Montreal without the Habs
Remember this? A couple of years ago, a theology professor at l’Universite de Montreal launched a course called The Religion of the Canadiens. From what I gather, his book and course compare being a Montreal Canadiens fan to being a devoted religious worshipper. I remember thinking at the time that if we love the Habs so much that our love is being compared to religious worship, psychiatric intervention might have been a better idea. The guy was right, though. We’re too much.
But this is who we are.
Fans in Montreal take the day off work to climb the steps of St Joseph’s oratory when the stupid first-place Canadiens almost blow a 3-1 lead against the eighth-place Bruins in the playoffs. We do what we can, yo.
It’s hard to explain. We aren’t the only hockey-obsessed NHL city, but ours is a different brand of hockey fanaticism. Toronto is notorious for keeping its hockey team under a sometimes-vicious microscope, and we have our fair share of media- and fan-created controversies here, but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s more like the Canadiens are Montreal’s energy. The entire city is in a bad mood the day after a Canadiens loss, and when they win, all is right with the world. During the playoffs, the entire city is on edge, and excited, and elated, and inevitably devastated. Even if you don’t like hockey and you are in Montreal, you know what the Habs are up to, because the Habs are everywhere.
Except now, they’re not.
I take the metro home from work every day, and Lucien-L’Allier station (the Bell Centre stop) is on my way. It starts in the preseason – once or twice a week, I get on the metro sometime between 5 and 7pm, and the train is full of people in Canadiens jerseys who leave en masse at the Lucien L’Allier stop. That’s when the gameday buzz really begins, whether it’s the preseason, or the playoffs, or the tail end of a season so bad the games literally put you to sleep some nights. It’s part of our workweek. If you’re not running into Canadiens fans headed to the game on the metro, you’re listening to pregame coverage in your car.
Mid – September is when it starts. This year, it’s conspicuously absent. Not that my commute ever feels like a pleasure cruise but this week it’s felt incredibly empty and sad. Fall is usually when my allergies start fucking off, when pumpkin spice lattes become my reason to live, and when NHL hockey comes back to Montreal. Now fall is just what comes before a cold and slushy Montreal winter.
The mood in this city is going to be pretty grey for the next little while.