José (Jo-say) Theodore (Thee-uh-dore) was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1994 and played with them until March of 2006, winning the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2002. He spent two and a half seasons with the Colorado Avalanche. José signed with the Washington Capitals in July 2008 where he played the next two seasons. He was awarded the Masterton Trophy in 2010. He played the 2010-11 season with the Minnesota Wild, and then played 2 seasons with the Florida Panthers.
It’s with the eye of a goaltender still today, two years since his last game, that José Theodore watches Canadiens netminder Carey Price and his NHL brethren, sharing his outspoken analysis and unique insight with TVA viewers.
Theodore made no official retirement announcement at age 36 after 16 years and 648 games in the NHL. Florida was his last stop in 2011-13 after nine seasons in Montreal, two and a bit in Colorado, two in Washington and one in Minnesota.
Television, he says, has been a perfect bridge back to the game and, perhaps more importantly, his hometown.
“In a sense,” Theodore said, “it was time for me to come home.”
When TVA knocked on his door in January 2014, signing him to a two-year contract, Theodore realized there was much to see in life and in hockey not through the cage of a mask.
“I had some talks with some teams. I was still in good shape and I wanted to keep my options open,” he said before Game 4 of the Canadiens-Lightning semifinal series. “But once I decided to do TV, I focused 100 per cent on that. I never announced (retirement) but everybody knows where I’m at.
“After 16 years, I look back — when you’re in it you don’t really realize it — and there are a lot of things I’m proud of. I met some great people through hockey, I played with some of the best players, I had some opportunities to play for my country a couple times — the World Cup, world championships — and I won some awards.
“Looking back, I was fortunate I was in the game for so long and I’m really grateful for that. As you get older, you realize you can be proud of yourself.”
Theodore loves still being part of a team, not in a dressing room but now on a TV set with former coach Michel Bergeron and a handful of ex-NHL players and teammates.
“I enjoy that I have the chance to speak,” he said. “Some people like what I say, some don’t, but I’m just being honest, speaking from the heart. People in Montreal know their hockey. They might agree or disagree but they want somebody who’s honest. They want to see somebody call it the way he sees it and believes it.
“Every time I look at a game, my eyes are always on the goalies,” Theodore said. “When there’s a goal I look at where the goalie was, what he could have done, what I would have done. It’s just second nature for me. Now I have the chance to talk about it and it’s fun.”
Canadiens goalie José Theodore juggles three of his shutout pucks in te Habs dressing room in 2002. Pierre Obendrauf/Montreal Gazette.
He recalls hearing comments from all sources during his playing days, most of these people claiming an expertise without ever having skated into a goal crease.
“I’d think, ‘No, that’s not what happened,’ and I wanted to explain but nobody could hear me because I wasn’t in the public,” Theodore said.
“Now, I have the forum and the chance and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to switch sides, to be able to say things, to talk about my experience, how I felt, how I think the goalie feels in X or Y situation.
“I always see myself as a goalie, I just think my body didn’t allow me to keep going, which is normal at one time. But in the brain, you’re still the goalie.”
These days, Florida is home for himself, his wife, Stéphanie, and their 9-year-old daughter, Romi, though they’ve kept a place in Montreal and come here at Christmastime and in the summer.
It’s with his family that Theodore will discuss his future in TV, saying, “I’ve been away so many years, pretty much selfish because hockey and being traded don’t give you any choice. …
“I wanted to be sure I felt comfortable (with TVA). It’s a different game and anything I do I want to be the best I can be. I wanted to make sure this was something I like.
“We have a great team,” he said of the TVA crew. “I like working with Bergy and all the players. It brings me back to that same team mentality and spirit that, as a player, is something you really look for. We’ve been in groups, playing hockey all our lives, and this is similar.
“We try to give people a good show, be honest about what we see out there, and I think I can bring a lot to the table for having played for so many years. Right now I’m really enjoying myself and I’m just trying to get better. It’s still something new for me.”
Theodore’s 2002 Hart and Vézina and 2010 Masterton trophy miniatures are quietly displayed at home in Florida, a magnet for visitors who might first be attracted to his masks.
“When people come in, they’re drawn by the masks but they want to see the Hart and Vézina,” he said. “They hold them, look at them. Nobody can take that away from me.
“Sometimes when I see them, I start thinking about some of the games that brought me there. When I played, I didn’t really think about it but now that I’m done, I remember my days in Montreal, in Colorado, the Hart, Vézina and Masterton. It’s good to look back and have those memories, which is pretty much all we have left when we’re done playing.”