Christmas in April… It’s Playoffs, Baby

“How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” *

How are all the armchair coaches in Habs Nation doing today? We beat the Leafs. No, we SMOKED them. 4-1. Masterton candidate pulled from the net. 4 unanswered goals, no less. With our backup goalie. In their territory. And Carey was the only one who sat the game out. Therrien, once again, called his own shots, dressed everybody else, and it turns out, made the best decision.

And in the game that Hockey Night in Canada was practically drenching us with their drool over the inevitable Habs / Leafs matchup in a so-called “Forever Rivalry,” for the first round after the Leafs beat the Habs to a bloody pulp in the so-called “Game 1” of that series… we won.

We did it with Markov.
We did it without Price.
We did it with Whitey, Patches and Lars!
And the Leafs puzzled three hours, ’till Kadri’s whiny face was sore.
Then haters from Habs Nation thought of something they hadn’t before!
Maybe this team, they thought, doesn’t give up when down.

Maybe this team… perhaps… doesn’t give a crap that they’re midgets and small and doesn’t listen to Toronto trash-talk or CBC or PJ Stock or Glen Healy or all the moaners talking about how they’re going to get swept in 4 in Round 1 and how it’s already time to hit the golf course, and can play their game and focus on only themselves.

I felt a little earthquake last night when all the haters hopped back on the bandwagon. Settle in, guys. It’s gonna be a great ride.

* Credit, obviously, to the brilliant Theodor Seuss Geisel’s “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

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The List

Happy almost-end-of-January. I did that thing again where I jotted down mini-topics on my Notes app on my iPhone for purposes of a blog post.

