Radar Love

So, yesterday was weird.

It started out like many other mornings on this spring break that I have off work – my nearly 2-year old puppy has mastered the art of sleeping in, and now doesn’t rise until I do. Which yesterday was at about 9am. And then I switched on my Tunein Radio app to listen to TSN 690 in Montreal. Actually, I set the app to start recording the station at 3am my time, then when I get up I listen to the whole morning show on delay. I put on the headphones, take the dog out and for a run, all the while listening to Montreal deejays, their guests and callers.

Here’s what’s weird. It was game day, Montreal to play Boston in Boston later that evening, but it seemed like all anyone could talk about was this Iginla trade that was ruminating. And the gossip was that he was going to the Bruins. And then, all anyone could talk about was the Bruins and the Penguins, who had made a few key moves ahead of the trade deadline. And all this screamed to everyone was stacking up for the playoffs. Playoffs, playoffs, playoffs. BruinsPenguinsBruinsPenguins. Blah blah blah.

You know who’s never a part of any conversation? The Habs. No one pays them any attention. The Habs? Oh, man, they suck, not only did they not even make the playoffs last year, they sucked so badly that they couldn’t even suck enough to get a good chance at the first-round draft pick as a result of their suckage. Last year, the Habs were horrible, and painful to watch.

Last year.

Let’s talk about last year, and how the Bruins were on their way to a dynasty to win the Stanley Cup again. The Bruins won their cup in 2011 against the Canucks –  in Vancouver following a horribly disappointing blow-out in Game 7. Those same Bruins had only barely made it past the first round in overtime of Game 7 with the Habs – the Habs who were minus many key players, including F Max Pacioretty who was recovering from a murder attempt the previous month. The Bruins were one goal away from being sent home by this injury-riddled team. Just one goal.

But WOOOOOOW the Bruins were on their way again! Trumpeted from all the sports outlets! Oh, but then they got knocked out in the first round though, and by the way so did the Canucks, who got knocked out by barely-eighth-place Los Angeles.

And now, the Penguins, and not the Bruins, have acquired Jarome Iginla, Iggy, who was the real star of that Golden Goal at the 2010 Olympics.

Let me back up – so yes, it was a beautiful, warm spring day, and the bf came over and we took the dog for a hike up at the lake. I did something I seldom do, even though I had the opportunity to watch a Habs game live; I decided to record it and watch it later on delay. (P.S. That was hard. It meant not looking at Twitter, not reading my texts, and then, after the lake, we decided to hit up a pub for some dinner, and at the last moment I realized the Habs game was on T.V. there. The bf went in first to make sure they weren’t playing the audio, then backed me in to a table and a chair where I wouldn’t be able to see the game. It reminded me of that How I Met Your Mother episode where the gang decided to PVR the Super Bowl then had to go all day avoiding the score.)

So anyway, we got home, turned on the game, and it was a hell of a game. The Habs were up 2-0, the second by P.K. Subban, widely detested in Boston – then deflated in the 2nd period to trail 4-2. And then. They came out in the 3rd, and after scoring and giving up another goal, scored twice more to tie – the tying goal in the waning seconds of the period, scored by none other than Boston captain Chara. That’s right. Chara scored for the Habs, in his own building, to tie the game. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

AND THEN OH MY GOD THE RECORDING ENDED. We flipped furiously to TSN to see the overtime highlights, and found out that the Habs had indeed won, again, against Boston, in Boston, in the shootout. Glorious. Glorious.

TSN then went live to hear Jay Feaster’s press conference about Iginla’s trade to Pittsburgh, not Boston, as initially reported.

I got this text from one of my pals: “Craziness, Pittsburgh…just give them the damn cup already.”

OK FINE: Let’s talk about Pittsburgh. Yes, they have Sidney Crosby, widely trumpeted on all the networks as the “greatest hockey player on the planet,” and now they have Iginla. But you know what? They still have Marc André Fleury, too. And Pittsburgh, on a 12-game winning streak, only barely beat Montreal the day before yesterday – and got wildly outplayed by Montreal, to boot. Last time they met, Pittsburgh only won by one goal as well – after letting in 6. So they have Iginla now. Will make it even better to watch, as far as I’m concerned.

Let’s talk about Boston. Last time they met Montreal, they lost, after giving up a lead, in their own building. Nothing but excuses after that loss. And after having umpty-ump games in hand against Montreal, I think it was five, during which they’d smoke us in the standings…are now within one point of the Habs with only one game in hand. And they lost last night to what should have been a tired Habs team.

And the Habs are still firmly in 2nd place in the East.

And are not showing any signs of quitting, not showing any signs of giving up in tough contests.

And only 31 games into the season did they finally concede two consecutive games in regulation.

Am I the only one who thinks Boston’s losing it? I mean, by the same token, they ARE in 4th in the conference, but I don’t know, I feel like they’re losing their confidence. They’re not playing with the same swagger, and do nothing but whine after losses. This year, the Habs’ motto is “Pas d’Excuses/No Excuses,” and all the Bruins seem to have is excuses.

No one is talking about Montreal. That’s okay. No one talked about them either in 2010, other than to predict that Washington would knock them out of the playoffs. Oh, and then to predict that Pittsburgh would knock them out. Which neither was able to do.

And this year, we also have a new system, a new coach, a new GM, and what seems to be great chemistry and a team that doesn’t give up. In so many games this year, they’ve come back from a deficit to tie or win, where last year they would have given up. With all the trade deadline talk and stacking up for the playoffs…I have a feeling Marc Bergevin is either going to make some incredibly big move, or no move at all.

Fine by me that this little team is flying under the radar. This little team, many of whose own fans were matter-of-factly stating before the puck even dropped on this shortened season that the Habs wouldn’t even make the playoffs. No one’s talking about them. I have a feeling that Bergevin might actually like it that way. Let ’em talk. I mean um, not talk.

So, what a difference a year makes. For every team. New year, new season. Keep your predictions, and I’ll keep enjoying watching the Habs and believing.

(The Habs beat the Bruins! Again! And guess what – they next time they meet, I will be there. I’m so excited, I could throw up!)

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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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