It’s Not Me, It’s You

I haven’t posted on this topic since the NHL lockout was announced to have ended on Sunday, in part because I ceased to pay attention to every detail of the “negotiations” since about day 3o of the lockout. So I don’t know absolutely everything about the eventual agreement that was reached, and how, and I do have fear of being denigrated for not being as savvy about it as others who are well-versed.

But this isn’t about that. It’s not about the lockout, or the clash of the millionaires on either side and everything involved. It’s about how I don’t know how to even express how I feel about this.

One of the things I’ve always known to be true about myself is how much I love my team and love to watch them play. And right now, I just don’t care. I don’t care that they’re coming back, and I don’t care when, and I’m not even paying attention to when exactly that will be, and not caring about what should be paramount, which is, are the Habs coming to Vancouver this year? And WHEN.

I don’t. Care.

I was reading about Jimmy Kimmel and how he’s moving to a different time-slot now, in direct competition with Letterman and Leno. Kimmel’s funny. Super funny. I like that guy. Anyway, there was an article about how Jimmy lost respect for Leno, and it made a reference to some book detailing the Late Night war. And my mind wandered, as it does, to thinking, I would totally read a book, cover-to-cover, about this lockout and all the machinations, all the players (not player/players, but participants), and naming the villains and holdouts. But then it occurred to me, that book will never be written, not even by Julia Phillips, whom I’m pretty sure never did Eat Lunch in That Town Again. You know why? This mafia is even more nefarious than Hollywood power players, Bada Bing investors and the Genco Pura Olive Oil combined. Okay, perhaps that’s overly dramatic. But you know what? I’m hurt.

OMG, can you imagine if that book gets written? Calling out AND quoting Fehr, and Bettman?? The best, Jerry, the BEST.

At my work, and I’m sure, at yours, pay is commensurate with performance and expectations, in many measures, be they salary, perks, benefits, bonuses, etc., ad nauseum. If I don’t do my goddamned job, I don’t have one anymore. My own puppy doesn’t get her pig’s ear until she lies down and stays put like a statue until she hears, “Okay, go get it!”

Yes, I know the CBA is more complex than the rules of just your job or mine, or the rewards of a hyper 18-month old Lab. The point is, I couldn’t emotionally identify with the plight of the players in the lockout, which is the level of identification I’m required to attain when we’re talking sympathy. And make no mistake, I really easily sympathize with all KINDS of people, including the people with whom I may have absolutely nothing in common. Still, I also couldn’t put myself in the owners’ or Bettman’s shoes.

So on Sunday, I checked Twitter near midday, which I’d only sporadically been doing recently. And I learned, as we’d pretty much all been expecting, although I was hoping otherwise, that the lockout was “over,” details of the new CBA TBA in a matter of days, no specific timing available. Yay. Not yay. I’d actually hoped they wouldn’t come back now, maybe they’d come back next October, because what is the point of a 3-month season? Seriously. We all love watching hockey, but it’s ultimately all about the marathon.

I was bemused to see a lot of unbridled enthusiasm, a la, “Go Habs Go!” or “They’re back!” or “It’s over!” and I couldn’t join. Which I hadn’t been expecting, really. For all my bitterness, I deep-down still expected to flip the second the lockout ended. But I didn’t. I just kind of felt…pissed off. Like, what, we’re all supposed to be excited now? And it seems like a lot of you are? To be treated to likely 50% of a season we’re all deserving of? Us, the fans, who stick beside you even when you break our hearts? And look forward to playoffs and a Stanley Cup, the winner of which will be the butt of all jokes until the next lockout year? For real?

I once dated someone I was unreasonably in love with, and after a long, unreasonable while, I finally left the relationship. And moved far away. And after months of being better and figuring stuff out, the ex came back, and wanted me back, and called, wrote, left drunk voice messages, proposed, promised to lasso the moon, you name it. And this guy, whom I once couldn’t have imagined living without, simply didn’t move me. I was over it.

Not to liken a hockey team with a well-dodged bullet of a boyfriend, but I found myself feeling like that again on Sunday, no matter who was the bad guy in this lockout.

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…and I just feel like, no. This isn’t working for me. It’s not me, it’s you. It’s totally you.

Still, I keep expecting myself to snap out of it and feel excitement, but it’s not happening. It’s the oddest thing. The last time a lockout and demi-season happened, I was distracted by a rambunctious, exhausting 1 & 3-year-old team of offspring, the pursuit of which did not comply with CBA newsdays or an abbreviated hockey schedule. That season was a write-off for me and I was only irritated, and that feeling disappeared by the next regular season. I had way better things to do.

And it turns out, I still do. Hockey stopped, and the reasons for its suspension got too tiresome to deserve my attention. And the world still turned, and life was good. And it was kind of nice to have freedom in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, which is when the Habs used to have 3 hours of my time, no matter what else was going on. And then, all of a sudden, they’re coming back, and we have to jump up and down. Not feeling it.

Some of the players spoke out, looking forward to the season, thanking the “fans who had stuck by them and supported them.” That was nice. And then, the Habs brass called a press conference and graciously mentioned the fans. This was on TSN:

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As-yet undecided gesture. Sketchy on details. I’ll admit it, I didn’t shed a tear.

At the end of the last regular season, the Habs ended in the basement and didn’t even make the playoffs. But I was still so excited about Bergevin and had such faith in Molson, and was so moved by the genius PR gesture of the Habs giving their jerseys to fans after their last game, that I DID shed a tear, and was super excited about October – notwithstanding the horribly disappointing and heartbreaking season we’d just seen.

I read this in the Montreal Gazette today:

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Here’s the thing: isn’t every game important EVERY SEASON? Every game? Can you imagine if you went to work but decided only Tuesday and Friday would count? You know, sit and wait?

