Dear Max

Dear Max,

You don’t know me but I know all about you. Not to sound creepy.

I’ve been following you since that July day when you were drafted to my beloved hockey team, the Montreal Canadiens. I saw your proud face in the picture, so smart in your tie, and the first thing that struck me was the hint of a grin on your face and a mischievous glint in your eye, and the second thing was that you and my then 6-year-old son share the same first name. I always instantly “adopt” anyone who plays on my team, but sharing my boy’s name made you a little more special. I was looking forward to seeing you on the ice wearing the coolest jersey in the league. I was so delighted for you that your very first sweater would be the one that most every kid who grows up playing hockey dreams of wearing one day.

I watched you play your first game, thinking, “I like the new guy!” The kids and I would always cheer a little extra for you when you got a point (“Woohoo! MAX!”) and we’d miss seeing you when you played for the Bulldogs.

Last year when you played your amazing stretch for them, lighting up the AHL, I was excited to see you back in Montreal and seeing what you’d surely accompish there. When I heard your radio interview where you candidly said you were more than happy to stay exactly where you were, so you could PLAY, I was so proud of you. And you made me laugh. But I have to admit I worried your words would make it even harder for me to see you again, since I couldn’t imagine that the Habs’ brass would be too happy with your point of view.

They shocked me by doing the smart thing anyway, bringing you back to the NHL and giving you the ice time to put your money where your mouth was. And did you ever. Such a pleasure to watch you, see your grin, and give so much cause for Habs fans to celebrate, time and time again.

I’ll never forget January 8, 2011 during the game against the Bruins – I had to leave home in the middle of the 2nd period, to go to attend a Canucks game. I’m not a Canucks fan, but when the boss invites you as one of his guests in the corporate suite, you just don’t say no. Anyway, I left home, and we were down 2-0. The Habs/Bruins matchups, as you well know, are the ones that fans of both teams look forward to all season. And being down 2-0 had me bummed out, not gonna lie. I listened in my car on the way to Rogers Arena and hopes got dashed for any comeback. I got to the suite, and turned the TV on just in time to catch Gomez’s power play goal and that got me crossing all my fingers and toes as the seconds ticked away in the game. When Gionta scored the tying goal with your assist, I’m pretty sure they could hear my whooping and hollering all the way in Montreal. When you scored the OT winner, I’m pretty sure my family could hear me. In Chile, I mean. That look on your face as PK came to jump on you! I was jumping around so much I didn’t notice that you’d tapped the hulking Chara on the back until later when they played back the reason he got so upset. Not gonna lie, it made me snicker. Big deal! I realize he and his whole team had just been humiliated in Montreal, which has got to be the worst for them, so it was kind of the last thing Chara needed from you, but I mean, it’s not like you hurt anything but his pride. And we the fans had just been treated to a heck of a game, and bragging rights to a perfect season against the Bruins so far.

The next matchup against the Bruins was on February 9th. Oh good lordy what a spectacle that game was! 14 goals in total, fights and penalties galore! I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Two of the best goalies were taking turns letting goals in minutes apart, and the towering Bruins couldn’t wait to start fights with any old Hab that crossed their paths. Chara was after you that game – I particularly thought his slash to the back of your legs, which had to hurt, was in pretty poor form. But it was very clear that Mr. Chara holds a grudge, and was not going to let up until he got you back for tapping him in the back the previous month. He was thirsting for your blood during the big brawl, and I was elated to see that this 7’5″ or whatever he is, 255-pound, 33-year old did not get the piece of you he clearly intended that night. The 8-6 loss really hurt, as you know every loss does, but it does stink when Bruins fans gloat over beating us. They have to enjoy it you know, because they  don’t get to gloat over us very often. But this loss – they were acting as though they beat us 8-0.

I saw you up close and in person when you were in Vancouver on February 22. Did you hear me screaming “Max!!!” every time you skated by me? I was the loud Chilean at ice-level during warmups, snapping furiously away on my pink camera. You did shoot a puck at the boards precisely in my direction – twice. Come on…do you remember?

When you guys played Tampa Bay last Saturday and you scored twice in the 4-2 win, I tweeted this:

I honestly don’t know what I enjoy more – your goals, or your ear-to-ear grin. OK, the goals. But the grin’s worth a million dollars.

