Sunday, November 6, 2016

Benoît Brunet Autograph Card

Benoît Brunet was a superstar in Juniors, with seasons of 70, 110 and 143 points for the LHJMQ's Hul Olympiques, leading to the Montréal Canadiens selecting him 27th overall at the 1986 NHL draft. He also did well with their AHL affiliate Sherbrooke Canadiens, posting a league-leading 76 assists (as well as 41 goals and 117 points alongside Stéphan Lebeau, tearing the league's defenses apart) in 1988-89.

As the affiliate became the Fredericton Canadiens, he would spend some time going back-and-forth between the minors and the parent club, posting 20 goals and 27 assists for 47 points in 30 AHL games in 1990-91 and 1991-92, before earning a permanent spot in Montréal during the Stanley Cup-winning 1992-93 season.

The fact that the Habs were loaded up front (Vincent Damphousse, Brian Bellows, Kirk Muller, Lebeau, Denis Savard, John LeClair) meant he had to become a checking-line specialist, which he did; he was usually good for 25-30 points in 50-60 games, but back injuries would always force him out of at least a quarter of every season. And it got worse as the years went on.

He retired following a painful 2001-02 that saw him play for the Canadiens, the Dallas Stars, the AHL's Utah Grizzlies and the Ottawa Senators.

He then went into broadcasting, working for RDS's Canadiens broadcasts, climbing the ranks from between-periods talking head to full-time colour commentator and analyst, which he was hugely criticized for.

As a matter of fact, when he lost his job, this appeared in one of Montréal's four major newspapers (the sentiment made its way to all four):
Brunet had a terrible habit of defending the more primitive aspects of the game, forever leaning on the old cliches about guys standing up for each other, following the code and playing rough’n’tough. Often, his real-men-must-play-like-real-men comments would’ve fit right in on Coach’s Corner and that’s a bizarre concept when you think how unpopular Don Cherry is with francophone hockey fans.
But Brunet probably sealed his fate the night Zdeno Chara nearly sent Max Pacioretty to another world, crushing him into a stanchion at the Bell Centre. With Patch lying on the ice motionless, Brunet blathered on about how this is a contact sport – as if that justified everything – and that he’d played with Chara and he was convinced the giant defenseman would never deliberately hurt anyone. It was an embarrassing moment for hockey on RDS.
RDS announced Friday that former NHL goalie Marc Denis, who has worked for the network for two years, will take-over from Brunet, to do the colour on the Canadiens games alongside ace play-by-play man Pierre Houde. Brunet is not leaving RDS. The former Habs forward will still appear in the intermission panel moderated by Alain Crête and will be on the pre-game show Hockey 360.
You want to know the real reason Brunet lost his plum gig? Because TVA Sports, a rival channel run by Quebecor, is coming this fall and for the first time in its existence, RDS is going to face some real competition. And that’s good news. It means that RDS will at last have to field an A-list product, something it hasn’t done up to now with its Habs broadcasts. Giving Brunet the boot was a good first step. Now how about getting some semi-decent sound from the rink on the broadcasts? That’s one of the main reasons I usually watch on CBC, if the Habs game is available.
There's a lot of bullshit in there, including relying on penny-pinching Quebecor to raise the level of the game - it was never going to, and it hasn't. It cheapened it and brought it back decades, as was expected knowing how they run everything else they own, from TVA to their shitty tabloids to their reality shows and how they all converge into a mass-multi-platform constant infomercial of themselves, made up of people who have no grasp of any notions pertaining to communications - or even the fucking language, for that matter.

But I digress.

People tend to forget, but Brunet was better at playing hockey than he was at talking about it. Even I had pretty much forgotten about his past exploits in Juniors and in the minors before writing this piece, instead mostly remembering he missed 216 games due to injuries.

Here he is wearing the Habs' white (then-home) uniform, on the signed insert (gold variant) of card #70 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set:
He signed it in thin black sharpie and added his uniform number (17) at the end.

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