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Slave to love: the true story of my relationship with my favourite hockey team

January 17, 2011

Life of a Habs fan (image via sxc)

Like many of you, I live in Canada, where it’s always hockey season whether or not anyone is actually playing. Like some of you, I live in Montreal, where hockey is a religion and the only question is when, not if, you’ll be converted. Like a few of you, I live in constant amazement at just how much we as a fanbase, as a city and as a country can talk hockey to death, talk it to resurrection, and then talk it back to death again. And like all of you, I live in a temperamental, co-dependent, psychologically abusive and obsessive relationship with my favourite sport, and my favourite sports team.

Every year, right around this time in the NHL schedule, the honeymoon period ends.

Now’s about when the Habs have begun or ended a soul-crushing slump. Whether it’s an inability to win at home, an inability to win on the road, a non-existent power play or a plain old losing streak, late December-early January is when the Habs finally let me see their flaws and weaknesses—imperfections that were always there but somehow invisible through my rose-coloured early-season lenses.

At the same time, some teams I just. can’t. stand. are flying—firing on all cylinders, winning game after game and making the whole world throw up its mouth (totally not talking about Vancouver, here, by the way). Of course, there’s no way to escape hearing all about it.

Every relationship goes through things like this. I’ve been spending too much time watching, talking about and hearing about my Montreal Canadiens and my patience with Habs talk is wearing thin these days. I find myself bored. My eyes are wandering. “Oh hello, LA Kings… How you doin, Anaheim Ducks… Have you been working out, Dallas Stars?” I would never cheat, of course—just look, without sampling the merchandise.

Here and there there’s a little spark, like the Habs’ first two periods against the Rangers on Saturday, but then PK Subban does something a little dirty or the Habs hang back in the third and play the Jacques Martin trap and I think, “oh, right. There go those flaws again.” Of course, endless ridiculous trade rumours, recycled commentary about the same things over and over again, and constant fan freakouts don’t exactly help. I’m still watching my Habs, of course, but sometimes I’ll miss parts of the game because I’m out to dinner or something… and I won’t feel like I’m missing a limb.

Hockey ennui, I think it’s called. So how does one go about fixing a hockey rut before it’s too late? Try and recapture the magic that made one fall in love in the first place.

This Saturday night, I have a date with my Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre, for Saku’s first game back since he left. Like every day when I know I’m going to a game, I will wake up early because I can’t contain my excitement. All day, I will joyfully yell at my long-suffering friends that, “I’M GOING TO THE HOCKEY GAAAAAAAME!” Won’t lie, there might be some dancing around my apartment.

Then I’ll get done up all purdy in my little red Habs jersey and head down to the Bell Centre. Just like every single time I go to a hockey game here, whether it’s the regular season, the playoffs, or even the preseason, I’ll get goosebumps as soon as I walk into the building… my heart will skip a beat when the intro starts on the jumbotron… I’ll get goosebumps again during the anthems… and then, just before the puck drops, I’ll fall in love with my game and my team all over again. There’s just nothing like the Bell Centre at the very moment the puck’s about to drop.

There are many teams in the NHL that look better than mine. Teams that would likely give me a ring years before mine is ready to. There are teams with interesting, new stories, while my team has already told all of its own. So many teams are more reliable than mine, tougher than mine, flashier than mine.

But this team? This is the one I fell in love with a long time ago. This is my team for life, warts and all. I know it will never leave me, which is something not all hockey fans can say. Yeah, maybe it forgets to take out the trash sometimes, and for some reason it just can’t fix that leaky faucet, but it’s my team.

And true love is forever.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. therangersfan permalink
    January 17, 2011 10:08 am

    What people in Canada, Quebec, and Montreal so often forget is that they also have loved ones, friends, jobs, and household chores to get to, as well. At the end of the day, hockey is just a game.

  2. January 17, 2011 11:18 am

    Captured it perfectly. I feel the same, even in the exile of the US, in the southernmost part of California, where I have to drive 2 hours to see an Anaheim Ducks game (and will soon be in Arizona where its 4 hours to a coyotes game) and it is never hockey season.ever.

    Its a long distance abusive relationship and okay, maybe I look a little too longingly at the blackhawks sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world 🙂

  3. January 17, 2011 11:48 am

    Very well said. That’s the part of the season I like the least. I don’t really care much about the habs. Sure their losses sting a bit, and their wins make me smile, but I’m just not as involved as in october-november. But as I’m still a hockey nuts, while this is going on I get my fix with another team. No, not another nhl team… I can’t cheat on the habs. So I fell in love with the Bulldogs. They’re exciting and fun and WONDERFUL, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re the cure for Habs Ennui. I know I’ll be like a maniac again for the habs when the winter is over and spring arrives though. But it really helps to have them too when the habs are uh… not as interesting (I unfortunately don’t have the option to actually attend games).

  4. Jillian permalink
    January 17, 2011 12:08 pm

    I hate getting in that slump when my eye wonders, and I’m in Ottawa so I can’t exactly fix it by going to a game. 😛 I guess by being a Habs fan, but having my favourite player on another team kind of balances it out because when the Habs arn’t playing or I can’t watch them, or any other reason- theres always the Blackhawks to watch (strictly for Toews) and after watching them for one game I miss the Habs 😀

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