(AP) MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens defenseman Patrice Brisebois retired Thursday, ending his 18-year NHL career with plans to drive on NASCAR’s Canadian series.
An emotional Brisebois marked the occasion by wearing the Stanley Cup ring he won with the Canadiens in 1993.
“I wore it today for the first time since 1993 because I told myself that I’m a winner,” the Montreal native said through tears, addressing his coach from that year, Jacques Demers. “No one can ever take that away from me.”
The 38-year-old Brisebois spent 16 seasons with the Canadiens, retiring in third place on the franchise list for games by a defenseman (896), fourth for goals by a defenseman (87) and fifth in points by a defenseman (371). On March 14, he became the 11th player to play 1,000 games for the Canadiens.
Brisebois said he’s seeking sponsors to fund the next phase of his career, as a driver in NASCAR’s Canadian Tire Series.
“It’s a great team sport, like hockey,” Brisebois said of auto racing. “Your mechanic is kind of like your coach, and there’s a game plan, race strategy, so it’s a bit like a hockey team. I’m going to try and go as far as I can in auto racing. I’d love to be able to move on to the Nationwide or Sprint series, but it’s going to be very tough. Another dream of mine would be to do the 24 hours of Le Mans.”
Brisebois’ career in Montreal was marked by his tumultuous relationship with the media and fans.
Brisebois mentioned two local reporters by name and blamed them for creating a “snowball effect” that led to him being booed mercilessly at home games. Bob Gainey, in one of his first acts as general manager of the Canadiens, called the fans that were booing Brisebois “gutless” and “yellow” during training camp in 2003.
That quickly put an end to the booing.
“I really think Bob relaunched my career,” Brisebois said. “I felt free on the ice after he did that. I knew if I made a mistake, I wouldn’t hear those boos again.”
Brisebois thanked Gainey repeatedly for allowing him to come back to Montreal to finish his career after a two-year stint with the Colorado Avalanche from 2005 to 2007.
In his first game back with the Canadiens in the 2007-08 home opener, Brisebois received the loudest ovation in the player introductions, a moment he put alongside winning the Stanley Cup as his two career highlights.
“Without Bob, I don’t think it would have been possible,” Brisebois said. “That ovation is something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
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