Weekend hockey in August, baby!

I’ve been optimizing my summer break and focussing on being outdoors, enjoying the weather with family, canines and friends. The past hockey season was pretty intense, especially the last six weeks of the Habs’ post-season. After they got knocked out of the eastern conference final by the dirty rotten Rangers, I largely ignored Twitter (I mean until free agent frenzy and the PK Subban contract negotiations) and started enjoying real life. I also needed that break to be able to look back at the season without heartache.

This was a rare weekend without the boyfriend. The boyfriend has the patience and understanding of … I don’t know, Jesus. Ghandi. Someone like that. It’s not like he didn’t know what he was getting into. On our I think second date I sat him down to have The Talk. Second date is too soon? I don’t think so. I like to have things crystal clear right up front so as to not waste anybody’s time.

I told him about this thing I have going with the Montreal Canadiens. I very seriously told him that I was a Habs fan. He laughed and said it was okay. And I said, “Nuh-no – it’s not about us liking different teams.” I’m really serious about these guys. How I grew up that way and don’t know any other way of life, and that I watch every game of the season and if they lose, it ruins everything, and if they win, you can’t wipe the smile off my face. How I have a seat from the Montreal Forum, and how I lined up to meet Maurice Richard and how not having a photo with him is one of my life’s biggest regrets. How I have game day rituals that I don’t deviate from until there’s a losing streak. How The Sweater is the first story I read to my kids and they know it off by heart. How I watch Sportscentre highlights on game night, and am capable of rewinding the same play to watch it possibly 15 times. How the Habs news is the first thing I do in the morning, well, the second, after I put on my glasses.

He looked at me and said, “So … you’re obsessed.” Whatever, I thought he ought to know. And it’s been nearly four years, so obviously he’s cool with crazy.

Except really, Habs fans, we know it’s normal, not crazy. Last weekend, a long one in B.C., we spent an idyllic one in the hot desert next to a cool, rushing river, and darted around on dune buggies and walked into the river to fish when the sun was going down. I caught two, by the way! Anyway, the deal is, in the desert wifi is hard to come by. And it was PK Subban contract negotiation weekend. We went up on Thursday, and all the way listening to TSN 690, I was confident I’d wake up Friday to the news of a deal. Except I didn’t. The two sides went to arbitration and all of a sudden I was in the desert freaking out along with the rest of Habs nation, and it was all I could do to put my phone down and try to enjoy myself, without checking Twitter and Eyes on the Prize, the best website on the inter webs, every chance I got. On Saturday morning, I got up to more uncertainty and decided to ignore everything. Going on Twitter was pissing me off, mostly because everyone was talking about how it was the end of the world and we’d see PK Subban in a Leafs sweater in two years all thanks to Marc Bergevin’s ineptitude. This was what upset me the most – Marc Bergevin has not steered us wrong and didn’t all of a sudden become some kind of idiot overnight. Also, the idea of Subban in a Leafs jersey? Spending my weekend throwing up all over the place was not what I had in mind. So I put down my phone.

And I picked it up again at about 11:25. First tweet that caught my eye was by EOTP, that Bob McKenzie (TSN analyst who loves to passive-aggressively crap on the Habs AND Subban) was reporting that a DEAL WAS IMMINENT. My heart stopped. Then, we HAD A DEAL. I was so relieved. We piled into the car to go stock up on groceries, including bison meat in honour of PK. In the car, I asked my daughter a question about this personal wifi she had heard of somewhere, and she was happily chirping out her answer when I got a notification on my phone and screamed, “EIGHT YEAR DEAL!! EIGHT YEAR DEAL!!” I totally interrupted her and felt awful but she understood and we all whoop-whooped and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Anyway fast-track to this weekend. He works out of town and had to this weekend, so I mostly just dedicated myself to housework and cooking. And the Habs. Because I got to. I re-watched, on PVR, the Habs/Bruins series from May. And found myself almost in tears when Subban came out of the penalty box in game 3 to score that gorgeous breakaway goal. Then I did more. I looked on iTunes for TSN 690 podcasts and listened to all of them from the playoffs. I heard most of them in real life, of course, but not all, because I couldn’t when I was at work. I even went down a rabbit hole and after listening to all of Tony Marinaro’s broadcasts with WEEI in Boston, went to find the actual Boston radio podcasts. And what I heard was some pretty rational hockey people, which irritates me because hating Boston fans is one of my favourite things ever. Then I started to think back on last season, and with the exception of the Rangers series which I can’t bring myself to fully relive, I have to say it was one of the most exciting seasons I can remember.

