Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Fan Divided

These games against Montreal are always a little rough for me, because they feature my two favorite teams going up against each other. And while my loyalty will always fall in the Caps' favor in these matchups, it's still hard to root against my adopted team.

When I was choosing universities during my senior year, I opted to leave the potentially exciting world of Virginia state schools for the far away city of Montreal. Of course, part of the draw of Montreal and Canada in general was their love of hockey, but I also fell in love with the city itself. Montreal has a European charm mixed with Canadian hospitality - the city is clean, the people are friendly, and it's still one of my favorite places.

But back to hockey...

I think if the Canadiens had been a different kind of team, I would have found it difficult to root for them - had I moved to New York or Philly, for example, I don't think I could have in good conscience been a fan of the local team. But the Habs were at the time very similar to the Caps in that they were somewhat underrated and maybe not loaded with star power but had a determination and a hard working attitude that made them fun to watch.

Two games stick out in my mind from that first year in Montreal. One would have to be the first and only time I was able to get tickets to a Montreal-Toronto game. It was the last meeting of the season between the two teams and the Maple Leafs had already beaten Montreal twice at the Bell Centre. The energy was amazing - people were cheering and screaming from the moment the puck dropped, and the noise level only escalated as the game went on. Montreal ended up with the win, and the noise was so deafening it was as if they had won the Stanley Cup.

The second was a game that featured an appearance in the crowd by Saku Koivu, who was completing chemotherapy at the time. When his face was shown on the screen, the ovation was enormous and lasted almost 10 minutes. After the game, my sister and I were at a bar when who should walk in but Koivu himself. I must have stalked him for about 2 hours before I was prodded into finally going up to him. I don't remember what I said and I never got an autograph, but I remember that he couldn't have been nicer to me...despite the fact that I probably sounded like a babbling moron.

My last year in Montreal was when the Canadiens met the Bruins in the first round of the 2004 playoffs. Down 3-1 in the series, the Habs rallied back to win two games in Boston and complete a dramatic comeback. I remember the entire city emptied into the streets as soon as the game ended, kicking off an impromptu parade of cars and people down the main streets of Montreal. It was so exciting to be a part of it and really cemented the team as part of my hockey life.

And so I find myself a fan of two teams - I have a signed Caps jersey but I also have a Canadiens t-shirt. I hate the Penguins and the Maple Leafs with almost the same passion. I'll attend a Caps game yet watch the scoreboard anxiously to monitor the Habs' progress.

Tonight I'll be in attendance, as I will be next week as well. I'll watch warm-ups, excitedly searching out my favorites on both sides of the ice - Ovie, Clark, Clymer; Koivu, Rivet, Ryder. But rest assured, once that game is underway the Habs become just another team the Caps need to beat, another team I hate...if only momentarily.

God help me if they ever meet in the playoffs.

6 comments:

~paige~ said...

Just stumbled across your post and was interested in reading about your love for Montreal. I have been there myself and loved it too! and you are right...Canada loves hockey!!

Victor said...

Just sit back and enjoy the hockey. Section 117, right? Sadly, from my seats I won't be able to scan 117 for the girl with the silly grin on her face.

CapsChick said...

Oh, I will...I whine, but these games are kind of fun, too - I get to see all 40 of my favorite players at the same time!

Section 111, actually. I come down from the cheap seats when my stepmother invites me to the sweet parental unit seats :)

Victor said...

I meant 417. Duh.

You're in 111 tonight? You've got better seats than I (113). Or my in-laws, actually (blush).

Jordi said...

Say hello to Sammy for me!

Well you think you're crazy for wanting to go to Montreal? I begged my parents to let me go to Montreal - alone. Thankfully I have an uncle who cares for me or else all my fights would be in vain. Additionally while I'm sad that I'll never be able to physically study overseas because of the costs involved (I love travelling. I just love love it), I am already searching for ways to go overseas on exchanges for my future local uni.

It's interesting on your thing of Saku Koivu, everyone loves him now. But before his struggles - people used to think he was a punk because he'd be such an agressive guy on the ice. But when he got all the media coverage over his cancer, people got to know about him and it was lovely.

If we ever meet in the playoffs, what we say to each other will stay in the playoff period! Good idea no?

CapsChick said...

I don't think Sammy would want to hear anything I uttered in his direction tonight :)

You should definitely do an exchange - I know lots of people at McGill (my school) who did exchanges to Australia, and I went to England for a semester third year. Best idea ever. And isn't Montreal a fantastic city?

It is interesting, Koivu makes his living as a pest and he's really good at it. I would love to have him on the Caps...

Whatever is said in the heat of battle stays in the heat of battle - that's a good plan!