I’m still going to watch, let’s be real. Or you know what, maybe I won’t. Maybe I just think I will because I’m hardwired to do so. We’ll see. One tiny fan doesn’t matter to the NHL, I know, and it’s no kind of protest and is a ridiculous statement compared to say, a hunger strike, over things that actually matter. It’s not even a statement, actually.

Here’s who I’m relieved for: the journalists, and bloggers, who now will have more stuff to write about and be able to do their jobs again. The arena workers, including my little brother, who works at what we all still call GM Place. Sports bars. In Canada. Sports bars in the U.S. have probably been doing all right. And I’m happy that the players get to have a deal they consider to be fair. It’s all relative.

I still love my team, I always will. It will be nice to see Carey, P.K., Josh, Max, etc. again. But I’m not that girl (anymore). It is going to take some serious cartwheels to change my mind about this, hoop jumps, even. Let’s see what happens.

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The Opinions Expressed Here Are Strictly My Own, You Big Silly.

You guys, obviously Geoff Molson reads my blog. Because last Sunday I called him out for not hiring a new GM yet, and the very next day, he did.

I’m still learning about the new guy, and from what I’ve read and after seeing the presser, I like him – I’m excited. Molson is actually kind of a genius because he has appeased all the sensibilities of the francophone militants – the new guy, Marc Bergevin, is a Montrealer who is bilingual – so that’s covered. Bergevin also happens to have management and scouting on his resume, being part of an organization when it has won the Cup, and…a personality? This is personally my favourite part. He’s young and fresh and played NHL hockey for 2 decades, and during the onslaught of speculation of who the new GM would be, he was very respectfully spoken of and his qualifications lauded on the radio. God bless Pierre McGuire, who was the runner-up for the job, and who the radio station I listen to, TSN990 in Montreal, unabashedly schilled for the second the vacancy was announced. People on Twitter love to hate Tony Marinaro, but I don’t – more on that later – and in my opionion it was Conor McKenna who was most constant in his promotion of McGuire. It just kind of made me feel icky. I don’t even get why McGuire got that close, to be honest. So he knows people. What does that have to do with the price of…what’s the saying? Anyway, he didn’t get the job and TSN990 still cannot go a day without mentioning him.

Kind of like how I don’t get why everyone and their mother matter-of-factedly think Patrick Roy will be named as the next coach. Why? Why. I simply do not understand. Yes, he was a great goalie, perhaps the best the Habs ever had (by far not the classiest though), and yes, he obviously would give his eyetooth for a chance to coach in the NHL. He himself has been in the press answering all kinds of questions ever since the speculation began, reminding everyone that his ringer’s always on. My personal opionion of this guy is not positive, to say the least, as far as his character is concerned. I recently rewatched that brawl between the Sagueneens and the Roy-coached Remparts, where Roy Jr. went off like a demented rabid animal on the Sagueneens goalie, who was as far from the action as he could get without leaving the ice; and it still makes me sick. And I will never forget or forgive Roy for how he turned his back on the franchise. Sure, Tremblay and Houle could have handled it better, but Roy went against the family in public – like a spoiled kid. There is much more that can be said but I don’t like to talk about him too much; and I just hate how his name is always on everyone’s lips for the coaching job. I really, really, really hope he doesn’t get chosen. There are way more guys out there with actual NHL coaching qualifications to choose from (or poach, even). I really hope that Molson isn’t considering a hot-headed egomaniacal coach with no NHL coaching experience to turn the last place team in the East around.

As for Tony, I actually like him. We all know someone like him, and he’s just a guy with a radio show. The guy’s not Idi Amin. Some people vehemently dislike him but continue to listen to him, which is obviously to Marinaro’s credit. He talks about soccer too much for my taste, but I can’t blame him for that, of course. He’s on a sports station. The things I like the least about his show is all that Italian music he plays or even when he sings. Everything else I don’t mind, and actually like. I like having a radio station that I can listen to the moment I wake up in the morning that is talking about Montreal sports. I seldom am aware of what’s going on in the city I actually live in because I can’t get enough Habs news. Oh but Tony, if you’re reading, I do have a little feedback for you: don’t remind everyone of when you had a scoop and it turned out you were right. I’m happy for you that you were right, but you knew you were right, and eventually everyone who attacked you knew you were right, so there’s no need to remind everyone. It’s unbecoming, and one reason I dislike that so much is because Don Cherry does it all the time. I can understand you wanting to remind all the people who attack you that you were right, but in the end, who really cares about them. You’re still the one with the show, you’re still the one people are listening to (even, apparently, when they don’t like it), and I like you. You seem like a nice person, and it does take character to put up with the abuse you get on Twitter. I’m on your side.

Now that we seem to know who the Assistant GM is, who’s going to be the next coach? This will be huge. And, as with every year, fans will be critical from the first moment anything negative happens. Hell, a lot of fans are critical even when nothing negative has happened.

No pressure, Bergevin. No pressure. Welcome to Montreal.

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

I’ve been on a Stevie Nicks kick for about a week. You know how when you hear something you haven’t heard in a long time then go into a phase? Like that. It started when she was on American Idol last week or maybe the week before – she was “consulting” with the contestants. Whenever anyone else consults they look like an ass and it’s obvious they’re there as filler so Idol can greedily gobble up as much airtime as possible. Not so with Stevie. She cares. And she’s awesome.

I’ll bet you think this post is going to be about 30-year old music you probably haven’t even heard of and how ancient I am. It’s not. It’s about the Habs. Of course.

No matter what generation you’re from, there will be a point in your life when all the music you hear you think directly applies to you. Like, “Oh, my god, they looked into my soul, saw what that rat-bastard who said he loved me and would love me forever was saying and doing behind my back, and then they wrote this song.”

So it’s funny, but listening to Stevie, I started thinking – all of this applies to a very high-highs, low-lows, tumultuous relationship I’ve had for the past six months.  A heart-wrenching, sickening relationship. The kind that makes me laugh, and cry, and want to throw up from the anxiety.

