After 15 years and 981 games with the Montreal Canadiens, the 35-year-old has been embarking on a whole new series of career firsts as he gets used to life with a new team.
“It’s been fun so far,” Plekanec said during an exclusive sit-down with Sportsnet’s Christine Simpson. (Watch the full interview, which aired prior to puckdrop on Hockey Night in Canada, at the top of this post.) “Obviously it’s not easy, from 15 years being in the one organization like that and in just over a day, jump to the other team and play with the other guys on it. It’s not easy.”
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) March 17, 2018
The Feb. 25 transaction between the longtime rivals was Plekanec’s first time being traded. A few days later, he suited up for his first game not representing the Habs — and not sporting his signature goatee. And it didn’t take long before the longtime Montrealer was actually celebrating a Maple Leafs victory for the first time.
But of all the firsts, Saturday’s is arguably the most significant yet as Plekanec prepares to face the Canadiens as a member of the opposing team for the first time in his career.
Plekanec has now played seven games with the Maple Leafs but has yet to register a point as he continues to settle into the lineup. He admitted he has “no idea” what to expect when he sees so many familiar faces on the visitors’ bench on Saturday night.
“No idea. Never experienced that, so it’s going to be obviously something special for me,” he told Simpson. “I have so many friends in Montreal and on the team, with all the trainers and all the staff that I spent so many years [with]. No idea. No idea how it’s going to feel.”
The Maple Leafs will host the Canadiens again on April 7 to finish off the regular season.
Plekanec spoke highly of his former general manager, Marc Bergevin, who honoured the player’s wishes of staying in the Eastern Conference when he dealt him to Toronto one day before the NHL Trade Deadline.
“I have so much respect for Marc. He’s been great to me,” said Plekanec. “I told my agent, ‘If there’s a chance, if he can keep me in the East…’ I guess he did everything he could and I really appreciate it. He was great to me. I can’t say enough.”
Plekanec registered 232 goals and 605 points in 981 career regular season games with Montreal. And based on his connection with his former team, it might not be so surprising to see him return to the Canadiens in free agency and register a few more.
“I hope so,” he said of the possibility of a Habs reunion. “We’ll see what’s going to happen July 1.”