Everybody knows I’m a Therrien fan. I like the guy. He has the least enviable coaching  job of the NHL and handles it with grace. Therrien 2.0, anyway. The guy is not “your buddy” as Bergevin says, the guy is a coach. He is cold, and cool, and he’s in charge. And he’s smart. And I think that after denial and rage by the majority of Habs nation last season, they finally accepted him after they saw how he handled the playoffs. People still slag him every chance they get, but I’m not thinking he cares very much.

And then there’s Bergevin. He has changed the face of this franchise in a very short turnaround. He gets it. It’s in his blood now and this is a driven, passionate, intelligent leader. There was that game last season, you know the one: Washington. The Habs were on a three-game losing streak in January, and then lost to Washington, shut out, 5-0. And they had a closed-door meeting. In my imagination, here’s how it went down. Bergevin went into that room, looked everyone in the eye, and instead of freaking out and threatening to fire people, said: You’re winners. Forget about tonight, sh*t happens. It’s in the books, and nothing you can do about it now. I believe in you. You’re contenders. And the trade deadline is coming up, and … you’re all staying. I’m adding pieces to help you, and I’m not sacrificing a single one of you.

Look, that’s maybe how it happened and maybe it isn’t, but they won eight of their next 12 games – despite Carey’s absence after the Olympics. And got absolutely genius trade deadline acquisitions in Weise, Weaver and Vanek. And didn’t just make the playoffs, they wound up fourth in the conference with 100 points and then went on to win two playoff rounds, including a sweep, and proved to the world that they were not just a goalie when Lord Voldemort made damned sure that Carey Price would not be a factor in the eastern conference final. They took the Rangers to game 6 even though the experts were predicting a sweep after the cruel Price injury. Character. Passion. Skill. Heart.

There is no point to this post other than wanting to write something after spending a lot of the weekend looking back. And now I’m looking forward. There is so much to look forward to. For the first time in many years, Habs fans have something to legitimately look forward to come October. No more wishful thinking. No more pipe dreams. This is it. We’re not talking about rebuilds anymore, not talking about how in five years we can do it. The future is now, as they say, and right now, I have to … go make dinner.

#letsgetit

Les Boys et Moi…One Magical February Evening

Haven’t blogged in nearly 2 months. You know how when you have that thing you have to do and then you don’t do it and the more you don’t do it the more you feel bad but you still don’t do it and then it just gets worse and worse? Blogging is like that for me. No one is obligating me to do it but I feel bad when I don’t do it. I actually have a reader or two. I feel better after just starting this paragraph. But I just didn’t have anything bloggable to share. Until now, I mean.

Guess what I did this week? I saw the Habs play in Vancouver. I mean, I was THERE. They only come here once per season and I’ve been to see them before but this time was really awesome. Really really truly.

The Habs were coming off a craptastic western road trip, losing in Edmonton to the crappy Oilers, and badly, and then losing at the much ballyhooed Heritage Classic outdoor game in Calgary. I mean, they got shut out. What a sad game that was to watch.

That is the reason I thought I was actually in for a treat when they stopped in Vancouver. The guys would definitely want to bring it after 2 such terrible games, and especially playing against the Canucks who have a great winning record. And especially in Vancouver, where Habs fans always (seem to) outnumber Canucks fans in the Vancouver arena.

I used to go to all the Habs games in Vancouver, and in fact was at the last game in Vancouver when the Habs won. In the year TWO THOUSAND. After that, they went on a losing streak when playing in Vancouver, and thankfully I missed 8 of those games because since having kids I could not afford to spend the outrageous sums demanded for ticket prices. And I’m talking the regular priced tickets, too.

