During his virtual press conference held on Tuesday, the general manager of the Canadiens, Kent Hughes, confirmed what most observers considered obvious: Paul Byron will soon become a retired player of the National Hockey League and moreover, several supporters of the Montreal team will miss the little speedster.
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The 34-year-old Ottawan has been able to please many fans and not only because of his language skills, the winger being able to express himself in sufficiently understandable French in front of the media. He turned out to be one of the greatest finds of former Habs GM Marc Bergevin, who claimed him on waivers on October 6, 2015. At that time, few expected to see him spend seven years with the Blue White Red.
Banking on his speed, the number 41 thus constituted a threat in numerical inferiority, because he could frequently spin alone in front of the opposing goalkeeper after having sown dumbfounded opponents. The former color holder of the Gatineau Olympiques, in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, has scored 10 goals short of a man in his career.
Here are some memorable moments that Byron experienced on the ice during his time in Montreal, where he totaled 160 points in 383 games.
A little over three weeks after being obtained by the Canadian, the attacker had the opportunity to take revenge on his former employers, the Calgary Flames. At the heart of a stay in the west of the country and a sparkling start to the season, head instructor Michel Therrien called on his services and he did not regret his decision. In his second game with the team, on October 30, 2015, Byron had a goal and an assist in a 6-2 win at Scotiabank Saddledome. Among other things, he gave a glimpse of the rest of his career by scoring on the penalty kill.
-The Return of Subban
On the evening of March 2, 2017, all eyes were on PK Subban, who made his return to Montreal in a Nashville Predators uniform after being traded for Shea Weber the previous June 29. However, at the end of the match, it was Byron who held the attention. As overtime loomed, he scampered toward goaltender Pekka Rinne, who he beat with nine seconds left in the third period, giving his side a 2-1 win. Despite the warm welcome he received from the crowd, Subban saw his evening ruined by this unexpected goal from his ex-teammate.
That season, the Canadian striker was one of the men of great opportunities: he scored six game-winning goals, which earned him second place in the club, tied with Alex Galchenyuk and behind Max Pacioretty (seven ).
– Sublime evening
When Sainte-Flanelle fans hear about December 2, they usually think of Patrick Roy’s last game with the Habs, an 11-1 thaw against the Detroit Red Wings in 1995. Byron will remember more from a night in 2017 that was such a blistering revenge for the Canadiens against their Michigan rivals. In a 10-1 triumph at the Bell Centre, he scored the only hat trick of his career on the Bettman circuit. He put goalkeeper Petr Mrazek through hell, beating him twice in less than 22 minutes before completing his hat-trick against Jimmy Howard late in the middle period.
This evening contributed to the forward’s second best production in the NHL: in 2017-2018, he accumulated 20 goals and 35 points in 82 games. The previous season, he finished with 22 goals and 43 points in 81 outings.
Among the less glorious chapters of Byron’s Montreal history, there was this rather unequal clash with MacKenzie Weegar, on March 26, 2019, against the Florida Panthers. Probably he doesn’t clearly remember his clash against the defender today owned by the Flames. A powerful K.-O. earned the poor Canadiens color holder a concussion and an absence of a few games; however, even though he returned to action a week later, he was not the same player thereafter, settling for 33 points in 102 regular season games.
Despite the disastrous result of his fight from which he staggered to his feet, the winger said he did not regret his choice to face Weegar. The latter was seeking revenge for a blow to the head that Byron had dealt him in January 2019, a sequence at the origin of a three-game suspension imposed on the author of the gesture and a concussion suffered by his rival. To journalists, the Ontario skater mentioned wanting to respect the famous code of honor mentioned by some, especially hockey brawlers. Although he had urged him to throw down the gloves, Weegar later indicated that his victim was under no obligation to comply.
-An important goal
Game symbolizing all his contribution within the team, the decisive goal of Byron in the first game of the opening round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2021. With less than eight minutes remaining in the third period and a tie of 1 to 1, he beat William Nylander in the opposing zone when the Canadian was playing four against five, finding himself alone in front of Jack Campbell. Even though the enemy forward tripped him, the 5’9″ player outmaneuvered the goalie at arm’s length with one knee on the ground. This sequence set the tone for the confrontation which went to the limit of seven games. Despite the Leafs’ offensive talent, the Habs overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the series.