Jul. 30, 2013
Growing up in the 70’s in Newfoundland guaranteed me a few things; there would be a lot of snow days, our snow days would make us laugh at the snow days of other provinces, we would learn to play outside, and even if we had two TV channels, Saturday nights would be tuned into Hockey Night in Canada.
It sounds cliché, but there was no escaping it. I actually enjoyed my one period of hockey before I dozed off. (There are significant mentions of my sleeping ability in past submissions of this blog.) We would get treated to pop and chips. (God help you if dad forgot that Cream Soda and Club Soda were not the same.) There was Peter Puck and the weekly highlights. There was only one thing that could ruin the night, if the Montreal Canadians were winning. Unfortunately in the 1970s, they won a lot.
I really did not attach myself to a team until the early 80s. There are photos of me floating around in a Philadelphia Flyers jersey and I did like Bobby Clarke. Unfortunately, his style of play goes against a lot of what I stand for, I mean you cannot just break an opponent’s leg because he is a good player. (Valeri Kharlamov would say da.)
However when I was in grade 4, I found a reason to cheer for a team. This Gretzky guy and his Oilers were playing the Canadians in the first round of the playoffs. I told my teacher Mr. Reid that I thought they were pretty good and they could beat the Habs. He told me I was crazy and three games later, an Oilers sweep, and I had my team. When they went on to win a couple of Cups, well that was just something my dad referred to as French benefits.
Problem is, the Canadians are not all bad. Their fans a little too much. They act like they won every cup and earned every victory when in actual fact they are just a bunch of overhyped band wagoners. But the team does have some redeeming qualities. In fact there have been times in my 45 year history I wish I could actually cheer for them and not feel like I was betraying myself. Evidence?
The Steve Penny Run
This was actually a little selfish. My Oilers, who I knew could beat the Canadians, were on the verge of their first cup. Penny was a wall and had the Islanders down 2-0 in the Prince of Wales finals. Unfortunately, it all fell apart and the Oilers had to face the Champs…. Who they eventually beat.
The Overtime Run of 1993
I wasn’t actually cheering for the Canadians per say, I just wanted them to play the Leafs in the finals. Referee Kerry Fraser put an end to that with a non-high sticking call on Gretzky. CBC made me smile as they played Back in the High Life by Steve Winwood for their after victory montage. The Patrick Roy wink after a huge save at least caused my heart to semi-thaw on the Canadians.
The Run of 2011
This one was happiness for Wicksky. My buddy Darren is a huge fan of the Canadians and I thought of him often during this run. Despite losing to the Flyers, Montreal played well and even us die hard haters had to applaud.
I am not sure I have ever respected an athlete more than PK Subban. Every story I hear about him involves a donation or an act of kindness or embracing the position he has been put into. I am not sure how the Habs traded a piece of their heart no matter the windfall, but the fans let PK know where he stood in their eyes this week. My nephew and the Newfoundland soccer team met PK during a game in Montreal. He patiently took pictures with all the players and really gave them the time of day. I hate to say it, but PK should be playing in the world’s most successful hockey market.
Of course, the fans of the Habs remind me why I hate that team so much. A three-game win streak has the lot of them puffing out their chests and proclaiming an imminent Stanley Cup Victory. There are two incredible elements of this that are encouraging.
1. Habs fans are acting like Leaf fans.
In the glory days, no card carrying Canadians fan would celebrate anything less than a Cup win. Now, making the playoffs is a worthy accomplishment. It is wonderful to see Division titles and first round wins mean something. It’s like watching Steven Spielberg celebrate a movie that is not a flop. You were the greatest team in sports history and now you are happy to celebrate table scraps.
2. My Students
I teach in a small French school. A lot of my students love the Canadians, but none of my students have been alive to see a Habs Stanley Cup Victory. It really is a wonderful thing.
So spring is almost here and I look forward to another successful playoff run. A perfect playoff run has an Oilers or Leafs Stanley Cup Victory with a Habs humiliating loss of some type. (There have been five of those in my lifetime.) I will settle for the glass raise when there is no longer a fear of watching a parade through Vieux Montreal! I have only been forced to change the channel eight times. Merci pour ça!