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Hab-Hearted Defenseman Sheldon Souray is behind Montreal's resurgence

Feb. 09, 2004
Feb. 09, 2004

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Feb. 9, 2004

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Hab-Hearted Defenseman Sheldon Souray is behind Montreal's resurgence

Until this season Sheldon Souray was known as a defenseman who
rarely left his own zone on the ice and seldom stayed at home off
it. A bruising physical specimen at 6'4" and 227 pounds, Souray
had a meager 48 points in five seasons with the Devils and the
Canadiens. Souray, 27, acknowledges that he worked the glittering
New York and Montreal social scenes with as much effort as he put
into his workouts. "I was making some money, and I didn't have a
lot of pressure on me," he says. "My focus wasn't 100 percent on
hockey."

This is an article from the Feb. 9, 2004 issue Original Layout

A career-threatening injury--Souray sat out all of '02-03 with a
fractured left wrist that required four operations--forced him to
reconsider that lifestyle, and he has matured as a result. This
year, finally getting the most out of one of the NHL's heaviest
slap shots, he led all defensemen at week's end with 15 goals,
two more than his career total entering the season.

Souray's impressive return--he'll make his first All-Star
appearance this weekend--mirrors that of the Canadiens, who at
26-20-6-2 were in fourth place in the Northeast Division and on
track for the playoffs. "He's an impact defenseman now," says
Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock. "You always knew that in his end,
there was a price to be paid. Now you pay attention to him in the
other end too."

In December 2001, after Souray had been suffering pain in his
left wrist for weeks, doctors found the scaphoid bone was
fractured, requiring surgery. He returned that season, playing
with a cast, and was the Canadiens' most effective defender
during their run to the Eastern Conference semis. But when the
wrist failed to heal properly, a series of bone grafts was
needed. Had the final operation, in March 2003, not been
successful, Souray might have been forced to retire. "When your
career is in jeopardy, it's a reality check," he says.

Souray reported to training camp this year with a renewed
dedication to the game and a quieter social life. (He married
Baywatch actress Angelica Bridges in August 2002, and they had a
daughter last September.) Coach Claude Julien has made him a
regular on special teams for the first time in his career, and he
has responded with six power-play goals on what is now the
seventh best unit in the NHL (18.7%).

"I see the injury as a positive," Souray says, "because it gave
me the chance to step back and look at what kind of player I was.
I'm having more fun than ever now. It's just a different kind of
fun."

COLOR PHOTO: LADISLAS KADYSZEWSKI/MONTREAL CANADIENS Souray's 15 goals led all NHL defensemen, and he has become apower-play force.