HALAK, Jaroslav - Traded quietly away on his vacation at the age of 25, goaltender Jaroslav Halak will best be remembered for leading a mediocre Montreal Canadiens team to its best playoff showing since the great Patrick Roy caught lightning in a bottle seventeen years previously.
A quiet, humble man, Halak, known as "Jaro" to his friends and "you goddamn rubber bastard" by Sidney Crosby, was born in Bratislava, Slovakia on May 13, 1985. He grew up in modest circumstances, but knew from the age of four he wanted to be an NHL goaltender. His desire baffled his family and friends who hoped he would one day lead Slovakia to the World Cup.
Unfortunately, Halak suffered from birth from a serious case of NotCanadianitis. He was unexpectedly drafted by the Canadiens in 2003, despite his condition, which he continued to battle in the years following his selection. He put up stellar save percentages and demonstrated a deep desire to win hockey games at every level. In 2005, however, Halak fell victim to a secondary ailment: Notafirstrounderia. Canadiens management had doubts about whether a non-Canadian, ninth-round goalie could really make a difference for their team. Halak was subsequently exiled to the minors, banished from his AHL team as it won the Calder Cup, recalled and left to sit on the bench in Montreal and relegated to backup status behind a teammate who had the good fortune to be both Canadian AND a first-round draft pick.
Still, Halak persisted and, when the team finally had no other choice, he briefly became the Canadiens' number-one goalie. He inspired belief in his team and passion in his fans. He never quit, and he was hailed as a great teammate and a winner by all who knew him.
At one time, late in his life as a Hab, Halak was wrongly accused of demanding a trade. He later insisted he'd done nothing but ask for more ice time. This spawned savage debate among Canadiens' fans about who should be the Habs' top goalie. Many never realized Halak had already won that title.
Sadly, Halak succumbed to his ailments shortly after the playoffs. NotCanadianitis and Notafirstrounderia proved a deadly combination for the young goalie. When he developed side effects including ProbablyCan'tAffordHimNow, he quietly "went west." On June 17, 2010, Jaroslav Halak gave up his bleu-blanc-et-rouge spirit, as Pierre Gauthier stood by holding the plug.
Halak leaves to mourn a legion of heartbroken Habs fans who believed he was the next great Canadiens goalie, Carey Price,who will now be one softie away from a lynching, Pierre Gauthier, whose legacy could very well ride on this trade, Lars Eller and Ian Schultz, who will forever be expected to be better than they are, and teammates who knew they could win every night with him in net.
A memorial service will be held sometime in the new season at the Bell Centre. Time and date will follow, as soon as the NHL schedule makers reveal when the Blues will next play in Montreal.