“Up Close” is an All Habs Hockey Magazine feature that gives readers a back-stage pass to athletes, management and sports personalities via our exclusive interviews. Previous guests have included HNIC’s Steve Porter, NASCAR’s Andrew Ranger, Habs prospect Mark MacMillan and Montreal’s Annakin Slayd. This week the spotlight is on Montreal Canadiens’ assistant captain Josh Gorges.
MONTREAL, QC. — At age 28, and in the prime of his National Hockey League career, Montreal Canadiens blue liner Josh Gorges has evolved into arguably the team’s most reliable shutdown defenseman. Not only does Gorges provide the Canadiens with a steady presence on the back end, he has also come a long way from the quiet and soft-spoken guy who arrived in Montreal at the 2007 trade deadline. Now a seasoned veteran, Gorges not only possesses an impressive work ethic, his dedication to the game has also enabled him to earn the respect of all his teammates.
Shortly before the recent NHL lockout concluded, I caught up with Josh under what were still uncomfortable circumstances for members of the National Hockey League Players Association. Nevertheless, he graciously took the time to answer a few questions about the lockout and of course, the Montreal Canadiens.
Early on in our conversation, Gorges mentioned that his training regimen was altered during the lockout and he indicated that it will be a difficult adjustment for him and his teammates once they eventually return to playing games.
“The hardest thing is we’re used to playing games right now. We’d be playing three to four games a week where you play a game and than the next day is a practice day, you may get into the gym a little bit just to maintain, but without playing games you’re stuck trying to keep yourself in shape and it’s hard to stay in the gym for seven straight months without taking a break so it’s a lot different than what any of us are used to and there will probably be an adjustment period if things get settled and we start playing soon.”
Gorges also spoke about his role as a leader and what it would mean to him if Canadiens management ever approached him in the future and asked him if he wanted the captaincy: “Nothing is ever set in stone and you never know what is going to transpire. There’s no for sure that I’m going to be a captain. Obviously that’s a great honor on any team to be named a captain and I think on this team especially there’s just so much more to it and the tradition that comes along with it. It would probably be the greatest honor of my life. But again, that’s something that’s far in the future.”
When asked about some of the Habs elite prospects, including Alex Galchenyuk, Gorges had the following to say: “I think it’s a bright future ahead. Everything I’ve heard about that Galchenyuk, is that he’s a big strong player that could be ready to play in the NHL right away.”
Gorges also offered the following advice to these players: “The only thing that I could say to those guys is to keep working because your job is never finished and you’re never good enough. You can always get better and there is always someone coming up the year after or the year after that’s trying to take your job so you don’t have time to relax.”
Towards the end of our conversation, Gorges talked about some of his career highlights thus far, and what he hopes his legacy will be as Montreal Canadien when his career inevitably comes to an end: “There’s been so many highlights. It’s hard to pinpoint just one but I think the playoff run we had in 2010 was something that was really special so far. To see what the fans are like in this city when your win in the playoffs, there is nothing like it. And as far my legacy goes, I just want people if they every ask to say ‘that kid played with heart.’ And as long as people say that, I’ll be happy.”
After signing a six-year contract extension last January, clearly Josh Gorges is an important piece of the puzzle going forward for the Montreal Canadiens. His enthusiasm and passion for battling night in and night out makes him an ideal fit in the Montreal community. The biggest hope for Canadiens fans around the world right now is that Gorges can be apart of that 25th Stanley Cup championship, an achievement that has eluded them for nearly 20 years.
(Featured photo by AP/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)