But for the past few years, I’ve had a generous benefactor who makes sure I can go see the Habs when they play here, giving me tickets either for Christmas or my birthday, etc. Isn’t that awesome? And a good thing too, since the past 2 times the Habs played here before this year, they lost badly, in particular last year, they lost REALLY badly. Glad I never paid for those games. It was embarrassing, sad and awful to be surrounded by Canucks fans who jeered at me all game, then jeered at me for the days that followed.

The hate for the Habs is an interesting phenomenon, and the hate for Habs fans more so (for me). I mean, every team has douchey fans but I’m certainly not one. But the fascination of cheering against the Habs and then going out of one’s way to make Habs fans feel miserable always bemuses me. I would not want to make a fan feel bad when their team is doing badly or their team has just lost a game, because I know how awful it already feels for that fan. You know? I mean, Evil Canuck Fan Co-Worker excepted, as he is such a specific breed of evil that when I get a chance to take a dig at him, I probably will about half of the time. But I don’t enjoy it. I mean, I do a little.

It started in November, when I got my tickets. My friend from Twitter, known as @TheAbraxasCo, and I got our tickets, club seats no less, for the game in February. That’s a long time to wait, but we were excited-excited-excited. When the year turned, I started counting down the weeks, then the days. Getting to see my boys in person, and this time with a fan as rabid as I (the past couple of years I went with Canucks fans – never again) was something that had me giddy! I didn’t care how they’d done in Edmonton and Calgary, I was going to be there with them and had a good feeling.

So, it got to be Tuesday, February 22nd in Vancouver. The boys were here in town, I could feel them. I had a lot of work to do at the office that day, and I mean loads, and it was so hard to concentrate I can’t even describe it.

The work day finally came to an end and I went to meet @TheAbraxasCo at our customary place for a pre-game drink (or two); where we always watch Habs games together when we can. We were both excited and looking forward to a win. This is what I love about her: she’s my kind of Habs fan, not the kind who bitches and moans and predicts a loss and that we’re not contenders and won’t even make the playoffs. No. She’s optimistic, and the eyes shine with visions of a win, no contemplation of another scenario, and plus she LOVES our boys, never ever doubted Carey, etc. Peas in a pod.

We made our way to Rogers Arena to be in place for the pre-game warmup. The air was electric, and on the way we saw just as many Habs’ jerseys as Canucks’.  I’ve had the good fortune of being able to go to lots of NHL games here, but nothing, nothing, NOTHING compares to the atmosphere when the Habs are in town. NOTHING. We wait for this day once a year, like Christmas, or your birthday, but it’s SO MUCH BETTER. Gone are the memories of lost games past, and the anticipation of the magical feeling of simply being in the same building as the Habs is huge! And @TheAbraxasCo had not seen our boys live before…twice as exciting!!

We got there, found our seats in the SEVENTEENTH ROW and promptly made our way to the opposite end of the ice where the sea of Habs jerseys were congregating before the warmup. How they knew what end to be at, I don’t know, but I’m so glad. We made our way up to the glass and then…the boys came out. Squeeeee! They started by skating around in circles and every time someone passed me I screamed “Careeeeey!!!! P.K.!!!!! Max!!!” They didn’t look at me but I know it’s just because they were in game mode. Very professional, our boys. AS IF they couldn’t hear me, I was pressed right up to the glass and making a general spectacle of myself. Actually, perhaps they were afraid. Pacioretty actually shot a puck right at me, then a minute later, he did it again. RIGHT at me. Me, me, me! I KNOW it was his way of saying hello.

8 bazillion, 57, whatever, something like that.

We went back to our seats. I noticed some fine folks bringing food and drinks down on trays to people seated in our section. I yelled out to one of them, “What? We can order stuff and you bring it to us?” This lovely person replied, “Yes!” and I was all, “Seriously? Can I order two drinks at a time? YES?! I’ll have two Mike’s Lemonades! Run a tab!” It was wonderful.

The game was about to start. Two guys, who weren’t wearing Canucks jerseys but were Canucks fans, made their way to the 2 seats beside me. They looked nice enough. I felt bad for them for what I was likely about to put them through.

