Hes been taking a lot of heat, so heres a nice article that may change some negativity to positives around here.......
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Jose Theodore looked near the end of his tether yesterday. Gaunt. Exhausted. Worn to a frazzle. Like a man running on fumes and trying to hold out until the price of gasoline drops to 70 cents.
The horde had already fed on the chum tossed into the water for the media sharks: Steve
Begin? Chomp. Niklas Sundstrom? Chomp-chomp.
Jose Theodore: Main course. And yes, waiter, we'll have a little pepper on that.
No wonder the man looked as though he had been pursued over a thousand miles of tundra by a pack of wolves. Theo is playing goal for the Canadiens in a city where hockey is a religion, not a sport.
Night after night, large, fast, talented men launch pucks at him at upwards of 100 miles per hour, skate into his crease, bump him, obstruct him, do everything in their power to beat him. To spend a single period in goal during a playoff game in the NHL requires nerves of titanium.
Expectations for him are off the charts. After he almost single-handedly bounced the Bruins from the playoffs in 2002 then came back to help bounce them again this spring, everyone expects him to stand on his head, calculate the Gross National Product of Lithuania, sing an aria from La Traviata and stop a slapshot with his teeth, while signing autographs with both hands.
That stuff Theo can handle. He can even take being the real successor to Patrick Roy.
But each day when he leaves the rink, he must assume burdens that would oppress or destroy most men of any age: his father, uncle and two brothers still facing the possibility of decades in prison on loan-sharking charges; his de facto father-in-law, Guy Cloutier, facing accusations of sexual assault on a minor.
His common-law wife distraught. Her mother shattered. His own mother facing the possibility that her husband may be behind bars for a good part of the rest of his life. People all around him in various states of personal crisis.
All of them expecting a 27-year-old to be a pillar of strength and stability. Everyone believing that Theodore should never show the depth of his feeling in public.
That he should keep the stiff upper lip, do the media dance, comfort the people he loves, be polite to autograph hounds, answer reporter's questions in both official languages and oh - by the way, Jose, could you make enough miracle saves so that the Canadiens can become only the third team in NHL history to come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series?
No wonder his colour was somewhere between chalk and ash. No wonder he looked like he hadn't had a good night's sleep since Christmas. No wonder he seemed ready to curl up on the carpet right in the middle of that scrum for a 24-hour catnap.
Had he spent the previous night thinking about the goals that the Lightning had scored at the end of regulation and again in overtime?
"I always think about the goals every night," Theodore said. "For sure, it wasn't my best game of the series, but you have no choice. There's nothing you can do about it except bounce back the next game."
Not much of a stretch to imagine him at 4 a.m. lying awake, thinking about how Brad Richards used his skate as the bumper on a bank shot: eight ball off the band, side pocket. Game over. And over. And over.
Before you scream that Theodore is not playing well, before you charge him with the capital offence of letting down the CH in the playoffs, try to put yourself in his shoes for an afternoon. From the beginning of this season, Theodore has shown an almost transcendent mental toughness in dragging himself back from an off year to lead his team to the playoffs and to help them crawl out of a 3-1 deficit against Boston. All this while coping with problems that would prompt most of us to ask for a year's leave of absence from our jobs, or hop the next freight to Patagonia.
Theodore's good friend Mike Ribeiro has no such excuse and yet Ribeiro has not been a factor in this series, apart from getting himself benched in Game 1 and hit with a 10-minute misconduct Tuesday. Pierre Dagenais? A healthy scratch the last two games, he was spotted in the pressbox Tuesday, merrily chatting on his cellphone with his back to the action while the game was in progress.
The practice the Canadiens held yesterday was their fourth "last" practice of the season. They did the same thing after Game 4, Game 5 and Game 6 against Boston. They have been in a corner so many times this year that they're starting to feel like the pocket on a pool table. If they are to climb out one more time, they will need Theodore at his sometimes otherworldly best.
People tend to forget their humanity at this time of year. It's all "Go Bolts!" or "Go Habs!" with no room for shades of meaning, for understanding, for tolerance. My team rules, your team sucks. Agree with me or you're an idiot. Stop the puck or you're a bum. The stakes are high, the salaries astronomical. But it's still just a game, a game played by young men who have to take life as it comes.
Theodore knows what will be expected of him tonight.
"It's a game you have to approach like a Game 7," he said yesterday, "so for sure I'm going to give everything I've got."
Knowing him, you would expect nothing else.
But if you think that money solves everything, you're wrong. If you think that dollars can comfort a wife's anguish, you're wrong. If you think that hockey trophies can erase a mother's fears, you're wrong.
Jose Theodore is a man like any other. A little stronger, a little richer, for sure, but a man. A young man who will step into that crease tonight with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Before you boo a bad goal or curse his progeny, try to think about all that - and cut the man a little slack.