My dysfunctional relationship with the Habs.

We all know that this season has been a write-off since about January, and although I claimed to hold onto hope and have faith in mes boys, I had that 1,000 pound rock in my stomach that knew otherwise.

“So you had a little trouble in town,
Now you’re keeping some demon down,
Stop draggin’ my, stop draggin’ my, stop draggin’ my heart a-round”

It’s totally what they did, although I’m sure it was unintentional. Get me hoping, like waiting-by-the-phone-waiting-for-it-to-frigging-ring hoping, lifting my hopes with decisive wins and stringing them all together like popcorn, only to send me crashing back down to earth when they decided my feelings didn’t matter anymore. Heart. Draggin’. All OVAH.

But during those moments when I realized everything the Habs were doing was not actually all about me, I got a little maternal and my heart just squished for them.

Imagine this bunch of guys, and the B.S. they’ve been put through by their fans, by the media, by management, coaches, everything – I can really only count maybe 3 or 4 games this year that I thought they were phoning it in. And I had admiration. I felt their hopes rise when their coach finally got canned about a season too late, and loved them as they stood by their new coach and fought hard for him. Under their new coach, they got to communicate and were also communicated to. They started scoring goals, lots. And enjoyed getting to score even when they had a lead. I was so happy for them.

They had a bunch of wins in a row then, for the first time in forever, and it felt like all we could do was win. And there came a point in the season when they had about 24 games left, and they could still make they playoffs if they kept streaking and won 17 out of 24 at least. I could tell they wanted it. My heart started hoping and believing they would do it. Seventeen.

But from the moment that I first laid
Eyes
on
him
all alone on the edge of
Seventeen

I remember that magic number.

Then we saw it dissipate before our very eyes. We were all fed up, screaming for a house-cleaning of monumental proportions, from the TOP DOWN GODDAMMIT, and just…what were they even waiting for? We’re talking about the “Yankees of Hockey” – and a franchise that had become a laughingstock. It was sickening and embarrassing. With the apologies for hiring an anglophone coach, who they pretty much cut off at the knees even before he coached his first game, by telling everyone he was temporary. Nice.

I sure as hell wouldn’t have wanted that job. But take it he did, that Randy Cunneyworth, and despite the cries for his head and harrumphing over his lack of acceptable language skills, he held his head high, and even shyly tried out a brief French phrase when meeting his would-be lynch mob face-to-face: “Je suis tres content”. It was such a sweet phrase. He won me over. I was already on his side, truth be told – I always take the side of the guy who’s being treated shabbily. Always. Especially in this instance – he wants to coach these guys he cares about, but all anyone, or at least the squeakiest wheels, could talk about was the fact that he couldn’t speak French. I thought, and tweeted, that if I were Cunneyworth, I’d tell them all to shove their French up their butts and coach my team and do what was actually important – win games and communicate with the players. Not communicate with the media. What the hell was this? This was supposed to be about hockey. Then I’d take my last paycheque at the end of the year, flip everyone the bird (no I wouldn’t but I’d want to), and go get a better job in a different market.

And the rest of the NHL world was clapping with glee at another reason to make fun of us. The stupid language debate. And the team got behind their coach, with Carey even saying during interview something to the effect of, “gee, sorry I’m not francophone, I’m just trying to tend goal,” and the like.

It was not lost on me that some of the most derisive scoffers were Leafs fans. For a time, it appeared the Leafs were in a playoff position. And astoundingly, these fans of this team who had for the seven previous years not even made it to the post-season, and whose team had not won a Stanley Cup since the NINETEEN SIXTIES!! felt entitled to be in a position to look down their nose at us.

Hey Leafs fans, whatcha gonna do with that parade you were planning, btw? Maybe dress the Leafs like bunnies and call it an Easter parade.

After that inevitable, crushing game where we were finally officially mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, it was just a couple of days until the Habs’ owner, the fully bilingual Geoff Molson, held a press conference and announced that the General Manager and Bob Gainey were leaving the organization. And he talked about the franchise. The storied franchise. And restoring it to glory. And doing right by the fans, the best fans in the sport. And about how winning is the only acceptable outcome; how simply qualifying for the playoffs is not the goal, the ultimate goal is the only prize; every season; no lesser standard can be accepted. The Cup. End of.

The speech, carefully delivered in both French and then English, gave me chills. It was brilliant.

Then I wanted to eat my own head when I heard the first question of the Q&A: have you decided that the ideal profile for the new GM be that he is bilingual?

Molson’s response made me want to leap out of my seat and fist pump in the air (but I couldn’t because I was listening in my car while driving to work but I screamed out a YAAAAHOOOO!) – “Um, um… la réponse est NON.” Of course, being in Québec it will be nice for the eventual selected candidate to speak French, but he carefully would not say it was a requirement. Just a nice-to-have. Lots of people listening on Twitter were saying he was being sneaky, and to read between the lines, but let’s not forget: this is the guy who gave his blessing to a “uningual anglophone” coach in this market; interim or not. I’m quite liking the cojones on this guy. And how many years have the Leafs been sucking in general, for example, and how long has Burke had his job? Molson basically gave his brass 2 seasons. Then he did what was right. AND, seemingly and genuinely (to me) listening to the fans. The guy opened a Twitter account, for god’s sake. He also made some veiled digs at the exiting GM, saying that the new one had to be an “excellent communicator.”  The last guy was not so much with the communicating. With anyone. And the dude was bilingual.

Now, all the names being bandied about since the presser thus far are French, but there has been no selection or announcement made by the Habs organization, and Molson made clear that the selection and process would be completely confidential – and refused to bow to the francophone-requirement questioning. “La priorité #1 est trouver la meilleure personne.”

