Now that Montreal has had another iron spike dropped in the corner of the semi-finals coffin by the Flyers, does any of it matter at all? Is the Montreal Canadiens 2010 NHL Playoff season really about carrying themselves to the end of Stanley Cup finals and winning? Or is it about something more than just the win?
I hate hockey...not exactly.
I've never understood it; thirty years ago I would watch the games with my father and his friends on CBC...it was Hockey Night in Canada then, and it's Hockey Night in Canada now--just no Dick Irving, and no Peter Puck. There was always some kind of mania that would take over the living room when the Canadiens would play, a fever and a buzz that I just didn't get.
I'd never been big into sports unless you counted reading, Lego, or daydreaming as ones, in which case I lead the national team with records that have held to this day. For some reason hockey never clicked with me. As I grew older I threw myself in to Football (European), some Cricket, and I even made the school track team. Attending British private school for three years neither drew me closer to Canada nor to the national pass-time.
When the family finally moved back to Montreal in 1983 I was emotionally caught in a weird purgatory of citizenship: I didn't know enough about the UK to be English, and didn't know enough about Canada to be Canadian. But still I knew that landing back in Montreal the one thing that I remembered was hockey, and the love of hockey that poured out each and every time we sat in front down in our living room to watch the game. Back then Hockey was a winter sport and summers were meant for swimming and outdoor recreational activities (in my case reading on the porch). Into the month of June you just weren't worried who would win the cup...
In '93 I was there. In a crappy bar my brother, cousin and I watched the Habs claim the glory and the cup. We poured into the streets like everyone else and watched as the mania turned Montreal into a low brow city continuing the tradition of hockey riots. I saw it start; I felt the mania; and I got hit by a police baton--which (by the way) hurts like nothing you've felt before. And I think that's when it all changed for me. That's when I started to get it.
To be honest I still can't tell you the names of all the players that winning year...of course I know that Roy was our upstart star. But since then the Habs have been a low buzz in the back of my mind never once reminding me of that buzz. I followed some of the games, I followed year after year as we tried to win, and live up that incredible legacy that no offspring would want to have on their shoulders. But even for the fans the weight is too heavy, the legacy too great, the emotions too high, and the expectation too much...
That's the mania.
Since Sid The Kid's golden goal in the Olympics I'm back in the game. We all are. From that moment on we proved that hockey was our game, in our country meant to be played and won by Canadians. When our Canadians became Canadiens sending Sid--a fellow Canadian playing for the "other" side--to an early golf season our hearts beat stronger and together. All boundaries transcended for those few minutes we stood and sang to the MSO's instrumental version of O Canada in our living rooms. We are proud of our team, proud of ourselves, and proud that they are now the next Team Canada. Holding together Canada's Olympic pride, the dream of a 25th cup, the institution of a 100 year history even if it is only for a few more days.
Too heavy. Too historic. Too emotional. Too much? You bet.
I hate hockey...not really.
I mostly hate what it's come to do to me and I hate the rioting. That mania that engulfs me makes me want to jeer the home team on home ice, yet do everything I can to support their chance at winning. THAT contradiction is why it's so hard this year to be Canadian and a Canadiens addict.
Eighth seed team takes out the first seed team.
Eighth seed team takes out the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
We've taken up our quarrel with the foe, so do we really need to do more, or is that enough of a tribute to the ninety-nine teams that came before this one?
I think so. They got me passionate about a sport for which I'd never cared much.
This year especially I believe it's less about winning, and more about everyone acknowledging that no matter what they do from here on out, this year--the centennial year--the team has done all it can to hold that torch up on high.
Of course it's always nice when we win too.
SPAN is a burgeoning Montreal Canadiens fan who owes his new found passion for hockey, and the Habs to the 2010 Canadian Olympic Team, Peter Puck, and his father. Go Habs Go!
Sunday, May 23, 2010