Saturday, April 28, 2007

Paying the French-Canadian Piper

You may recall that a handful of our bloggers were selected by our winning pool entrants, Matthew and Duncan, to submit lovey-dovey posts about the Flames and Habs. Like the good sports that they are, our chosen few have responded...sort of.

Read Sherry's love letter to the Habs...then check out Bleu, Blanc et Rouge's response for an extra little giggle. Witness the unbelievable, a Detroit fan praising the Flames, as Steph pays up over at No Pun Intended.

Now JORDI on the other hand has been commanded to redo her post, which was hysterically funny but not exactly nice. I don't think she's taking it all that well (poor Duncan), and now she's just delaying the inevitable.

That just leaves...hmmm. Oh right, me!

This shouldn't be too hard, because as most of you know, my Habs-love is second only to the pure love I hold for the Caps.

I didn't go to Montreal searching for another team to root for. I had my hands full with the Caps and the last thing I needed was a second group of guys who would steal my heart, then break it repeatedly. Habs fandom was something I kind of fell into, led by the forces of fate, la forza del destino if you will.

When I first arrived in Montreal the Canadiens were pretty far off my radar. I knew of them, recognized a few names, but that was it. Instead I listened to as many Caps games as I could on my computer, Steve Kolbe's soothing voice providing the background noise for many a study session. I would see the headlines in the daily newspapers about the Habs but largely ignored them in favor of my hometown team. My only connection to the team was in my proximity to the Montreal Forum, on its way to being converted from a historic hockey landmark to an entertainment complex swathed in red white and blue.

Fast-forward a few months to the 2001 trade deadline, a day spent glued to TSN's all-day coverage in the faint hope that no one would be departing DC. I was watching in horror as the announcement came across the bottom of the screen: 'Washington trades Richard Zednik and Jan Bulis...' I couldn't believe it. My Zed, my Buli, were gone! Then I read the rest ' Montreal for Dainius Zubrus and Trevor Linden'. My disbelief turned to joy - two of my favorite players were now in the same city as me. Coincidence? I'd like to think not.

And so it began. My loyalty to these two players, as foolish as it may seem, was my entry into the crazy world of Montreal hockey. I started reading about the Habs a bit more, scanning the articles for their names and silently cheering them on. I would get excited when I saw that Montreal had won a game, and sad when they lost. It was a very confusing time, to be sure.

Finally I decided it was time to go see the Habs in person. It was, quite frankly, among the most amazing hockey experiences of my life. If you've never been to a game in Montreal, I urge you to do so immediately. It's like nothing else - the atmosphere is pure saturated hockey. I loved every minute of it. I loved the goal song (which has since been replaced by a U2 song, an absolute disgrace). I loved the little truck that shot t-shirts during intermission. I loved the Canadian anthem sung in French and English. It was so exciting, so electric, and there was a roar in the stands from the moment the puck dropped to the final buzzer.

As a Caps fan, it was a truly eye-opening experience; as a hockey fan, I was home. Over the next few years I immersed myself in Canadiens hockey. I went to as many games as possible, learned the names of the players, cheered them on in the playoffs, and developed a deep hatred of the Maple Leafs. I would put it all on hold only for those times when my two teams met in battle, those brief moments where the Habs t-shirt would proudly be replaced by a Caps jersey. As soon as the game ended, my dual loyalties returned unaffected by the previous 60 minutes.

I've tried many times to distance myself from the Habs since returning to DC. But for whatever reason I can't seem to shake them, almost three years later. They've got a scrappy demeanor about them that I love and an endless cast of characters led by a feisty little Finn that just keeps me hanging on. Huet, Komisarek, Higgins, Ryder - all entertaining in their own way. Even Kovalev, a bastion of evil for so many years, became lovable once he pulled on that Habs sweater (although not so much anymore...).

Anyone will tell you that it's nearly impossible to root for two teams with the same fervor, especially when they're in the same conference, and its true. I could never fully support the Habs with the same passion I reserve for the Capitals; one team always has to win out, and that team will always be the Caps. Still, I stand by my Habs and hope that, like the Caps, next year will bring better fortunes and greener pastures.

I just hope they never meet in the playoffs. I don't think I could take it.


Steph said...

Yeah yeah, spread around one of my finer moments...:b

More importantly you actually like Jan Bulis! I swear I really thought like the whole rest of the hockey world hated him. (Okay granted I'm a little biased and my love is based on the fact that he played with my Hemmer in Pardubice during the lockout and had ridiculous excellent hair and they were like bestest friends BUT.)

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge said...

Hmmm, very good as well, heck, at least you mentioned Huet!

Now, to respond to, or not to respond to?

I guess not, I think Sherry and the rest of the bloggers took enough abuse by reading my response to her post.


Jordi said...

I actually screamed "GET OFF THE FUCKING ICE BULIS" during the Vancouver game but felt a little guilty because, hey, he was probably heading off anyway.


Matthew Macaskill said...

Great job to both you and Sherry, hehe. I'll have more to say tomorrow, it's been a busy weekend.

Bethany said...

I'm kind of confused...why does everyone hate Bulis? I feel like I am missing something....

CapsChick said...

I've gone back and forth on Bulis - I think the strike against him as that he has the potential to be really great but either doesn't always show up or tends to be a bit of a diva. When he was here, it was just that he was young and made mistakes, but I loved him and I have a weird place in my heart for him to this day, for whatever reason.

Matthew Macaskill said...

The Bell Center is my favorite place to be. It's crazyyy in there. Though, I really haven't any other arena to compare it to having never seen an NHL game anywhere else besides Montreal. I'll need to change that someday soon.

As for Bulis, I never really liked him either. I think I got annoyed when he began to complain about the way he was being played and such. He really believes he's a first or second line winger, but he's barely that. Still, I liked him a lot more than Theodore, Ribeiro, and Dagenais, haha.

Elly said...

Good point about Montreal: they really do have hockey in the blood up there. The only bad part is that I can never really appreciate it since I'm invariably on the other side of the line. :)

The Bell Centre is usually a good time, though, except for grumpy Habs fans, that is...

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge said...

God I'm scared, Sherry says I'm her next target if the she wins the next round...