Molson’s response to another question: ” The third element, which is difficult to quantify, that undying desire to win…at all costs.”

I’m crossing my fingers that they go out and find the best, most kick-ass person for the job. I don’t care if he speaks 14 languages, or only one. And I believe that this team, with so much character, who could have thrown in the towel weeks ago (hi Leafs), but have had a great few last games, even winning 5-2 tonight, have got the stuff now.

Markov is back.

Gionta will be back.

Carey is still focussed.

Pacioretty, Desharnais and Cole give us all reasons to celebrate.

Subban is developing beautifully.

And we could get a terrific draft pick!

Can you feel it? It’s just early days of Spring, but I smell October. I smell it. The old coach and the old, pasty GM devoid of any character or personality or affection for the team are GONE. There’s all kinds of possibilities now. And I can’t think that the core bunch of guys on this team, who continue to show that they care even in the twilight of this black season, will do anything but change things around for us.

Stand back, stand back!

Just 2 more games now. Last one’s against the Leafs. I don’t care about what the stats say or what the standings say – Saturday will be fun. And beating the Leafs will be VERY fun. I will continue to watch every second of hockey that the Habs have left.

And it’s going to be an exciting off-season too, non-hockey readers. Sorry. There will be blog posts.

Life is Just a Fantasy

Image

Check it. It’s written by yours truly to Twitter, the night before the Habs were due to play in Vancouver.

And GUESS FREAKING WHAT.

I know, it’s been two weeks, and I really should have blogged about March 10th, the night the Habs played in Vancouver, the night I look forward to all year, way before now. However, mama’s been busy, like way busier than usual even, and then it seemed like old news and way too late to blog, but then the Habs won in regulation last night for the first time since March 10th, and I saw a tie-in opportunity, so here we are.

So I voiced my private fantasy to Twitter, that my very favourite player on the Habs who I have this (un)secret thing for, would play for the first time in 16 months on the very and only night I could be present to see him. And oh, Andrei. Didn’t you just.

Of course I’m no sort of clairvoyant, Andrei had been travelling with the team and rumours had been running rampant the whole road trip, and I could never decide if the rumours made my heart sing, or break. And then, the day or two before the game in Vancouver, no one was talking much about it, and I thought “it’s too quiet”. I felt something was up. And then I tweeted my tweet. It was met with the usual “dream on” and Mr. Injury Prone responses, but I held onto my dream.

The next morning the rumours were back, and I told everyone to can it because my heart couldn’t take it. And then, the Habs confirmed it. Andrei had been taken off the injury list. He wasn’t confirmed to play, however, just off the injury list. I said to myself, “self, you’re going to see Andrei on the ice tonight. And you will be there. And he will be there. And you’ll BOTH BE THERE.” As if they’d make that big announcement if they had no intention of playing him. I even took  the trouble to post it to Facebook, which I’m never even on anymore.

I was actually ill with excitement and anticipation. Well, I was also just ill. I’d been hit with a sledgehammer of a cold or bronchitis or the plague or something just a few days earlier and was still feeling awful but no longer like I was dying and I was popping Benylins like popcorn because there was no way I was staying home and missing the Habs play in Vancouver and there was NO WAY I was missing Markov’s return.

I was also faced with a dilemma. I had said I was wearing my #67 jersey for the game, had actually been planning to ever since I’d acquired it the previous summer. Max Pacioretty, a prince among men, had recovered from a murder attempt exactly 1 year and 2 days earlier, and had rebounded way beyond anyone’s expectations, scoring his THIRTIETH goal of the season just 2 days earlier, on the anniversary of the hit that could have ended his life, let alone his career. Max. Max knows how I feel about him and I decided if I made a last minute wardrobe decision and wore the Markov jersey, he would understand. Anyone who can forgive the man who tried to kill him would forgive me for wearing my #79 jersey in honour of Andrei’s first game back.

I have one in red, and one in white. I wanted to make extra-sure they’d be in their away jerseys that night (last year they wore red) because I wanted to match, and once it had been confirmed to me by various Twitter friends, I laid my white one out, got ready, and went downtown early so I could grab a good spot down at ice level for warmups.

This is how early I got there.

And I got a pretty good spot.

I also got some video of when they took to the ice for warmup:

It was magic. The guys skating right by me, mere inches from where my face was practically pressed against the glass. Oh and guess what? Remember how last year when I went, Max shot pucks right at me from across the ice? Well, this year, I was sitting there furiously trying to tweet out a really great picture that I got, and the lady beside me poked me in the ribs and said, “I think Max is saying hi to you.” And once again, there he was, shooting pucks at me. You guys.

When the guys skate by, they’re all professional and focused on warming up and pretend they don’t see zillions of fans in the CH gawking and picture taking. The next time Max skated by, I grinned and waved furiously at him. And I swear, he looked.

There won’t be a game recap, but it was a beauty. Markov was back for the first time since November 2010, Price was on FIRE, Staubitz fought, White tried to get into a few skirmishes, Subban got a goal, and Vancouver only got to celebrate ONCE. It was more than I could have ever asked for.

When the 3rd started and we got another goal right away, the Canucks faithful started leaving in droves. I hmphed. Even 3 years ago when the Habs got spanked 7-1, I still stayed until the very end. I did this time too, and was treated to the triple low five and the 3 stars…all Habs. Of course.

I recorded the game so I could re-watch when I got home, with commentary. Damn, Habs fans are loud. I’ve set the game to delete “never”. Never ever.

Life is just a fantasy.

Heart > Head

You guys, we play the Leafs today.

It’s one of those four point games. Since this is not a “hockey site” and you may be one of my readers who knows not about hockey (i.e. you’re a close personal friend/family member that I force to read this blog through pressure/annoyance, i.e. “have you read it yet? have you read it yet? haveyoureadityet haveyoureadityethaveyoureadityeeeet) – loosely, a 4-point game means that we’re playing another team in our conference who will gain 2 points in the standings and we’ll lose the chance for 2 points, or vice versa. And the spread will be bigger. Or that much tighter. I think. This concept has always confused me. All I know is we have to win. And by we, I mean the Habs. The goddamn Leafs are barely clinging to a playoff spot so a Habs win is crucial.

