I’ve been optimizing my summer break and focussing on being outdoors, enjoying the weather with family, canines and friends. The past hockey season was pretty intense, especially the last six weeks of the Habs’ post-season. After they got knocked out of the eastern conference final by the dirty rotten Rangers, I largely ignored Twitter (I mean until free agent frenzy and the PK Subban contract negotiations) and started enjoying real life. I also needed that break to be able to look back at the season without heartache.
This was a rare weekend without the boyfriend. The boyfriend has the patience and understanding of … I don’t know, Jesus. Ghandi. Someone like that. It’s not like he didn’t know what he was getting into. On our I think second date I sat him down to have The Talk. Second date is too soon? I don’t think so. I like to have things crystal clear right up front so as to not waste anybody’s time.
I told him about this thing I have going with the Montreal Canadiens. I very seriously told him that I was a Habs fan. He laughed and said it was okay. And I said, “Nuh-no – it’s not about us liking different teams.” I’m really serious about these guys. How I grew up that way and don’t know any other way of life, and that I watch every game of the season and if they lose, it ruins everything, and if they win, you can’t wipe the smile off my face. How I have a seat from the Montreal Forum, and how I lined up to meet Maurice Richard and how not having a photo with him is one of my life’s biggest regrets. How I have game day rituals that I don’t deviate from until there’s a losing streak. How The Sweater is the first story I read to my kids and they know it off by heart. How I watch Sportscentre highlights on game night, and am capable of rewinding the same play to watch it possibly 15 times. How the Habs news is the first thing I do in the morning, well, the second, after I put on my glasses.
He looked at me and said, “So … you’re obsessed.” Whatever, I thought he ought to know. And it’s been nearly four years, so obviously he’s cool with crazy.
Except really, Habs fans, we know it’s normal, not crazy. Last weekend, a long one in B.C., we spent an idyllic one in the hot desert next to a cool, rushing river, and darted around on dune buggies and walked into the river to fish when the sun was going down. I caught two, by the way! Anyway, the deal is, in the desert wifi is hard to come by. And it was PK Subban contract negotiation weekend. We went up on Thursday, and all the way listening to TSN 690, I was confident I’d wake up Friday to the news of a deal. Except I didn’t. The two sides went to arbitration and all of a sudden I was in the desert freaking out along with the rest of Habs nation, and it was all I could do to put my phone down and try to enjoy myself, without checking Twitter and Eyes on the Prize, the best website on the inter webs, every chance I got. On Saturday morning, I got up to more uncertainty and decided to ignore everything. Going on Twitter was pissing me off, mostly because everyone was talking about how it was the end of the world and we’d see PK Subban in a Leafs sweater in two years all thanks to Marc Bergevin’s ineptitude. This was what upset me the most – Marc Bergevin has not steered us wrong and didn’t all of a sudden become some kind of idiot overnight. Also, the idea of Subban in a Leafs jersey? Spending my weekend throwing up all over the place was not what I had in mind. So I put down my phone.
And I picked it up again at about 11:25. First tweet that caught my eye was by EOTP, that Bob McKenzie (TSN analyst who loves to passive-aggressively crap on the Habs AND Subban) was reporting that a DEAL WAS IMMINENT. My heart stopped. Then, we HAD A DEAL. I was so relieved. We piled into the car to go stock up on groceries, including bison meat in honour of PK. In the car, I asked my daughter a question about this personal wifi she had heard of somewhere, and she was happily chirping out her answer when I got a notification on my phone and screamed, “EIGHT YEAR DEAL!! EIGHT YEAR DEAL!!” I totally interrupted her and felt awful but she understood and we all whoop-whooped and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Anyway fast-track to this weekend. He works out of town and had to this weekend, so I mostly just dedicated myself to housework and cooking. And the Habs. Because I got to. I re-watched, on PVR, the Habs/Bruins series from May. And found myself almost in tears when Subban came out of the penalty box in game 3 to score that gorgeous breakaway goal. Then I did more. I looked on iTunes for TSN 690 podcasts and listened to all of them from the playoffs. I heard most of them in real life, of course, but not all, because I couldn’t when I was at work. I even went down a rabbit hole and after listening to all of Tony Marinaro’s broadcasts with WEEI in Boston, went to find the actual Boston radio podcasts. And what I heard was some pretty rational hockey people, which irritates me because hating Boston fans is one of my favourite things ever. Then I started to think back on last season, and with the exception of the Rangers series which I can’t bring myself to fully relive, I have to say it was one of the most exciting seasons I can remember.
Everybody knows I’m a Therrien fan. I like the guy. He has the least enviable coaching job of the NHL and handles it with grace. Therrien 2.0, anyway. The guy is not “your buddy” as Bergevin says, the guy is a coach. He is cold, and cool, and he’s in charge. And he’s smart. And I think that after denial and rage by the majority of Habs nation last season, they finally accepted him after they saw how he handled the playoffs. People still slag him every chance they get, but I’m not thinking he cares very much.
And then there’s Bergevin. He has changed the face of this franchise in a very short turnaround. He gets it. It’s in his blood now and this is a driven, passionate, intelligent leader. There was that game last season, you know the one: Washington. The Habs were on a three-game losing streak in January, and then lost to Washington, shut out, 5-0. And they had a closed-door meeting. In my imagination, here’s how it went down. Bergevin went into that room, looked everyone in the eye, and instead of freaking out and threatening to fire people, said: You’re winners. Forget about tonight, sh*t happens. It’s in the books, and nothing you can do about it now. I believe in you. You’re contenders. And the trade deadline is coming up, and … you’re all staying. I’m adding pieces to help you, and I’m not sacrificing a single one of you.
Look, that’s maybe how it happened and maybe it isn’t, but they won eight of their next 12 games – despite Carey’s absence after the Olympics. And got absolutely genius trade deadline acquisitions in Weise, Weaver and Vanek. And didn’t just make the playoffs, they wound up fourth in the conference with 100 points and then went on to win two playoff rounds, including a sweep, and proved to the world that they were not just a goalie when Lord Voldemort made damned sure that Carey Price would not be a factor in the eastern conference final. They took the Rangers to game 6 even though the experts were predicting a sweep after the cruel Price injury. Character. Passion. Skill. Heart.
There is no point to this post other than wanting to write something after spending a lot of the weekend looking back. And now I’m looking forward. There is so much to look forward to. For the first time in many years, Habs fans have something to legitimately look forward to come October. No more wishful thinking. No more pipe dreams. This is it. We’re not talking about rebuilds anymore, not talking about how in five years we can do it. The future is now, as they say, and right now, I have to … go make dinner.