Metropolit: Montreal's unlikely power source

Glen Metropolit of the Montreal Canadiens has demonstrated this season that there is plenty of hockey life remaining in his 35-year-old, 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame.
Glen Metropolit skates past Philadelphia's Jeff Carter in a Feb. 12 game, one of many, many ex-teammates of the Montreal Canadiens forward. ((Michael Perez/Associated Press))

Glen Metropolit of the Montreal Canadiens has demonstrated this season that there is plenty of hockey life remaining in his 35-year-old, 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame.

The inspiring individual, who overcame long odds to play professional hockey, is enjoying his most productive NHL season and has been a huge contributor to Montreal's surprising post-Olympic surge to secure a spot in the postseason.

Metropolit already has set a career high in goals with 16 and needs four points to match the his top output 33 points, a total he has reached twice.

"I’m going to play until they kick me out of the league," said Metropolit, who turns 36 in late June, a few days before he’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. "I’m feeling great. I’m taking care of my body. If you eat well and take care of yourself I think you can play as long as you want.

"Look at [Chris] Chelios. Well, nobody is going to play that long. He’s an exception at 48. But it helps when the coach [Jacques Martin] has confidence in you. I do feel great. I don’t feel 35, that’s for sure. My wife [Michlyn] will tell you that I don’t act it, either."

The Canadiens have acted like contenders with their six-game win streak. Instead of looking behind them, the sixth-place team in the East now has a chance to possibly catch the fifth-place Ottawa Senators or even the division-leading Buffalo Sabres.

"We have a couple games left against Buffalo, so that will be a key," Metropolit said. "We’re four points behind them and they have [three] games in hand so if we keep playing well there is a shot. That being said, we can’t get too cocky. We have to continue to play hard."

Montreal would help its cause with a win in Toronto against the rival Maple Leafs on Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada, followed by good results against Ottawa and Buffalo next week.

"Man, we’re in a groove," Metropolit said. "We’re playing good hockey and we’re still missing Cammy [Mike Cammalleri]. We’re missing Marc-Andre Bergeron, too, and Paul Mara has been out most of the season, but this is as close to a full lineup as we’ve had all season.

"The difference right now is that everyone is contributing. We have all four lines going right now. We also added Dominic Moore [via a trade with Florida] a couple weeks ago and he’s added a different dimension. Everyone is playing well and has bought in."

If you get the idea that Metropolit is excited these days, you’re right. But he always has been an uplifting person. After all, how many people who grew up in Toronto as loyal Maple Leafs fan would enjoy his experience in Montreal as much as Metropolit?

He was acquired just before the trade deadline a year ago via waivers, when in a strange twist he simply switched dressing rooms that morning because the team that dealt him, the Philadelphia Flyers, were playing the Habs that evening.

The trade hardly made headlines, but it was an important move by then Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey. Metropolit’s 10 power-play goals this season haven’t gone unnoticed in hockey-mad Montreal.

"It’s just amazing how much passion there is here for hockey," Metropolit said. "Obviously, with the success of the team lately and the kind of year I’m having, it’s been a blast. My family loves it here, too. I feel blessed."

Those who know Metropolit’s inspirational story feel blessed, too. He was raised by a caring, single mother in the drug-infested Regent Park neighbourhood in downtown Toronto. In and out of foster homes, Metropolit found solace in hockey and had the perseverance and patience to make it as a pro.

His brother Troy wasn’t as fortunate. He fell in with a bad crowd and has been serving a 14-year prison term for his part in a carjacking and kidnapping of wealthy Toronto couple in Jan. 1999.

Glen’s determination to one day skate in the NHL took him all over the world. He is closing in on his 1,100th career pro games. If you include the nine games he suited up for Canada at the 2006 world championship, Metropolit has played in 1,096 professional regular season and playoff games.

His hockey journey has taken him to Nashville and Atlanta — before the Predators and Thrashers set up shop in those cities — Pensacola, Quebec City (after the Nordiques departed), Grand Rapids, Portland, Maine, Washington, Tampa Bay, Helsinki, Finland, Lugano, Switzerland, back to Atlanta (for the Thrashers this time), St. Louis, Philadelphia and now Montreal.

The last stop – and who knows if this is the final stop – has been the most fun for Metropolit.