THE BOYS CAME OUT ON THE ICE. After a couple of misstarts, the opening faceoff took place, and we were off to the races! We started shouting “GO HABS GO!” and when I watched the game back later on PVR, I heard we really did ourselves proud. We were LOUD.

I was tingling. Carey was in net, I was wearing his jersey, and he was playing in front of his “hometown” crowd. I couldn’t have been happier for him! 6 minutes in, David Desharnais scored the first goal and we leapt out of our seats, screaming at the top of our lungs, so much so that I wound up having a coughing fit. I explained to the guys next to me, “I’m really sorry if I seem at all obnoxious, I get to see these guys just once a year!” They kind of grumbled, “Whatever.” Don’t worry, I totally grew on them by the end of the game.

You know how when you’re at a game, you stand up if there’s a rush, you stand up when there’s a bad call, you stand up when there’s no call, you stand up when there’s a goal, etc.? Yeah, me too. I had my camera and wallet on my lap and they went flying every time. I had all these nice Canucks fan folks crawling around under their seats to retrieve my belongings every time, until @TheAbraxasCo finally grew annoyed enough to insist she put my stuff into her pockets. Which was really nice of her.

You know what happened about a minute after Desharnais scored? Gio scored! On a rebound from a BEAUTIFUL shot by P.K.! Nomez even picked up an assist! Wooooo woop woop woop! I was on my feet and swinging my arms around and loving every minute. Oh and P.S. guess what? We saw those goals right in front of us since we were at Luongo’s end for periods 1 and 3. Watching the guys gather to celebrate mere metres from us was soooooo thrilling!

After the first period, I made my way up to the rafters to meet a couple of other Twitter friends for the first time, @torrievenoit and @misscarboncopy. It was great finally meeting them! I also ran in to two of my real life friends, totally by coincidence. In a building full of 18,000+ people that’s quite the feat. Fellow Habs fans, too. Awesome.

In the 2nd, poor Carey got delay of game penalty and one of the Sisters scored. Big bummer. The Canucks fans surrounding me quite enjoyed rubbing my nose in it, but it was all in good fun. We were old friends by now. The brothers (yes, they were brothers, I asked them, we had some good chit-chat) next to me started saying, “it’s time for the comeback, another Canucks power play is coming, we can feel it,” etc. No worries, Andre Kostitstyn scored and then we were up by 2 again! My neighbour’s prediction was correct, there were 3 more Canucks’ power plays in the 2nd, but the Canucks didn’t score again til the 3rd.

We stayed in our seats for the 2nd intermission, but the conversation was so good and we were having so much fun that this was my only tweet during the game:

The 3rd wound up being really thrilling, because the Canucks scored again and the place got really excited, everyone was screaming, but that was all it would be, we saw our Habs win here for the first time in nearly ELEVEN years, Carey got his win, the guys went to hug him and he was grinning from ear to ear. And you guys. I got to see the triple-low-five between him and P.K. in person. I was hugging onto @TheAbraxasCo’s arm in anticipation, saying, “we’re gonna get to see the triple-low-five! We’re gonna get to see the TRIPLE LOW FIVE!!!!!!” and we DID. We did we did we did!!

What was interesting to me was that with about 10 seconds left to play, the Canucks fans started clearing the building. Last year, when the Habs lost here SEVEN TO ONE, I stayed until the bitter end, and didn’t make my way out of the building until I was sure the last Hab had left the ice. I guess you are more blasé about it when you have tons of opportunities to watch your team, although I can’t imagine I ever would be. We stayed firmly in our seats until the stars came out, and guess who got the first star? Carey. I can’t even.

That was it, it was over until next season. It was an AMAZING night. I close my eyes, and I relive it. I love my Habs so much. And now, our latest memory of their visit to Vancouver is of a WIN. A WIN!!! And a brilliantly played game that we TOTALLY deserved to win. Thanks so much, Habs, from the bottom of my heart, for an experience I will never, ever forget. Can’t wait to see you again!

P.S. And next time, Carey, I WILL get you to look at me. 🙂

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