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Welcome to the Rock
 
MONTREAL | January 25th, 2010
Welcome to the Rock
Boys will be boys. And no one knew that better than Canadiens management in the spring of 1986. Determined to do whatever it would take to win the Stanley Cup, GM Serge Savard and Co. took certain measures to stack the playoff odds in their favor.

In an effort to avoid distractions like family, friends, or general tomfoolery, any of which could hinder the progress of the rookie-laden ’86 Habs, an unpopular decision was made to isolate the entire club outside its home city.

“You spend the entire season surrounded by your loved ones, but we rookies found out that the playoffs are the playoffs, and that meant it was quarantine time,” recalled Brian Skrudland, one of a dozen freshmen on that squad. “I can’t even remember what it was called, but we were whisked away to a hotel in the middle of nowhere. It was some place on the South Shore of Montreal and we were stuck there from the moment the postseason began through the end of the playoffs.”

With nowhere else to go, the Canadiens, from veterans like captain Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson to youngsters like Skrudland, Patrick Roy, Stephane Richer and Claude Lemieux, were trapped.

“It was like being on the road but at home - the guys had fun with it and someone came up with the name Alcatraz,” explained Skrudland, referencing the famous island prison off the coast of California. “It felt like this was a hotel built solely for the Montreal Canadiens. We were the only ones there. It was pretty surreal. We were still in Montreal but felt like we were a million miles away.

“It got to a point where the guys had T-shirts printed up with ‘Alcatraz’ on them and it became part of our team’s identity that spring,” added Skrudland. “I’ve got to hand it to the guys at the top for thinking of such a creative way of molding us into a closer group.”

Left with next to no alternative, the Canadiens made the best of their spring-long sentence at Alcatraz.
“We had no other choice but to focus on hockey and make the best of it,” recalled Chris Nilan. “We played football, took walks, and some guys lost a lot of money playing cards that spring, but the most important thing was that we did it together. And I guess it worked.”

That’s putting it mildly. One by one, opponents fell victim to the homesick Habs, as the underdog Canadiens rode Alcatraz all the way to a 23rd Stanley Cup.

See also
Hull's not-so secret admirer
The Man With One Red Shoe
Is there a doctor in the house?
A White Welcome
Boss' Orders
Birds of a Feather
Howe could you?