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Mother Russia
MONTREAL | August 23rd, 2013
Mother Russia
There’s perhaps no better team bonding activity than taking a trip together. That was certainly the case for former Habs tough guy Todd Ewen and his comrades in September 1990.

“One of the coolest experiences I had with the Canadiens was our trip to Russia during training camp,” described Ewen, whose team headed to Moscow and Riga to take on the best the Soviets had to offer that fall. “It was a very different world than we were used to.  From the second we arrived, we had our own private security detail of KGB guys following us around everywhere.

“There’s nothing that makes you feel less safe than walking around with guys with AK47s strapped to them. I never wanted anything more than to have a black trench coat to wear around so I could blend in. Instead we walked around in the most conspicuous red-white-and-blue tracksuits imaginable.”

With the 1975 New Year’s Eve battle with the Canadiens still fresh in the mind of the Soviets, the bleu-blanc-rouge tracksuits proved the perfect target for the still-bitter Russians. 

“There was such a rivalry between the Red Army and the Canadiens – they wanted nothing more than to beat us,” explained Ewen. “The difference was, they had been training for half a year just to play us and we were in training camp – and back then you didn’t come to camp in game shape, you used camp to get into shape.

 “We did pretty well, though,” added the bruising winger, whose team left the Soviet Union with a 2-2 record. “The last game against CSKA Moscow got a little physical and then the fans started whistling and throwing coins at us that must have weighed like five pounds each. It was a really unique experience over there, to say the least.”

 The adventure continued for Ewen & Co. back at the hotel later that night. After having carefully locked away all their valuables in their rooms, the team returned to discover all of their wives’ makeup had been stolen for sale on the black market. At a 400% markup, makeup may have been a hot commodity in Moscow, but ultimately it was the team’s brand itself that carried the most value.

“You would not believe how widely recognized the CH is internationally. It’s phenomenal,” marveled Ewen. “That logo means so much across the world. We’d put on our Canadiens gear and everyone wanted to get a hold of it – it’s the tradition and the pinnacle of hockey. Or maybe there was just an appreciation for loud Habs tracksuits that we didn’t know about!”

See also
Sticking with it
Arrested development
Stuck on you
Attention to detail
Welcome to the Rock
Hull's not-so secret admirer
The Man With One Red Shoe