way onto his basement walls back in the Okanagan Valley.
“I have all of the team pictures from Montreal hanging up downstairs. When we watch hockey, we seem to only watch the Canadiens games,” explained Gorges, whose wife, Maggie, and young sons, Noah and Jayden, won’t be accompanying him to Quebec. “Of course the boys are close with Shea and Carey, and Brendan they know very well. When they watch the games, it’s always “Uncle Shea” and “Uncle Carey.” Brendan’s not quite an uncle, he’s more like a brother. I try to tell them – “Dad used to play with these guys.” They’re like – “No, no, you played in Buffalo.” I’m like – “No, no, I played there, too.” I show them the pictures and they don’t quite grasp it yet, so hopefully in a couple of more years I’ll be able to really explain to them what was actually going on there.”
Some more Habs-related snapshots would certainly help in that department…
To learn more about the 2019 Montreal Canadiens Fantasy Camp, click here.