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.

2013-01-08 10.23.20 pm

…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:

2013-01-08 10.52.59 pm

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:

2013-01-08 10.59.26 pm

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.

Advertisements

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.

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!

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.

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

About Last Night…

I don’t do game analyses because I’m nowhere near qualified. I leave that to my esteemed bloggers in the column to the right. When I watch hockey, I watch the Habs, and my heart is so involved, I have no objectivity. I’m not one of those people, like most of my fellow fans, it seems, who’s paying attention to who’s coming on & off the ice, the line-shuffling, and many times I have to wait until the commentator tells me to find out who just scored the goal.

I’m a Habs fan first, hockey fan second. I care not for any hockey game being played in the Western Conference, for example, unless it’s a playoff game, and during trade season, I usually have no idea who these new guys are coming on to my team. Like, NO idea. I count on the experts to tell me all about them. And then I adopt them like my own. I love the game of hockey, see, but it’s because of my love for my team. So we’re clear.

The Habs/Leafs rivalry is like no other in the NHL. Of course that has to do with that there are but 4 other teams with as much history as those 2 teams, so our deep-seeded bitterness goes waaaaay back. I hate the Bruins too, but hate the Leafs the very most of all. One of the times I hated them the worst in my whole life was in the Habs’ final game of the 2006-2007 season, against the Leafs, who already were not going to the playoffs, and the Habs HAD to get the 2 points to make it through. We had a healthy lead, too, then heartbreakingly lost 6-5. No playoffs that year. Lost to the stupid LEAFS. I could have been angry at my team (told you, total lack of objectivity), but instead chose to focus my wrath on the Leafs, for whom the victory was particularly sweet because it was our hearts they had broken. Cruelty in its purest form.

My lack of objectivity, as I say, is the biggest reason I cannot thoughtfully commentate, and the facts & figures bog me down too. There’s only so much space available in the ol’ noodle. Evidenced by my inability to add 12+5+1 this week. Remember that?

Before the puck ever dropped on this season, in the days leading up to the pre-season, this really odd thing started happening on Twitter and on the Habs blogs I read. People, Habs fans even, were already predicting we would not be a playoff team this year, or that we’d barely squeak in. THIS is why I could never qualify to engage in these debates – huh? Not even make the playoffs? I do not understand how this thought is even possible. Also, I never allow myself to consider that my team won’t make the playoffs. Just – can’t and DON’T do it. Did everyone forget that we made the Eastern Conference FINAL just a few short (but oh my god, at the time they were INTERMINABLE) months ago? This group of guys who largely didn’t even know each other before last September, who played without Markov for most of the season and without Cammalleri for weeks, who’d made our hearts sing with joy & hope during the post-season, playing with heart and sterling character and beating the so-called top teams left and right, this despite (or because of?) coach Jacques Martin, whose head had been called for by the Montreal faithful 12,563,907 times last season? Like, I do not even get how anyone could already predict the end of the season given the above, in that fashion.

Oooooh, yeah. In the off-season, Montreal traded away our Jaroslav Halak, the goaltender who’d stood on his head throughout the last playoff run, with many crediting his amazing goaltending for single-handedly carrying us through. Now, I admit, it was a head-scratcher at first, but finally made sense given his salary. And you know what? I was really, really, really really really pleased for Carey Price. This super-talented kid, who’d lost his way for a while as most kids tend to do (how else do you learn?), was going to finally show his detractors, I was sure. The reason is how maturely he’d handled his benching through the end of last season. Took it like a man, diligently & dutifully showing up for all his practices and workouts. Just because he wasn’t seeing ice time didn’t mean he wasn’t still earning a paycheque. I was proud of him for this, particularly in contrast to the behaviour of the young, petulant, entitled Belarussian we traded away before the season (I’m so sorry, Cathie). It’s how you face adversity that shows your character. And I was looking forward to watching this cool-as-a-cucumber, soft spoken young man play again.

So yes, while it was sad to see Halak go, and I genuinely wish him nothing but the best, he pretty much ceased to matter for me the moment he departed Montreal. There was a new sheriff in town, and his name was Carey Price. That’s what happens when you love your team…you throw your support behind them. Right?

Yeah, not so fast. During the pre-season (which I’m in no way embarrassed to admit I watched all of…my team’s on TV, I watch them; I don’t care that the games “don’t matter”), Carey had an off-game at home. And the Bell Centre boneheads (which aren’t many, but damn, are they loud) booed him. What kind of fan boos their OWN TEAM. I will never, ever comprehend that. Be angry, be frustrated, but boo? They should be ashamed. ASHAMED. And of course the opposing teams’ fans & bloggers (and oh yeah, Don Cherry) all rushed to make sure everyone knew that the Habs have “the worst fans in the league”. In fact, last night during his bloviating on Coach’s Corner, about 8 weeks after the fact, once again Mr. Cherry hastened to remind everyone how Carey had been booed at home. Never misses his chance, that Grapes.

Carey, I was so proud to see, also handled this rude behaviour by our “fans” with aplomb, telling everybody to just chill out, it’s the pre-season. Like the mother that I am (easy, I’m not old enough to be his mom), I was so proud of the way he just forgot about it, not allowing these creeps to define him.

OH YEAH. LAST NIGHT. That’s why I started this.

The matchups between the Leafs and the Habs are the ones I most look forward to, even though the Leafs are sucking so bad lately, because of the FEELING, the epic highs of beating them and crushing lows of losing to them. Experiencing every emotion. We’d lost our season-opener to them, and it still stung. Last night was a particularly poignant evening, having lost our beloved former coach, Pat Burns, to his valiant, dignified years-long battle with cancer, the day before. Mr. Burns had also coached the Leafs, so both teams were looking to win it for him. Going into last night, Carey already had 3 shutouts in the regular season, including against the hated bullies known as the Philadelphia Flyers. He’d had a bad night a couple of nights before against the errrr…Predators, but who cares. He wasn’t to blame for that loss. How can your team win when they don’t even score?

Well, the night began with a touching dedication to Pat Burns. It was sad and awesome to watch the various temper tantrums (as my son called them) he’d had throughout the years. Mr. Burns wore his emotions on his sleeve, just my kinda guy. And then, the Bell Centre fell into complete, absolute reverent silence in his memory. It was beautiful.

I’m not going to break down the game, but we scored 2 times against the Leafs, and they scored ZERO times. The second time we scored, ex-Hab Komisarek even generously passed the puck to Cammy who slid across on his knees and beat Gustavsson. HahahahaHA. It was a thing to behold! Shutout #4 for Carey Price. Oh, baby. Even Lapierre had some pretty beautiful moves last night.

Our team is getting really tight and seeming more like brothers with every game they play. Despite the fact that it’s a little scary to contemplate possibly an entire season with Markov out, I’m so confident in them and get so much joy out of watching them play. And I looooove watching the “cocky, disrespectful” (WHATEVER) P.K. give Carey the triple-low fives after every victory – I’ve got a feeling those two really love each other. The team this year feels in my heart like the Habs of old, a brotherhood, a family, sappy as it sounds. I can’t remember a recent Habs team that bounces back from low lows as quickly or with more effective amnesia than these 2010-2011 Habs. And yes, it’s still early in the season as everyone continues to remind us, but it’s not just the stats or standings that give me hope, it’s how these guys are really there for each other. THAT’S what makes a team.

So yeah. It’s gonna be a great season. I feel it in my bones.

%d bloggers like this: