Looking down at his chest and seeing a buffalo and two sabres instead of the world-famous logo of the Montreal Canadiens will admittedly take a little getting used to.
Still, with the shock of this summer’s trade having long since worn off, Josh Gorges insists he’s excited and ready to move on with the next phase of his NHL career.
Between management, coaching staff and players already in place in Buffalo, the former Kelowna Rockets’ captain said there are multiple reasons to be optimistic about his new job with the Sabres.
“There are a lot of great guys in Buffalo, I know a few of the players already, and I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter and a new challenge along with them,” Gorges, 30, told the Capital News Wednesday, before practising with a group of pros at Prospera Place.
“I’ve had good conversations with management, ownership, training staff, all those types of people and what’s getting me excited to play is that they’re all great people. And that’s what you want to be involved in, working with people that want to do the right thing.”
The trade that sent the Kelowna native from the Canadiens to the Sabres July 1 for a second-round draft pick in 2016 caught many off guard, no one more than Gorges himself.
During his seven-plus seasons in Montreal, Gorges went through thick and thin with the Habs and didn’t feel like his entire story with the Canadiens’ had quite been completed.
Then again, as Gorges knows, the realities of the hockey business often take precedence over personal goals.
“You never expect to be traded but you always know that there’s a chance,” said Gorges, who played 521 regular season and playoff games with the Canadiens. “You hope it never does happen to you, especially when you’re in the right situation like I was in Montreal.
“It was shocking because of the things that were going on there were great, the team was succeeding, we had a great playoff run,” he continued. “And when you start something like I did in Montreal, you want to see it through to the end…and that end is winning the cup with a team you’ve been a part of for so many years. But we understand it’s part of the business, you move on and make the best of it. Now I’ll go to Buffalo and do everything I can to help that team be successful.”
As much he treasures the successes and memories on the ice while in Montreal, Gorges said it’s largely the people he’s leaving behind that’s most regrettable.
Longtime Canadiens’ teammate and close friend Carey Price is one of many people on the Habs’ Gorges will miss.
For the Montreal goaltender, the feeling is clearly mutual.
“(Josh) has been one of my closest friends and one of the key players on the team since I arrived there,” Price told the Capital News. “He has leader-type qualities that every team looks for. Obviously it’s a big loss for us, but we’ve got to move on and we wish him the best of luck in Buffalo.
“I’ve seen a lot of good guys come and go in eight years and it never gets any easier,” added Price. “This one is probably the hardest because our wives are best friends, too.
“Like I said, it is a reality of the hockey business.”
And while Gorges is ready, willing and excited to move on, he said he’ll always value the seven-plus seasons he spent in the hockey-mad market of Montreal.
“Montreal is always going to be a special place for me,” said Gorges, whose wife gave birth to their first child the summer. “I never really got my chance to be a player until I came to Montreal. A lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of experiences there…I loved my time there. It will always be a special place no matter what happens.”
In the end, though—particularly when it comes to hockey—Gorges assures he’ll be looking solely ahead to Buffalo; not back to Montreal.
“We’re a young team, a team with a lot of upside, a lot of potential,” he said of the Sabres.
“Once we make that work, put the work boots on and play as a team, I think we have a lot of potential. I’m excited about it.”
Gorges left Thursday for Montreal to pick up the remainder of his personal belongings, before heading to Buffalo for the start of Sabres’ training camp on Sept. 11.