There are a lot of former Montreal Canadiens who have come and gone; whose names have quickly been forgotten. These are players that for whatever reason have failed to leave any lasting impression. They are the “un-memorables.”
Then there is Josh Gorges. He and a select few others belong to what I would like to call the Montreal Canadiens’ “Hall of Heart.”
The individuals that I have the greatest respect for are those who make the most out of everything that they have been blessed with. Gorges is one of them.
Nothing bothers me more than seeing wasted potential. NHL history has been littered by players blessed with incredible talent who did the bare minimum and had long careers but never became anything close to what they should have been.
Not many of us, myself included, are born with incredible talents. So when we see someone like Josh Gorges, one of our own, push himself to the utmost, we too feel compelled to do so be it at school, work, and most importantly, in life.
People like Gorges manage to eke out a living by never giving up and pushing themselves way beyond what others expect them to be. They may never become the “best” but they sure end up doing much better than settling for mediocrity or operating on an “all or none” form of thinking. They just go out there and give it their best and let the chips fall where they may.
They trust the process. It might not necessarily get them to where they want to go but it will get them somewhere – usually a better place than where they started from.
I know that Montreal has a bevy of retired numbers for its greatest players but I wonder if it should consider having a banner for the underdog. That is, the greatest of the “lunch pail players” who inspire us regular folk to emulate their grit, hard work and sheer determination – a “Hall of Heart,” so to speak. Josh Gorges belongs to such a special and memorable class.
Growing up as a kid to a young man, my favourite Habs were Bob Gainey, Brian Skrudland, Mike McPhee, Guy Carboneau, Mike Keane and later on in life, Josh Gorges. These are my personal pantheon of Hall of Heart greats. For those of you who are older, you have your own equally worthy few. Today, I see the torch being passed on to likes of Philip Danault and Brendan Gallagher among others.
So what are Gorges’ credentials? Despite never being drafted, he played 13 seasons (eight of which were for Montreal) in the greatest hockey league on the planet. For most of these seasons, he was an alternate captain. This spoke volumes of his leadership skills. He gave everything that was in the tank every time he suited up. Let me emphasize the word EVERY time. Josh Gorges never took his foot off the accelerator. It was full throttle all the way.
Gorges took 1,519 blocks to his body and played through torn knee ligaments and who knows what else. He was a role model to teammates, even taking rookie Brendan Gallagher (his future protégé) into his home during number 11’s first year. Who does that these days?
Getting back to blocked shots aspect, could you imagine having 1,519 booming 90-100 mph slap shots hitting your body over a 13 year period – not including during your junior and AHL career?! What a warrior!
And what makes someone achieve such things? CHARACTER driven by intense passion.
Gorges’ passion for the Canadiens was so great that he refused to play for the arch-rival Toronto Maple Leafs when he was traded back in 2014. When one is fueled by 100% passion, you just can’t just put on a new sweater and forget who you are.
I know that hockey is a business but players like Josh Gorges transcend this reality. They simply do not see themselves as “assets” or “pieces.” Moving on to another organization is not “just business.” If Gorges saw things this way, his career would have ended very early and he would have joined the list of the un-memorables.
One of the most powerful aspects of sports is its potential to positively influence others. When I needed to push myself to become more than what was assumed of me, I used (among other things) these players as my role models to keep working hard and make the most of what I could be.
Am I rich and famous? No. That’s not the point.
When you give it your best like Gainey, Skrudland, McPhee, Carboneau, Keane and Gorges, Danault, Gallagher, and the like, you never go to bed wondering “what if.” Your conscience is clear knowing that you did your best. And if you fail, do what they do and just try again and/or reap some reward from your hard work.
Josh Gorges, like those above, are cut from a very special cloth. They see playing this game as a special privilege. It was not something to be taken for granted. Easing up, even for a second would end this incredible dream.
My hope is that one day, the Montreal Canadiens will invite Gorges back in some meaningful capacity. He would make for an amazing mentor for its young prospects. People like him and Alex Burrows (now working for Laval) have the credentials to look any underachieving prospect in the eye and say,
“I did this with less skill than you so just go out there and do it.”
Thank you Josh Gorges for being such an inspiration for us regular people. You are one of our own and you did good kid.
May the next chapter in your life be just as “Hall of Heart” inspiring as the one that you just finished!