Confessions of an emotionally confused Montreal Canadiens fan
I fell in love with hockey and the Habs all serendipitous-like, completely unaware of the baggage that comes with being a Canadiens fan. Wouldn’t have made a difference even if I had known. I could have been a Bruins fan walking into that building that night and I still would have walked out a Habs fan.
If you’ve spent five seconds with me, you know how much I love my team and how proud I am to be a fan .
You probably also know that it’s not always a joy to be a Canadiens fan.
We may be the most passionate and supposedly most knowledgeable fans in the NHL, but we’re also the ones with the worst reputation. In a league that includes Philadelphia fans, New York fans, and Vancouver Canucks fans, we’re the ones that embarrass ourselves (as a group) the most.
Sometimes it gets a little exhausting. It seems like every time I turn around some Habs fan somewhere is doing something to make me cringe, or feel embarrassed, or feel absolutely mortified. It’s incredibly difficult to reconcile the happiness I get out of being part of this community with the amount of time I spend horrified that I am part of this community.
Looking over the past year or so alone is enough to make me want to go hide in my blanket.
I was in disbelief last summer when more than 200 Habs fans congregated at the Bell Centre to hold a rally in support of re-signing a lazy and uncommitted albeit somewhat talented player who had the arrogance to hold out on Bob Gainey despite being offered about $4.5-million a year more than he’s turned out to be worth.
There was no rally for the player who had been the heart and soul of our favourite team for 14 years, though. No support for that little dude who gave every little bit he had for the Montreal Canadiens, every second of every shift of every game he played in the CH sweater. He would have taken $3.5-million to stay, but instead many fans rejoiced in his being unceremoniously dumped.
“He never won a Stanley Cup for us,” those fans argue. Yeah, well, how many Stanley Cups did Wendel Clark win for the Leafs? There is not a single Leafs fan (that I know of, at least) that wouldn’t jump in front of a bus or take a bullet for him, but then again they’re Leafs fans, and Habs fans are better than them because our team has a shorter Stanley Cup drought.
The New York Rangers came to visit us one Saturday and the Bell Centre Assclown Brigade booed the hell out of Chris Higgins. A player who grew up a Habs fan, wanting follow in the footsteps of his Canadiens idols as a kid. A guy who, despite a shitty season, was one of the few players who worked his ass off and produced during the abysmal playoff series his last year here. And who was then traded against his will. Of course, the douchefan crowd saves the worst of the booing for players who are traded against their will and are the saddest to leave (c.f. Huet, Cristobal).
They didn’t boo Kovalev when he came by that first time. Well, they did a little and then when he scored two goals against the Habs, effectively putting the game out of reach, they gave him a standing ovation.
A standing ovation.
When last year’s Habs started barely finagling wins out of overtime and shootout games, the Asshat Contingent suddenly forgot all about the team’s struggles and instead focused on what they do best: courting bad karma.
Like every year, their favourite thing to do at the Bell Centre was to sing the Goodbye song when the Habs had a lead on the visitors, regardless of how much time was left in the game… say, about five minutes?
I swear every time that song gets sung at the Bell, the visiting team scores within like ten seconds. Why can’t they stop? It’s one of the rudest songs in the world.
And just like the year before, they turned on Carey Price when he didn’t steal games the Habs had no hope of winning anyway. Never mind that the team in front of him hung him out to dry for most of his starts. It was all Carey’s fault, they decided, and they made it known.
But hey, it’s totally cool that the kid who may well be the next Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur (or not) might slip through our fingers and end up with a team we hate. Those clowns will just go ahead and break another promising goaltender, and then another, and all the while continue to expect the Stanley Cup.
And then there was the blackface incident, which I do not feel in a position to discuss, as I was surprised to learn when the whole thing went down that here in Quebec, people don’t generally know the meaning and connotations behind blackface. I thought everyone knew what it meant, so debating this is over my head. In any case, at the end of the day, that just became another thing associated with our fanbase.
Eventually, our Canadiens made the playoffs in spite of themselves. Of course the Bell Centre Crazies had to show the world how proud they were of the team by doing what we may be most famous for (with the possible exception of rioting): booing the US national anthem during the first (and possibly second) home playoff game. Here’s another thing they can be proud of: it doesn’t surprise people anymore.
“If you know anything about Habs fans, this shouldn’t surprise you. If fact, it should be expected.”
– Brandon Worley, formerly of ProHockeyTalk.
And then… The Habs won some playoff series. Not a Cup. Two playoff series… and a whole bunch of fans proceeded to break the city. Not for the first time, either.
And now that we’re back for a new season, it doesn’t look like things are going to change. It took half a preseason (preseason!) game for Habs fans to start booing Carey Price. And last night, when Alex Bauld turned in a stinker (again, in the preseason)? The fans at the Bell Centre began to chant for Carey.
But then… there is the happy. It’s the goosebumps I get when the intro starts on the jumbotron at the Bell Centre. The absolute joy I felt to be at a preseason game a few days ago. The tears I watched fall all around me when the Match du Centennaire ceremonies started last December. The way the arena shakes during the playoffs… and, you know, regular game nights. The way seeing Beliveau on the jumbotron for five seconds results in the loudest cheers you will ever hear.
The way watching the Habs on TV from my couch also gives me goosebumps. How the entire city is in a foul mood all day when the Habs have lost a game the night before and in love with the world the morning after a big win.
It’s how much we hate the summer, even though we love the summer. It’s how we don’t make plans that start before 10pm on a Saturday night during the regular season, and how we panic if we realize we’re not going to be home in time for puckdrop during the week.
I have never booed my own team, booed any anthem, worn blackface to the Bell Centre, burned a cop car, sung the goodbye song or broken into a Foot Locker on Ste. Catherine.
And yet, those are things that I am most often associated with, thanks to some of my fellow fans.
I hate that.