Big interview | Bob Hartley to conquer the Kremlin!

The cliché is highly evocative.

We see the hero of the story, a modest employee of a windshield factory at the time in Hawkesbury, lifting the Gagarin Cup in front of the Kremlin, after having conquered the world of Russian hockey, 20 years after his Stanley Cup with the Avalanche, 25 years after his Calder Cup in the American League, 9 years after winning the Swiss Cup with the Zurich Lions.

Bob Hartley was all fire, a few days after the triumph of the Avangard Omsk, in the final of the KHL Championship against CSKA Moscow, the most successful team in Russia.

“We beat the New York Yankees in the World Series or the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s,” he said in a private interview with FaceTime.

The Avangard did not have the most talented team, but the players sacrificed themselves for the collective cause.

When I walked into the locker room earlier, the guys were taking their shower after three days of partying. The bruises that these guys have on their bodies, the broken hands, the broken fingers, it’s absolutely amazing. We were blocking between 30 and 40 shots per game.

Bob hartley

A few minutes from the end of the sixth game, won 1-0 by Omsk, the Avangard had to defend three against five due to two successive penalties.

“For the first time in my life I saw guys praying on the bench. It’s very religious here. They had both hands glued together like the rest of us when we were going to make our first communion. There are others who “kicked” in the boards when we blocked shots, it was magic. I won seven championships, they all have a different flavor, but it’s amazing what these guys gave me. ”

The old one coach Avalanche, Thrashers and Flames do not drink alcohol. “I took two sips of champagne. I celebrated at Coke Zero. ”


Bob Hartley with the Gagarin Cup… full of Coke Zero bottles.

Friday morning, he decided on a whim, with his eternal accomplice Jacques Cloutier and the other coaches of the team, to go to the Kremlin with the Gagarin Cup to immortalize the event.

“The Kremlin, with its basilica, is magic for me. I have dreamed of going there since I was a little kid. I walked into my office while the guys were celebrating and I said to Jacques: “Who would have told you 3 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, that we would be together in Russia and that we would win the Gagarin Cup? The only way to immortalize this is to go to the Kremlin. That’s where it happens !” ”

Whoever wants to go into the Kremlin, however. “It’s obviously 100% safety and we weren’t announced,” says Hartley. We hadn’t parked yet when three police tanks surrounded us. That’s when I understood that it would have made arrangements! But I got out and some policemen recognized me. Then when I pulled out the Gagarin Cup, the doors of the Kremlin opened. In my opinion, if Vladimir Putin was in the Kremlin, we would go to lunch with him… ”

Hartley and his little group created a frenzy in Red Square.

People were running after us to take pictures. It was today that I realized that we had won the Cup.

Bob hartley

Over the course of his long career, Hartley, 60, has always known how to defy obstacles, whether they be injuries, dropouts, weaker training. He managed to lead the Calgary Flames to the second round of the 2015 playoffs with a bunch of youngsters. He was the only coach in the history of the Atlanta Thrashers to allow this weak expanding club to advance to the playoffs.

By a happy coincidence, he found his mainstay of the Thrashers, Ilya Kovalchuk, last winter. But Hartley was playing without six regulars, including his best defender Alexei Emelin, who suffered from liver failure.

“In the last game, I had six players in my roster who wouldn’t have played normally,” he says. We had 15 new players at training camp. Fifteen. And we changed our general manager. Each series is Réjean Tremblay, it’s Lance and count. “

Hartley has already left Moscow as you read this. He leaves for Latvia to carry out another mandate. He is still under contract for one year in Omsk. But Russia is a long way from North America.

“I have to go into coaching rehabilitation, but I have to find the place,” he laughs. But I saw Pierre Lacroix fall, Jocelyn Morissette, many of my friends too, I spoke to my wife, my children, my grandchildren through FaceTime every day, but that might not be a grandpa’s role. I am at the end of the course, that’s for sure. What will the rest of the end of the course look like? I don’t know, but it’s not long left, that’s for sure. ”

Would he listen to an NHL offer? “I have never been an opportunist. I have never looked for a job. I am a privileged person in life. I was born under a lucky star. I have one year of contract left here and I have no personal bonuses or escape clauses. I had a year left with the Zurich Lions, Calgary and Zurich have worked out. ”


Dominique Ducharme talks to his players

His spiritual son in Montreal …

Those who see him dreaming of a job with the Canadiens know him little. And above all, they do not know the link that unites him to Dominique Ducharme …

What I regret in our business is that there are people who want someone else’s job. I never wanted a job. Me, I filled empty chairs. While there is someone in place, it’s mean, it’s mean, I’m not able to live like that …

Bob hartley

Hartley knew the current Canadiens coach when he was only 17 years old. Ducharme had left Joliette to join the Hawkesbury Hawks of the Junior Central League, led by Hartley.

“Dominique Ducharme is my second little guy. I went to look for him with the Régents de Laval-Laurentides-Lanaudière to play in Hawkesbury with me. I boarded him with my neighbor. I was doing an outdoor rink for Steve and Christine, my two children, and he would come and play boot hockey with Steve, who was 5, and me. I tried to convince him to join me at the Laval Titan, but I was not a good enough salesman… ”

After amassing 140 points in 55 games with the Hawks, Ducharme left for the University of Vermont, where Martin St-Louis and Eric Perrin would follow two years later.

“When I got the AHL job in Cornwall, he was in the East Coast, I brought him back for a few games, we always stayed close. ”

When Dominique Ducharme embarked on the coaching, with the Action de Joliette, he called upon… Steve Hartley as a guardian. When Joliette found himself at the RBC Cup, Ducharme called on Bob Hartley, whose season with the Atlanta Thrashers had just ended.

“He gave me the mandate to be the road secretary of the rooms, the restaurants,” Hartley says. My wife and I would cut the little oranges for the players at 6 a.m. We created an NHL environment for the little Action guys. We organized visits to Blue Jays games during the tournament. ”

When Dominique Ducharme coached the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL, he hired Steve Hartley as an assistant. They won the Memorial Cup together. Steve Hartley followed him to Drummondville.

“Today, Dominique Ducharme is the godfather of Steve’s one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Sophia. I often communicate with Dominique, I like him a lot. He’s going to have a great career, he’s a hockey head. He did his classes. I wish with all my heart that he succeeds. ”

After the Stanley Cup in Denver, the Calder Cup in Hershey, the President’s Cup in Laval, the Swiss Cup in Zurich, the Gagarin Cup in Moscow, wouldn’t it be a dream to see him one day win the Stanley Cup in Montreal? behind the bench with his spiritual son Dominique Ducharme?

Hartley did not have to answer this hypothetical question. He must first answer the hundreds of calls, texts and emails received.

And here in Montreal, we have the right to dream of this Hollywood scenario, right?

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