Why do I even care right now. I’ve been talking myself out of caring. I claim that I don’t care anymore but it’s not true. My head tells my heart to stop. But the heart wants what it wants. Especially my heart. My heart’s ambitions have always been lofty.

This crazy season has given us all so much agita that last week, I finally decided to give in and give up on this season. And I have never ever been one of those fans…you know, the analytical fans whose brains do their thinking for them, who matter-of-factedly start predicting that the Habs won’t even make the playoffs not after game one, not after game 10, but the July before the NHL season even starts, and smugly remind us after every single loss that we won’t make the playoffs, even after some wins, because we may have won but we made bad mistakes and we will never, ever make the playoffs.

The Habs are 9 points out of 8th place and it’ll never happen. There are only 26 games left in the season and it’s like, we have to win ALL of them to have a chance. Who’s ever heard of that? Give up, dummies.

But…what if we do it? Is it even possible? Anything is possible. Crazier things have happened. I mean, in the movies. Remember Hoosiers? If you don’t, that means you’re too young and I just dated myself so forget I said anything. But I mean, we’re talking about a team that’s been out and out of all hope a lot of times this season just to come back and say “don’t count us out yet you guys” too many times. Or at least, that’s how my heart interprets it.

Like when we were losing and losing and losing and we were all pulling our hair out and screaming for the coach’s head and then he finally got fired, and then we got a new coach, a “unilingual anglophone” coach, whose inability to communicate en français became a huge political distraction and fodder for hockey columnists on both sides of the debate for weeks, but we finally got a different coach and then…kept losing.

We won a couple then we lost a bunch, even got blanked by the Jets, but then we beat Ottawa 6-2, actually scoring big in a game for the first time in forever, but then we lost a pair in Florida and then…Ellervation.

That beautiful game when we beat the Jets 7-2, and Lars Eller scored THREE goals and then another, on a penalty shot that really should have been in a movie, a little spin-o-rama move on the goalie that ended up in a backwards somersault over the goalie and we were all cheering our brains out. We even won the next one. We were streaking!!

And then we lost and lost and lost, and one of our players made some snotty and irresponsible remarks about the team “off the record” but you and I both know that he’s a smart guy and knew the remarks would get back to his teammates, and that created a whole other brouhaha in the media, because we all know that Montreal needs more drama, and his poor teammates had to explain themselves and deal with all the maelstrom created by this brat rather than focus on their play…and then he was spectacularly gotten rid of, mid-game, the very next day. Movie-worthy. A lot of people hated how it went down, but I was all for it. I’ve played on teams before and although we’ll never know for sure what went on in that locker room when that guy was around, any guy who talks like that about his team to outsiders has to go. Has to. I don’t care how talented he is – this is not a team player. And go he did.

And then we lost.

And then we beat the Rangers! You guys! And then we lost and lost and then we beat the Leafs! And then in our last game before the All Star Break we beat Detroit, and not just beat them but crushed them. Mincemeat. Humiliation styles.

And all of a sudden, the season that had been dismissed by all had hope again. We beat practically the best team in the league. And Carey shone in the All Star breakaway competition, becoming everybody’s darling, as if he wasn’t already.

And then we lost and lost and you get the point. I gave up. I finally gave up. It’s way easier to expect nothing, and even the worst, because then you don’t get disappointed or heartbroken when the worst does happen. Because I live for my team that much. I couldn’t bear the thought of the inevitable heartbreak, so I decided to be cold. But of course even though I gave up and resigned myself to a looooong summer and not giving a crap about hockey or the Habs, I still watched. As if I’m not watching my team. I still wore my jersey on Saturdays, despite derision and sneering from Vancouver fans everywhere, and I still had my “Habs fan on board” sign in the rear window of my car. It’s up year-round.

And then we won. And then again. And again. Three in a row???

And all of a sudden, we’re the “hottest team in the East”. Despite our spot in the standings. And you know, mathematically, we’re still in it. And you know, that thing that all Leafs fans have been used to for nearly a decade, their team missing the playoffs, and have been dreading all season, is a big probability, so why can’t we just consider that the Habs making the playoffs is not just a possibility but totally doable?

I’m going to do it. I’m going to hope. Because that hope, and feeling your feelings, and that twisting I’m already feeling in my stomach for that game that’s 6 hours away, is actually kind of delicious. In that masochistic delicious way. I’ve even convinced myself that I’d rather have this nauseous queasy excitement than be, say, a Canucks fan, where you already know your team will make the playoffs and the rest of the season is a mere formality.

I’d rather ride this rollercoaster game by game and enjoy the ride and hope and cross my fingers and toes and all that stuff. I’m going to stop protecting my heart.

And that’s actually the brain and the heart speaking.

Coaching in Montreal & Bilingualism

It’s been less than 24 hours since I heard of Jacques Martin’s firing. I’m on the west coast, and if the puppy doesn’t get an exhaustive outing first thing in the morning, there is hell to pay for the rest of the day. So I didn’t sit down with coffee and iPad in hand to read news and check Twitter until about 4 hours after the story broke.

I speak 3 languages, and as someone whose employment has always depended on having the 3 languages, I feel I can speak to this issue. I worked for the Canadian government in Chile – speaking Spanish, French and English was a requirement. I’ve subsequently worked for Canadian companies with interests in South America; my language skills made me the preferred candidate for each of those positions. I also recently obtained my certification as a Spanish/English translator; obviously, knowing those 2 languages is a requirement for that.