  • I have a Macbook Air. And since I’m on iCloud, whenever I send myself reminders on my iPhone, whenever I open up the laptop, there’s a pop-up there too, with the reminder I saved on my phone. Just now when I opened it up, it told me, “GET TP!!!” Thanks, laptop. We’re all good now though!
  • I haven’t logged in here for a few weeks. I checked my Stats page, 0 views today. Sometimes, I’ll have 1 or 2 views, even on days when I haven’t posted in a long time. You know whose those views those are? My daughter’s. She checks here. She says she likes it, but that I use the D-word too much. Then don’t read the damned blog, kid!
  • Just kidding. I love you. But I get to use the D-word because I’m a grown-up. You don’t.
  • I’m not really a grown-up. I’m old, but I’m not a grown-up. My one friend, Kerry, once sent me a New Yorker piece on how the grown-up has gone the way of the dodo. And I was just catching up with my PVR and saw Billy Connolly on Strombo who was saying the same thing. He says he doesn’t care about growing up, that it’s usually someone else’s suggestion. “You have to grow up!” George asked him how he responds to that. Billy: “Two words.” I often wait for that magical moment when I’m grown up. And often ponder things that way, like, “When I’m grown up,” this, or “When I’m grown up,” that. The possibilities are endless, and I’m really looking forward to it.
  • Sidebar: Not having hockey meant I watched other stuff on TV, and had the time to. Usually my PVR gets full of shows I’ll never watch on account of hockey. I love New Girl, Happy Endings, and Nashville. Like, love/love. Who knew there were shows on TV from October to April? I don’t watch reality TV though. But I do love talk shows. I love how the hosts always sit to the right of the screen, because if I were a guest on a talk show, they would get my right profile which is 2000% better than my left. If I hosted my own show, I’d have them switch the set around. These are things I think about sometimes.
  • My Facebook, which I don’t use much, has quotes from my kids in the About Me – Quotes part, or whatever it’s called. When my son was about six, on my birthday, he said, “So, Mom, you’re (confidential age) now, right?” And I said, “Yeah.” Then he said, “But you’re still a teenager though.” And I replied, “No, I’m a grown-up.” And he actually snorted, and said, “Yeah, right.” That’s under my Quotes. My About Me just says: “Kind of a pain.”
  • I just chose the categories for this blog post. Bold move, since I haven’t even really started it yet. One of the categories I have there is “Other Sports.” That’s ridiculous. What other sports are there? None that are written about here.
  • Wait, I blogged a couple of times about the World Cup when Chile was playing. So that’s why.
  • I switched the format around on this blog and lost all my widgets. Why do I ever try things.
  • I haven’t even started my topics list yet. I win for seriously being able to write about nothing. Okay, here we go.
  • The Habs played their first game of the “season” last Saturday. As you know, faithful readers…reader (dear Daughter), I was very much angry with the NHL and the players for putting us through 3 months of unnecessary pain by not playing hockey. I still tuned in but wasn’t excited. I still tuned in, but didn’t care. Actually, when they started training camp, the Habs announced that Scott Gomez, that black-eye of a bloated contract for a non-productive player, would not be back. He’d get paid his 5.5 million dollars to sit out the “season” and then get bought out.
  • Sidebar: This got me to thinking, I could totally devote a blog post to what I would do if I was offered FIVE POINT FIVE MILLION DOLLARS to NOT show up to work. It’s equivalent to winning the lottery. But that would be a short, boring post. I would probably still go to the office. What else am I going to do while the kids are at school? Besides, I love the people at my office.
  • So anyway, when Marc Bergevin announced that Gomez would not be back in a Habs jersey again, I thought, “Well played. You just got my interest again.” Look, by all accounts, Gomez is a swell guy, super well-loved by his teammates and everything like that. No one said he was a bad guy. And no one can blame the guy for signing a contract like that on the dotted line. And had he been a scorer, I might not have cared about all that money. Let’s face it: no one can actually claim they earn that kind of money. That’s ridiculous. I can’t even imagine what you actually could do to earn that money. Perhaps deserve it, which is slightly different.
  • Sidebar: I hate Oprah. And I hate Lance Armstrong. I have never been able to stand that guy. No real reason. People thought he was some kind of hero because he won bike races, and survived cancer and then raised a bunch of money for it. But I still couldn’t stand him. Actually, here’s why: All I really knew about him is he kept dumping the women in his life. And he would dump them and immediately be in a new, serious relationship. Which meant that he was already cheating with the new one while he was still with the old one. To have a double-life like that, you have to be an accomplished liar with little conscience. So I couldn’t stand him, even when everyone around me all loved him and wore his rubber bracelet. Then all this stuff about his colossal cheating came out, and I felt validated for always hating the guy.
  • I don’t like Oprah either. That ego astounds. And all the people who worship her, that’s crazy too. I never really thought about her one way or the other, and always watched her show, because she had great guests, and would just roll my eyes every time she’d be in what would be for her guest, a serious, intense conversation, but Oprah would always be checking herself out in the monitor. Whatever. But what got me was when once she was being interviewed for the 10th anniversary of her show, and the interviewer brought up how she was worth $6 billion dollars or whatever INSANE figure it was. And, I’m not joking, she replied, with a very straight face: “And I’ve earned every penny.” ARE YOU SERIOUS? Oh, she was as serious as a heart-attack. I never took her seriously again.
  • So, when everyone asked if I was going to watch the Lance/Oprah show, I was like, “Lance. And Oprah? Yeah no.” The only time I ever liked Oprah was when she interviewed Stephen Colbert. And even then I didn’t really like her, I just love Colbert. I know my feeling about Opes is super unpopular. Actually, she did do one really good thing for me: It’s fun to say stuff like she does. Like when she says, “Please welcome, my friend John TRAVOLTAAAAAA!” One of my besties and I did that on a road trip. Like, “We’re going to TARGEEEEEET!” or “Let’s go to STARBUUUUUUCKS!” This was in the morning. We are both morning people. Our other bestie was super irritated.
  • Hi, Lisa! I’m finding a way to mention you in every post.
  • 1173 words in and I’ve strayed from my list. So anyway, I tuned in to watch the game. But it was preceded by a big, big, BIG opening ceremony. Hall of Famers carrying the torch in the Bell Centre, like Henri Richard (I met him once, and his big brother, and they signed my jersey!!), Jean Béliveau and Yvan Cournoyer (and Vinnie Damphousse??? Um, okay.). It was an opening ceremony to end all opening ceremonies. Do the Habs ever know how to give opening ceremony. And all over Twitter, I saw tweets about how everyone was crying. And I was sitting there with my arms crossed, hmmphing. Like, wooooow, these guys were really trying hard, here. I was 100% unmoved. Had they done this when they were supposed to, in October, I would have been blubbering like a baby. But not this way, not in January, when the season is supposed to be half over. Not when, apparently, the idea was we were all supposed to act like the previous 3 months didn’t just happen. I was bitter, and I wasn’t buying it. Okay, I really loved how Carey was the last person with the torch, looking up and chewing gum. What a boss. I was excited to finally watch a game however, but didn’t even watch the whole thing because I had to leave. And they were losing to the Leafs. In a former life, during a normal season, losing, to the LEAFS, would have ruined my evening. I didn’t care, and had a really awesome evening.
  • But then at the next game my Andrei Markov scored twice, and then at the next one scored again, and Itotallylovethemagainandcan’twaittilthenextgame.
  • Michelle Obama got these great new bangs, right when I’ve finally grown mine out. I fail at trends.
  • Let’s get started on that list.
  • No, it’s too long, and I have to go pick up my daughter from a sleepover soon. I’ll keep adding to it and save it for next time.

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.

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