On Tuesday, March 8th, Habs nation was excited. The Bruins were back in Montreal. I started the day listening to Tony Marinaro on the Team 990. He played a recording of his interview with a Boston radio station, where they were loudly, interruptingly and obnoxiously trying to goad him into an argument, talking about how Habs are dirty, how the Habs started all the fights at the last meeting, how the Habs are dive-artists, the worst in the league. Because clearly, the Bruins, in their eyes, play a perfect, flawless, respectful style of hockey. Snort. Tony handled himself with a lot of class. I would not have. Then Twitter was all a-twitter with quotes from some dude in Boston who was tweeting quotes from Merchant, Marchant, whatever his name is, trash-talking the Habs. I forget where I first heard the term, but he was sure acting like quite the disrespectful rookie. It was clear the Bruins were riling everyone up for hopefully another eventful game that would involve a whole lot more than simply playing hockey. The Habs weren’t biting. The only agenda that evening would be to play our game, skate, be disciplined, score and beat the Bruins as usual. Early in the game Ryan White had to take matters into his own hands when…I wanna say Bergeron, went after PK Subban. White won his fight hands down, and got an instigator penalty (what?!). It doesn’t matter. The Bruins turned up absolutely bubkus during their power play.

In fact, they turned up absolutely bubkus from then on. Haha. They were making tons of mistakes and looking worse and worse as the Habs put in goal after goal. Lars Eller was having such a special evening, putting in two goals, and Gio and Wiz put in a couple of power play goals, and my friends and I were high fiving and woop-wooping all over the place.

I’m back. I had to go away for a few minutes because what I’m about to write you makes me very emotional. As the seconds were ticking down at the end of the second period, you went racing after the puck after a faceoff. The enormous Zdeno Chara went racing off after you. He knows what you’re capable of, and the man still had that axe to grind with you. You were not playing the puck, and this veteran decided to take what in his experience he knew was going to be a penalty for an illegal hit, but was gonna be so worth the penalty. The rest seemed to happen in slow motion.

Max, I cannot tell you how I felt when I saw you knocked out cold on the ice. The close up of your face, your lashes giving me for a tenth of a second, the vision of my own Max’s thick black eyelashes on his cheeks when he slept as a baby. My eyes filled with tears, because it’s awful to say, but I thought Zdeno Chara had just killed you. And it chilled my blood to see him defiantly skating away from your crumpled body, surely finally satisfied that you’d gotten what you deserved. I was sickened, disgusted, and horrified, thinking what your parents must have been going through, their beloved son on the ice after what the replay showed to be a devastating, crippling hit. I saw your eyelids flutter and my heart leapt. It seemed to take forever for the team of doctors, and your teammates, to load you onto that stretcher. There are tears in my eyes as I write this now. I cannot imagine, and it breaks my heart to think about, what this absolutely gut-wrenching sickening few moments was like for your loved ones.

Your team went on to handily win the game, but all anyone could think about was you. No one cared about the win, no one cared about the Bruins.

I went to sleep that night only to find that sleep would not come. I was so furious and enraged over the most disgusting thing I’d seen in all my years of watching hockey. It was made all the worse because it stemmed from what seemed to me to be a filthy, vengeful move over a silly gesture made during a celebratory moment 2 months earlier. I could not get over my rage, and somehow found sleep while my rational side told me I’d be cooler in the morning. Well, I wasn’t. If anything, I was angrier in the morning. My first thought was of you. When we received the news that you had a serious concussion and a broken vertebra, all I could think about was you, your family, the team…and the thought that surely, Mr. Chara would be unable to live with himself, and what he did to the season of such a promising young player.

What ensued these past couple of days has been discussed ad nauseum so I won’t rehash it here. But I and the rest of the Habs’ and your fierce fans have been following every moment. Rejoicing over the news that you could speak and were using your limbs. Hi-fiving and celebrating the news that you were walking around. Astonished over the news you’d gone and checked yourself out of the hospital 2 days after having your neck broken. Truly we should not have been surprised. The day after having your ribs cracked this year, you were all, “what? I’m playing tonight.” I cried again when I heard your emotional statement to Bob McKenzie of TSN, and I was also once again SO PROUD of you for speaking candidly.

Max, I want to take this opportunity to say, on behalf of Habs fans who have been living and breathing every snippet of news about you for the past 100 hours, we love you. We fervently wish for your complete recovery, and are looking forward to seeing you back with our boys when that day comes. We are proud of you and you are in our hearts.

Love,

Veronica

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Comments

  1. Veronica,
    I’m sad I didn’t get to read this before today. In the hours following the event, I stayed away from Twitter as much as I could because I was so angry. I only got angrier when the NHL cronies decided to let Chara go free, and then when idiots from Beantown were commenting on the incident from their deeply disturbed point of view. I was offended when i heard they gave Chara a hero’s welcome. Still now, idiots still try to egg us on, but we are better now that we know Max is doing better.
    Reading your piece somehow makes me feel more connected as we all felt the same things that night and during the days followimg.
    Please keep on being such a great fan, and especially writing about it! I’ll make sure to look you up!

