Say this about Scott Gomez — he really loves Montreal.
The much-maligned center spoke glowingly about the city and its inhabitants in a wide-ranging interview with the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs, touching on his year-long goalless drought, his contract, his teammates and the treatment he’s received from Canadiens fans.
“You’ve got to take it,” Gomez said of the abuse he’s received. “It’s part of sports. Who am I to sit here and tell fans who pay good money to come to games that they can’t speak their minds? If I’m paying their rent, then maybe.”
The Bell Center fans are certainly speaking their minds — recently, they’ve taken to cheering Gomez every time he touches the puck, something Stubbs describes as “hugely sarcastic, some of it well-intentioned.”
There are also a few bars around town offering free rounds when Gomez next scores.
Not that any of it bothers him.
“I’ll quote (tennis player) Jimmy Connors, who said to fans: ‘You might not like me, but I love you.’ The fans are an important part of what we do.
“The fans in Montreal are great. Whether (their cheering) is sarcastic or not, it shows their passion. It shows people in the building get it. You don’t understand how passionate fans are here until you’re here. I get to see that every day. Sometimes it hasn’t been good for me, but the passion is still there. You respect that.”
For all the abuse Gomez takes, he speaks like a true team-first guy. He refuses to let the goalless slump eat away at him, stating that his No. 1 priority is to get Montreal some results in the wins column.
“I look at that standings board in the dressing room every day. That’s my focus. I wake up in the morning and what bugs me is where we are in the standings.
“Trust me, I want to score as much as anyone. But I’m dead serious about this – if it took me not scoring for two years for us to win in Montreal, I’d take it.”
So, how will Gomez react when he finally busts the slump?
“It depends if we win or lose,” he said. “If we lose, the goal won’t mean (expletive).”