Sunday, 9 December 2012

Guy et le doigt d'honneur*

It was in the spring of 1994 when Guy hit the golf course with Canadiens teammates Patrick Roy and Vincent Damphousse.  Three days before, the Bruins eliminated the reigning Stanley Cup champions in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.  Also on the Rosemere golf course was Normand Leveille, a photographer with Le Journal de Montreal, taking photos at a distance with a powerful telephoto lens.  Guy asked Leveille to stop.  Leveille didn't.  Finally, Guy had had enough.  The next morning, a photo ran on the front page of the paper:  Roy and Damphousse on either side of Guy, whose middle finger was raised.

The gesture was seen as Guy giving his middle finger to Montreal fans.  He assured the public that it had nothing to do with them and he merely wanted his privacy.  In the end, he issued an apology.  It was certainly not a shining moment in the life of Guy Carbonneau.

So it surprised me when I discovered recently in an old article that Carbo has this photo in his personal archives.  Surely he'd wish to forget that it ever happened -- after all, the end result was his trade to St. Louis for the unknown Jim Montgomery.  

Why does he keep it?  Here is his excerpted answer, translated from the French:

"Because it is a stage of my life.  It is not so much the photo but the content of the accompanying article that shocked me.  My reaction was interpreted as a gesture of disgust at the public.  Instead, it meant that the photographer did not belong there.  I regret having made this gesture, because I'm not that kind of person," Guy said, noting also that his wife Line also expressed surprise at his reaction to Leveille.  "The photo is not hanging on the wall at home, but it is part of my life."  (Le Journal de Montreal)

It was the trade to St. Louis that hurt Guy the most.  The photo was the widely accepted reason for the trade, but it was intended even before that due to the downward turn for the Habs in the 1993-94 season.  Also of note was the fact that general manager Serge Savard was trying to renegotiate Guy's contract and instead opted to unload it.  Many, including some of Guy's former teammates, felt that the Canadiens had made a big mistake.  Rejean Tremblay wrote:

"Carbo wasn't a superstar.  But he was the real thing.  Tough, stubborn, proud, capable of speaking his mind."

The next year, the Canadiens missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.

* Doigt d'honneur is the French term for the middle finger.  I have personally never seen the photo, though I once sent a Montreal friend (hi, Kathy!) on a wild goose chase in the library's microfilm archive to find it.  

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