Being bilingual in Montreal is not a requirement; in fact, only French is the official language there. You must speak French if you want a job in the belle province. I get that, and have a deep appreciation for that. I love the city of Montreal, it’s my favorite city in Canada. And I LOVE the French language, and sympathize with and fully comprehend the people of Quebec who fiercely protect their heritage and language.

Speaking French, however, is not a requirement for a coach to be employed by the National Hockey League. It’s an implicit requirement for being the coach in Montreal. I consider it a “nice-to-have”. Nice to be able to communicate with the Francophone press and citizens. But that’s all.

The coach of a team SHOULD have the respect of his team, and should be able to communicate with the PLAYERS. Having the added prohibitive “requirement” of speaking French pares down the talent pool considerably, and has routinely adversely affected the talent search in that city.

Last I checked, Francophone media have no problem interviewing Montreal Canadiens players, of whom, I believe, only one can speak French. So why not speak English with the coach, too? And then use the bilingualism to translate resulting news pieces? It’s not hard!!

The issue in Montreal is purely political, it’s not about hockey. Hockey is about assembling the best available talent, players and coach alike, then going out and winning games. And winning the Cup. THAT’s what hockey is.

I believe Pierre Gauthier has been scrambling to save his own skin by throwing upset Canadiens fans proverbial bones with the firing of Perry Pearn, the Spacek trade, and now the firing of Jacques Martin. But you have to admire his “cojones” by naming an interim coach who is not fluent in French. The Francophone press is not happy, in fact, it’s all they seem to care about. Let’s give Randy Cunneyworth a chance – if he doesn’t do a worse job than Martin, it’s already a step in the right direction.

French Canadian ex-player and coach Guy Carbonneau said it best at his press conference after being fired by the Canadiens, when asked the “all-important” question about which French speaking coach might replace him, and said the fans shouldn’t care if the coach could only speak Chinese, as long as the team won the Cup.

Anybody but Them

This dawned on me today. I’ve lived in 3 countries, countless cities, something like 25 different homes. And I’ve lived in Vancouver for 16 years now. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. But I never really considered it home.

I landed here by myself, moved here having never visited before, straight from the bustling, sunny metropolis of Santiago, Chile. In JANUARY. It rained for 5 straight months, and I wanted to shoot all the locals who’d quip, “Well at least it’s not snowing and 20 below!” I scoured the city for the restaurant district, the nightlife district, history, ANYTHING that could justify my choosing Vancouver other than because my older brother lived here and I had a place to crash until I found work (which took me 9 days).

I came up with nothing. People said, “but Vancouver’s so beautiful!” It’s really NOT, I would argue, perhaps the surroundings are, but what do I care about gorgeous mountains and the ocean when you can’t even see them because of all the stupid grey skies and rain?

Those of you who know me for real know that I’m not a pessimist and a complainer. But I firmly became one of the legions of people who, despite living here, derided Vancouver every chance they got, smugly reminding the locals about REAL cities like Montreal.

This vehemence waned over the years, having terrific jobs, beautiful friends, giving birth to my 2 favourite British Columbians, and stuff like that. This place has provided me with all that wealth. But I STILL didn’t consider myself “from here.”

One of the biggest examples of this is my hockey team. I lived in Montreal at an early age, so of course my hockey team is the Habs. Something that could never change. I don’t even have a second favourite team, which I’ve never been able to understand. I can’t even muster affection for different teams. Including the local team, the Canucks. Almost ESPECIALLY the Canucks.

I’ve had to put up with a lot of crap here because of my choice of NHL teams. And there is a lot of unbridled hatred here for the Habs. We all know why. 24. Twenty Four. And it annoyed me no end how the Canucks faithful would make a point to harass me over my team at every opportunity. Um, the opposite of love is indifference. It made me feel better to know just how in their heads Habs history is. I couldn’t care less about the Canucks, they made no difference to me in my life whatsoever, and on Hockey Night in Canada, my TV switched channels after 7pm local time.

I am a fan of my team. 90% of the Canucks fans I know watch maybe 30 games a year, because they won’t pay to get the channel to watch their team. I myself watch 82 games per year that the Habs play, subscribing to RDS to get all the games that HNIC won’t show because the Leafs are playing. And it’s the crappy RDS too (some of you will argue, is there an UNcrappy RDS? I’ll explain!) – being that it’s not offered in HD out west (oooooh ok, you get it now). I watch EVERY GAME. Whether live or recorded. People here say that makes me a crazy fan, and I have to laugh, because any real Habs fan knows that it just makes me a normal Habs fan. I’ve even done a terrific job, if I say so myself, of raising 2 Habs fans, not easy in Vancouver. One of the first books I read to each of them was The Sweater. Our home is decked with Habs paraphernalia, including a seat from the Forum. They have their own jerseys and foam fingers, and have been taught all kinds of Habs history, and even love the movie The Rocket even though they don’t yet understand French.

Anyway, a funny thing happened on the way to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

My beloved team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the disgusting Boston Bruins. The filthy Bruins, who, true to form, played their dirty style and got away with egregious crap, and had the officiating not been blatantly biased towards the Bruins, they’d all be golfing right now. They were hardly able to beat our decimated team and unclassily crowed about it and took cheap shots at the Habs even after their elimination. I’m still very disappointed in Tim Thomas’s mom, who did a terrible job teaching her son manners. The effing Bruins.

The series against the Flyers isn’t even worth mentioning. A team of my grannies would have beat them. Tampa was then our only hope. Mr. Tim-Vezina-Candidate-Thomas was a sieve against them, and yet the Bruins still somehow managed to make their way to the Finals. I was almost sick. Watching Lucic’s post series interview, smiling and smugly saying he never expected overtime in the final game made me want to shoot my TV Elvis-styles.

So. The Bruins are in the finals. Normally, if the Habs are no longer in the playoffs, I stop caring about the playoffs. But this year, I care. I REALLY CARE. Because no matter who would play against the Bruins, I would cheer against the Bruins. ANYBODY BUT THE BRUINS.