  2. that is the biggest piece of crap ive ever read..The hit by Chara was CLEAN..it happens all the time in the NHL the flaw is where the pillar was not the play..Why isnt anyone bringing up the brutal cheapshot by Patches on Mark Eaton this past december or when Hal Gill hit Jon Sim into the same stantion?You also forget Patches chopped chara AFTER a game had ended and Chara had his back to him then left the ice as Gill and Gomez defended his actions..Thats a great teammate..Boudreau was right if that hit was Hal Gill hittting David Krecji no one in Montreal calls 911 and there is no protest..

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Max tapped Chara on the back, and I believe Chara’s season was not ended by the tap. The league ruled Chara’s hit was clean, a fact that has been highly contested by players and fans all over the league. The decision is the decision, however.

      It appears that you are a rabid hockey supporter and that is what fans of the Canadiens are as well.

      P.S. It’s spelled “stanchion.” It was in every piece of news last week.

    • Dear Paul,

      Explain to me how Chara’s “clean” hit resulted in a 5 minute major penalty and a game misconduct for interference?

      Thank you.

    • Paul,
      Seriously, you need meds. Patches chop on Chara was barely a shove that my grandma would not have felt.
      Dude, it was a dirty hit, and you know it. You just love that shit except when it happens to your guys. Bergeron and Savard endured the same crap and Habs fans were also after the offenders’ heads.
      Go hate on someone else.

    • Paul,

      Clearly you need lessons on how to relate to fellow humans (giving you the benefit of the doubt here). You can easily debate your side of it (though the majority of people outside the Boston franchise – and even within its world – believe Chara got off scot-free with a dirty hit) without stooping to levels of insults. Your point of view is skewed as you cannot admit to your team’s overreaction to a “chop” (it wasn’t – it was a slight push which couldn’t have toppled Chara even on a good day) and seem to feel Max deserved what he got. No one – Hab, Bruin, Penguin, Bolt, Cap or any of the other 25 teams’ players – deserved what Max got. The insult to injury is that Chara got away with it.

      But rather than argue this with someone who will obviously refuse to see any other perspective, I will express my dismay that you couldn’t even be polite about your disagreement. Thought we’d gone past the rudeness.

  3. Amazing, touching piece. Needed a tissue myself. So amazing that Patches gave you a Twitter-follow in return… so well-deserved!

    Habs fans are the best in the league. Best writers, too. 🙂

  4. Veronica Heringer says:

    I thought I was though, but my tears are proving me wrong!

  5. I’ll admit I laughed and I cried.. Well done

  6. Such an emotional piece. We all adopt players for our own reasons, Max being from only a few towns away does it. I didn’t watch that game and saw it the next day and even with sound off brought tears to my eyes. Reading this my eyes flooded yet again. Only fan of the best team in hockey really understand but we all contain that passion.

  7. Habbykins says:

    Beautiful letter – Chile – As always you are able to put into words what we are thinking – well done. Hopefully our man Patches will read it and possibly leave a comment – would that not be awesome.

    Love ya
    Laura

  8. I have no words … that was just one amazing, awesome post and I’m glad you said all the things I’d like to but can’t.

    I, too, had a tough time sleeping — and woke up the next morning, angry, and then cried.

    I hope Max reads what you wrote.

  9. A very lovely tribute. So sad to hear about what happened. I am certain he will appreciate the kind words and support from fans like you!

  10. Wow! What a passionate post! What makes it great is your honesty. It’s amazing. Writing with passion and honesty really transforms what you’re writing about – it gives it a pulse. It’s a living thing! Really enjoyed the read.

  11. Curtis Lanton says:

    I knew I liked you for a reason. Well written, well said.

  12. AMAZING POST! Brought tears to my eyes for sure. We all love Max, thank you for saying what all of Habs nation is thinking in this post. Hopefully all the right people will read it.

  13. Wow Veronica! Simply beautifully written, with so much honesty and emotion, still wiping my tears… Thank you for expressing so well what so many of us Hab fans felt that night of March 8.

  14. Wonderfully written and better articulated than any of us could have done.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  15. V, this is beautiful. Made me cry. 😦
    I don’t like the Habs, but I don’t wish injury on any player, and that was a terrible injury. I like Patches, always liked him, even if he is a Habber. Hope he makes it back to 100% soon. Go Max Go! 🙂
    *hugs* hon.

  16. Wow, great read Veronica, #goMaxgo

  17. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who lost sleep after that game.

    As someone who’s had head injuries before, even during hockey, I was so appalled by the NHL’s decision re: Chara. I very rarely get mad, but I was screaming and throwing things and I’m sure my blood pressure was well over 220/180. Enough is enough. Leave the gratuitous violence to the lesser sports. This is hockey, we’re Canadians, we’re better than this.

  18. I’m gonna go cry now.

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