The Story of Us: How I became a Montreal Canadiens fan
How are you handling your offseason, my four readers? Are you searching high and low for someone to boo? Are you setting fire to stuff and finding that it just does not burn the same? Are you possibly thinking RDS was a tad hasty in making Benoit Brunet go away? Are you insane?
Or have you just developed a little bit of a twitch, like me? This summer has been pretty eventful in my personal life but now that things are calming down I’m… going a little nuts. TYPING IN ALL CAPS nuts. I’m self-medicating with my hockey memories, and I have some great ones. My favourite one is of the day I fell in love with the Habs.
As some of you know, I did not grow up in Montreal. I actually come from a land in a faraway place where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, and did not move to Montreal until I was 18.
My parents were from here, though, and we spent a considerable number of summers and holidays here. One of my many cousins (my family is kind of like a clown car) had taped the entire 1993 Stanley Cup run and when I came to visit that summer he sat me down and made me watch it.
All I wanted to do was watch Full House reruns but he was having none of that. Those were the days before I decided I could fight anyone, no matter how much bigger than me they were, so he always had the remote.
Ten-year-old me started seeing Jacques Demers’ big pale face in my nightmares, but over the next few summers, as my cousin made me watch those tapes again and again, Kirk became my dreamboat and Patrick Roy my hero.
Of course, living so far away in the days before the Habs’ every move was plastered all over the intertubes, I had no way to ever find out just how badly the years after Cup No. 24 went for the Habs. My only exposure to the Montreal Canadiens consisted of tapes of one Stanley Cup run. I just kind of sat around, confident in the knowledge that the Montreal Team Was Better Than All The Other Teams. For years.
Back home, I discovered two sports I didn’t totally suck at and kind of forgot about hockey. You can’t really aspire to be the female version of Kirk Muller when you have no access to an ice rink at all (yeah, wrap your heads around that, Canadian kids… I still can’t skate). What I did have access to: football and softball pitches galore (goalkeeper, outfield).
And then your Active Stick landed in Montreal. My first semester was an overwhelming mess of parties, term papers, homesickness, the demise of a high school relationship (and a friendship or two), and no time to watch hockey. Diva me eventually met a new boy, however, who took me to a hockey game on our first date.
That hockey game?
Saku’s return to the team after kicking cancer’s ass.
I don’t care who you are, if you could be in that building that night and not fall head over heels in love with the game and the team, there is something seriously wrong with you. I remember bursting into tears and having no idea why, cheering so loud my lungs hurt for two days and clapping so hard my palms stayed red for two more.
And of course, the Montreal Team Was Better Than All The Other Teams. How could they not be, if the Captain came back and they won the game and they made the playoffs for the first time in four years all in one night?
That was it for me. I read and watched everything about the Montreal Canadiens I could get my hands on for the next couple of years. The lockout year was especially convenient for anyone who wanted to catch up on almost a century of history, by the way.
I guess I know a little bit more about hockey now (not really, I’m totally full of shit and you can’t prove otherwise) and I love my Habs even more, not less, than I did for those few games they played after I “met” them.
I am still not over the Saku being allowed to walk thing. He is always going to be the reason I fell so hard for the game, even though there have been many other reasons I have stayed in a relationship with it. People keep asking me what the big deal is about Gomez taking his sweater number next year. My answer is that I just don’t want Saku to come back to the Bell Centre for the first time to find someone else wearing a Montreal Canadiens No. 11 sweater on the ice. That’s it.
I met the love of my life (hockey, not the boy) when I accidentally ended up at the Saku comeback game. I also accidentally ended up at the Centennial game this year, as well as some other big games. Which is why I know, I know, one day I will accidentally end up at the game in which the Habs clinch Cup No. 25. So you know who you’re taking if you accidentally get tickets.