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Canadiens History: Fan Named Raphael Crashes Habs Practice



Montreal Canadiens fan crashes practice

The Montreal Canadiens have a long history of excellence, and within that legacy, you can find endless stories regarding the many legends that left a lasting impression on loyal fans.

We all know about the Richard Riots, Jean Beliveau’s class, and Guy Lafleur’s bombastic approach to life, there are also other stories to be found in the history books, some of which definitely fall on the lighter side of life.

In this article, we will take a look at one of the weirdest events in recent history: the Raphael incident.

Bell Centre Evolution

When the Canadiens officially opened the Molson Centre (later renamed to the Bell Centre) in 1996, the team could finally boast that they owned the most state-of-the-art arena in the NHL. It was a modern masterpiece from a sports-entertainment standpoint, one that has been emulated by various other municipalities in North America.

The new arena certainly provided the team with many more advantages than the legendary Montreal Forum that was located at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Atwater, but there were also implications beyond hockey.

The Bell Centre quickly became one of the busiest venues in North America, which meant the Gillette Entertainment Group (which later became Evenko) was now the real money maker.

The Canadiens were still the main tenant, but there was much more money to be made in hosting concerts and other various events, such as Disney on Ice.

Due to the popularity of the venue, the Canadiens were forced to look elsewhere to organize their morning practices, giving the touring artists more time to set up their events at the Bell Centre.

The team has since built a practice complex in Brossard, but in 2005-06 they were forced to use the aging Verdun Auditorium to practice.

Montreal Canadiens Goaltender Chaos

In 2004-05 the NHL decided to lockout its players in a desperate bid to add a salary cap to the collective bargaining agreement. They also wanted to introduce revenue sharing. As per usual, the NHL owners got their way, which meant the league would resume the following season and NHL fans would not have to worry about another disruption for almost seven long years before the league decided to once again lockout its players in 2012-13.

The lockout meant that teams went into the 2005-06 season with several question marks in their lineup, and the Canadiens were no different.

They had some talent in the lineup thanks to players like Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Michael Ryder, and Andrei Markov, not to mention the legendary four-goal scorer, Jan Bulis.

But overall, the outlook was somewhat grim.

Thankfully, the Canadiens did not expect to have to worry about goaltending, seeing as Jose Theodore had established himself as one of the best netminders in the league, as evidenced by his Vezina and Hart Trophies in 2002, as well as his sparkling .919 save percentage the year before the lockout.

It led to many people questioning the Canadiens’ fifth-overall choice at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft: Carey Price.

The Canadiens clearly did not need to add any more goaltenders to the mix. To make matters worse, the team had also recently traded for a little-known goaltender named Christobal Huet, leaving little to no place in the organization for more goaltenders.

Alas, the Canadiens got off to a rough start to the season with a 19-16-3 record, which led to general manager Bob Gainey firing and replacing head coach Claude Julien behind the bench.

Many of the issues were tied to Theodore’s play, which was far from what the team had come to expect. He was excellent in the opening game of the season, saving 30 shots en route to a 2-1 win over the rival Boston Bruins, but it was all downhill from there, as he’d allow three or more goals in seven consecutive games.

While Theodore struggled to recover his form, the door opened for Huet to take over as the team’s most trusted goaltender by mid-December.

Seizing his chance, Huet becomes the defacto starter for the Montreal Canadiens.

Raphael Shoots His Shot

Fast-forward to January 9, 2006.

The Canadiens hit the ice at the Verdun Auditorium, preparing to face the Colorado Avalanche a few days later at the Bell Centre.

Huet was coming off a great game against the Ottawa Senators in which he saved 41 of the 42 shots he faced, which meant that Theodore was relegated to the backup position, facing the bulk of the shots at practice, not to mention a couple of extra shots from an unlikely source.

We have to remind ourselves that security was a little more relaxed at the time, which allowed a 28-year-old man who only identified himself as “Raphael” to jump on the ice and join the action.

Channelling his inner Mike Hoffman, Raphael was dead-set on what he was going to do: take a shot regardless of whether better options existed.

This was his one chance at glory, and he was going to seize it.

He awkwardly charged Theodore with all the grace of the combined skating techniques of Jason Allison and P.K. Subban, in what can only be described as an enthusiastic attempt to score a goal while also somehow looking like he was just a few moments from falling on the ice.

In the long run, Theodore would go on to have a very difficult season, which eventually led to his trade to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for David Aebischer, but that morning he enjoyed something that very few other professional athletes can claim, he crushed a weekend warriors’ hopes and dreams with a vicious poke-check that left no doubt as to Raphael’s NHL aspirations.

Raphael would circle back for another shot which had the velocity of a Brad Marsh clearing attempt before he was eventually being dragged off the ice by one of the workers at the auditorium.

“He couldn’t beat me, that’s the main thing,” said Theodore following the incident that ended up involving local police, who wisely decided they had no reason to charge the fan with a criminal offence.

And while Theodore came out on top, for one brief, magical moment, the legendary fan known as Raphael was, in fact, a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

At least in his eyes.