It so happens Vancouver is playing the Bruins. QUANDARY. The oddest thing happened. I started paying attention to these Canucks. And it helps that they acquired 2 ex-Habs, Higgins and Lapierre, so I felt like it could be easier to get to know them. And I started listening to local sports radio, and reading the local papers. And I noticed something.

The Bruins have one party line. I thought that it was just against the Habs, but it’s apparent that no matter whom their opponent is, their opponent is “cheap” and “dive artists.” It’s like the yada-yada-yada I’ve heard from Beantown all my life about the Habs, but the trash talk is their personality. And it’s now directed toward the Canucks, and the “worst fans in the league.” Welcome to the club, Canucks fans!

I still cannot say I’m a “Canucks fan,” but one thing is certain – I am firmly behind them in this quest for the Cup, which they are now one win away from hoisting, despite the best efforts of the refs in this series. Although I never dreamed that the Canucks would be the next Canadian team so close to it, and of course I always thought it would be the Habs, I am for it. Bringing the Stanley Cup back to Canada, the birthplace of hockey. At long last. And it’s not because I like the Canucks. It’s because I HATE THE BRUINS. I can think of nothing more poetic, that this team that no one can believe has come this far, who of course would not have save for the refs who turn a blind eye to all the crap they pull, that they could miraculously get this close only to see their dreams crushed. I am crossing my fingers.

Also, as I tweeted the other day, in a year that saw Winnipeg get the team back that should never have left in the first place, the rightful return of Stanley to Canada would be a wonderful addition to Gary Bettman’s annus horribilus speech.

So, LOSE BRUINS LOSE!!! And…Go Canucks Go. There. I said it. Having the Canucks win the Cup over the Bruins will be a beautiful thing, and even worth all the yapping I’ll get next year from Canucks fans. One is still a far cry from 24. And, I’m used to it. Besides, the more chirping I hear out of Boston, the more the previously unfathomable is coming true. I’m developing an affection for the local hockey team. And their fans have been very gracious in accepting me on their temporary bandwagon. And to think, they have the Bruins to thank.

Canucks for the Cup!

Summer Too Soon

I can’t write a blog post summarizing the Habs’ season or their playoff round against the Bruins without simply repeating what has already been so aptly stated by The Active Stick,  The H Does Not Stand For HabsHey, My Name is Will,  All HabsCowhide and Rubber, and countless more.

Here go my thoughts, trying hard not to be repetitive:

  • The Habs lost a hard battle against the Bruins and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.  You may think it’s bitter of me to say, but I believe the better team lost, the classier team lost, the team that deserved to win lost, and the refs missed too many blatant calls against the bad guys, which contributed to ultimately losing out to the classless Bruins.
  • Again, you have permission to call me bitter, and you probably wouldn’t be incorrect, but that does not mean that I am incorrect.
  • Max Pacioretty, that prince of a young man, forgives Chara for breaking his neck, giving him a concussion and ending his season, so I guess I have to, also.
  • That doesn’t mean I have to forgive Ference for a cowardly “unintentional” bird gestured to the Bell Centre faithful (didn’t even have the stones to own up to it later), and a gutless last-second impeccably-timed shoulder shrug administering a headshot to Halpern that looked like a carbon copy of the hit that put Crosby out for 4 months – which he also later denied, but upon reviewing the replay was obviously intentional and dirty. A mom knows. Mr. Ference knew exactly what he was doing. The creep meant it, knew what he did, and skated away pretending to know nothing. Again, denied it.
  • I don’t have to forgive the NHL for once again refusing to suspend a filthy hit delivered by a Bruin. Such a coinky-dink how they agreed with Mr. Ference’s version of events.
  • I also don’t have to forgive Tim Thomas, Vezina candidate and whom I previously thought was probably an all-right guy, for jumping on the trash-talking bandwagon and picking on P.K. Subban on Boston radio the day after barely managing to eliminate the Habs in Round 1. It’s almost like he knew he had to be obnoxious to mask the fact that deep down he knew the better team lost. I mean – why else pick on the loser. As I mentioned on Twitter, shame on his mother for raising a son with such bad manners. As I always tell my kids, part of sports is winning gracefully.
  • My own mother always attributes anything good that happens in my life to acts from the beyond of my beloved deceased grandparents. Any time I or my kids have particularly good fortune, which we have had a lot of lately (Habs aside), she says, “they did this. They are watching. They knew you needed them.”
  • I consider sending a shout out to my grandparents to visit some particular bad fortune on the likes of Messrs. Ference and Thomas to ultimately be a good deed. So, Abuelos, if you’re listening. I’d throw in Chara but I’m following Max’s lead and crossing him off my hate list. I’d also throw in Lucic, but he’s been such a useless non-factor.
  • What the hell, throw in Lucic anyway. Abuelos?
  • Huh. It’s been 2 days since the elimination, and I am not over it.
  • What will help me get over it will be watching the Flyers decimate the Bruins in round 2. I will, like The Active Stick, temporarily not hate the Flyers and will enjoy, nay, REVEL, nay, LUXURIATE in the Bruins’ quick elimination and hopefully get to see the Flyers deliver the Bruins’ own medicine and then some to them. Richards, you know what to do, and you do it so well. You too, Carcillo.
  • So, go Flyers! Just for this round.
  • I’m cheering for the Canucks now, too. Too many people I care about too much like Vancouver too much for me to do any different. I seldom if ever watch Western Conference hockey though, and it’s just so weird for me. Besides the famous-famouses, I don’t really know anybody. I have to do my homework. Oooh, but last night I saw the Nashville goalie without his mask on. Pekka Rinne, I dub thee Cutie McHandsome. This will be a fun series.
  • Would you believe that for 2.6 seconds this morning, I made a mental note to contact my local Habs fans to get together to watch the game this weekeNO WAIT THERE IS NO GAME THIS WEEKEND. That was brutal.
  • I can’t allow myself to think about this time last year. We still had Habs hockey to look forward to. Yeah no, I can’t think about that. Also, I still can’t bring myself to ask, “is it October yet?” I haven’t finished processing, obviously, that we’re not seeing our boys again until then.
  • Still, this was cathartic.
  • I was going to write about other stuff too, but I think this is good for today. Back to the usual off-season topics next time.
  • I won’t be wearing my cranky pants for my next post.

Thanks for reading and putting up with me being a negative Nancy. All positivity and sunshine next time.

Have a terrific weekend!

April Flowers

Lots of little things, none enough for its own post, so here we go with another edition of the Quick & Dirty update:

  • Didn’t the Habs win Game 1? Against Boston? IN Boston? And didn’t Jesus Price get the shutout? His 3rd career playoff shutout? Haven’t all his career playoff shutouts been against Boston? Hell yeah!!!!
  • Going in to yesterday’s game, I was kinda baffled that everyone had written us out before the playoffs had even begun. Like, weren’t we facing a 3rd place team that finished a measly 7 points ahead of us in the regular season, whom we beat 66.67% of the time in the regular season? What’s the BFD? I knew we’d win yesterday. Knew it.
  • I had a birthday this week. One person tried to ruin it, but way many more people made it the best birthday I can remember.
  • People who have so much hate and anger in their hearts are to be pitied. Other than pity, they’re not worth a moment’s thought.
  • I got these flowers that are so amazingly gorgeous and fragrant that I don’t want them to die, ever. 
  • Know who I met last Saturday? Strombo. Strombo. I’m not going to try to spell his real name. He is as awesome in person as he is on his show. And why wouldn’t he be. Also, really easy on the eyes. Don’t tell my fella I said that. You know what? It doesn’t matter. He has eyes too.
  •  We’re thinking of getting a dog. Not something we’ll do in the near term, but the reigning topic at home is dogs, puppies, training and Cesar Milan. The kids want something that ends in oodle. Did you know there are Schnoodles and Whoodles? I’m going to have a coma for all the cute.
  • Going to the Canucks game tonight with one of my favourite people on earth, who coincidentally is a Canucks fan. He likes the Habs too so he’s still perfect. I might be wearing a Canucks jersey on loan. There will be no pictures. Don’t revoke my membership to Habs Fanatic Nation.
  • It is so cold in Vancouver. For Vancouver, I mean. And I’m not pleased. I want to start wearing my cute Spring stuff. Cut it out, Mother Nature.
  • Every time I think I have so much freaking work to do, I just start it and it’s surprising how fast it gets done. The mind plays funny tricks.
  • I’m annoyed that any vote that isn’t Liberal will go to Harper. And I hate that 100% of Canadians eligible to vote do not vote. What’s wrong with people? VOTE.
  • I wore this knitted scarf today (because it’s COLD) that my daughter shoplifted from Zellers when she was a baby. I pushed her around in the stroller with the cover on, got her back to the car and lo and behold she was swinging this scarf around. I’d just buckled her 2-year old brother in to his carseat and had 8 zillion things to unload. I wasn’t about to go back into the store. I still have guilt. But she made a nice choice, good taste, my girl.
  • I love Revenue Canada when I overpay my taxes and it’s tax return time.
  • I overpay my taxes, vote and am an all-round model citizen. If Zellers sees that other bullet point, keep that in mind, okay.

That’s it for this time! Go Habs Go! We’ll take them in 6! Have a good weekend, world.

The Habs + Habs Fans + Twitter = The Power of Love

So this is not supposed to just be a blog about just the Habs, but you guys – we just clinched our playoff spot last night so I think it’s safe to say that if I’m blogging these next few weeks, a lot/all of it will be about the Habs. OK? OK.

Last night’s game had been touted in preceding hours as “like a playoff game.” Yeah it was! Montreal played Chicago and treated us to nail-biting, near heart-attack action. Both teams were there for a very important 2 points – and 2 points for Montreal meant clinching a playoff spot.

This post isn’t meant to recap the game, but I will tell you that Price was outstanding, so was Crawford, it must be said. I was “watching” along with the fans on Twitter, and my timeline was going absolutely crazy-bananas. The game went to overtime and we were all freaking right out, and then…PK Subban scored another beautiful overtime winner. And the crowd at the Bell Centre – and Twitter – went WILD.

This was my summation on Twitter post-game:

Our team had just guaranteed their spot in the post-season, we were and still are so excited, but what brought the biggest smile to my face was how just after the goal, PK Subban went across the ice to go celebrate with his friend, Carey Price. This bromance has been growing all season and the fans love every minute of it! It occured to me it would be hilarious/adorable if someone made some video put to music about this moment.

And now enter the power of Habs fans passion, and the power of Twitter. A few minutes after that tweet, I got a reply from @kevin_falcon, fellow Habs fan:

…and then this:

…and then…

…I fell asleep. Despite my excitement. Look, I was really tired after getting up super-early and the excitement of the game must have also really taken its toll on me. Then again, it might be these new allergy pills I’m taking because springtime allergies are really kicking my butt this year, and this over-the-counter stuff is totally useless. “24-hour relief,” my eye. You guys: don’t fall for that line.

But when I got up this morning, I saw this!!

Don’t try to click the link on the picture. Click the video below.

This was way more than I could have hoped for, and other Twitter fans feel the same. Heck, you might even enjoy this if you’re NOT a Habs fan. Who doesn’t love a great love story?

So – Kevin Falcon, you rock in so many ways. Thanks for such a great job on the video, and for doing it so fast! You’re a magician! A genius!

Never underestimate the power of social media. And especially never underestimate the passion of a Habs fan.

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