Archive for the Hockey Category

When Dreams Come True: Les Canadiens

Posted in Hockey on May 12, 2010 by drawesomeness

It doesn’t get any better than this. Last night the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals to force a 7th and deciding game. And so, Habs fans everywhere are elated that this wild ride continues against all odds.

The Canadiens’ miraculous playoff run has been covered from seemingly every angle so why not one more vantage point – from the streets of Montreal. And brother, these streets are buzzing. Today on my walk to-and-from work I couldn’t help but notice that things are different here in Montreal. In fact, the mood in this city has changed dramatically over the past month. The sentiments that it would be yet another humdrum hockey season without any chance of the beloved home team making a return to its former glory have been replaced with a distinctive feeling that has swept across this sprawling metropolis. That feeling, of course, is hope. Hope that something completely unexpected yet completely brilliant could occur and lift the spirits of an entire fan base. It’s a feeling that has been noticeably absent in this city for many years. I turned 13 on the day the Canadiens last won the Stanley Cup. That was 17 years ago. And now it’s the first season since that magical run in 1993 that the Canadiens have won more than 6 playoff games. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? I almost have to pinch myself to believe that it’s actually happening. Steeped in the frenzy of a Habs-crazed city, I’m cherishing every moment.

It’s indescribable. I lived in Calgary during the Flames’ Stanley Cup run in ‘04 and I was in Ottawa during the Stanley Cup finals of ‘07, yet the atmosphere in each of those cities doesn’t hold a candle to the enthusiasm on display right now in Montreal. The city is electric. You can almost taste the excitement that has spread like wildfire. People are pumped up. Everyone’s talking about the inspired play of the Habs. And the shocking possibility of a visit from Lord Stanley has captured our hearts and imaginations. There’s an extra hop in everyone’s step. Strangers clad in Habs paraphernalia exchange knowing glances on the sidewalks. Normally aggressive cab drivers are yielding to pedestrians donning the CH at crosswalks. Canadiens flags adorning the windows of vehicles have become a ubiquitous sight. And on game day ANY seat, whether it is at the Bell Centre, the local watering hole, or the living room, is the very best seat in the house.

There’s something great about cheering for this team. It’s funny that back in February I was lauding Sidney Crosby for being Canada’s golden boy at the Olympics and now I’d like nothing more for him to take his whine and cheese party back to Pittsburgh for the summer. This is bigger than the Olympics. Yes, it was a great moment for this nation when Sid scored that overtime goal to win gold for Canada. It’s a moment that will stand the test of time. But this is different. It’s not just that the Habs are such massive underdogs. It’s the scope of the Stanley Cup. It’s the most coveted trophy in sports. I’ll never forget a post-game interview with Mats Naslund after the Swedish team beat Canada in the gold medal game of the 1994 Olympics. When asked how the moment compared to winning the Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1986, he didn’t hesitate to declare that it wasn’t even close – the Stanley Cup is the ultimate title and nothing is sweeter. It’s the culmination of a loooong season and grueling playoffs. After having watched all 82 regular season games this season, I can safely say that this playoff run has made it all worthwhile. These moments define my fandom.

The Canadiens have already exceeded expectations and then some. They knocked off the venerable Capitals in the first round – a feat most considered an impossibility at the outset of the playoffs. And now they’re in a position to perform another miracle. I find myself betraying promises made not two weeks ago by once again asking the ghosts of the old Montreal Forum, “Please, if you could just let them win one more….” Maybe it will all come to an end in Game 7. Maybe the dreams of this city will finally fade away. And all that will be left are memories of an incredible month back in the spring of 2010 when it felt like anything was possible. Win or lose on Wednesday, one thing is for certain – there’s nowhere else on Earth I’d rather be right now.

Photo by Steve Troletti

Home Ice Advantage!

Posted in Hockey with tags , , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by drawesomeness

The Charge of the Habs Brigade

Posted in Hockey with tags , , , , , on April 27, 2010 by drawesomeness

(by Alfred Tennyson reimagined as a Habs fan)

Half a rink, half a rink,
            Half a rink onward,
All in the valley of Bell
           Rode the twenty-one thousand.
“Forward, the Habs Brigade!
Charge for the Caps!” he said:
Into the valley of Bell
            Rode the twenty-one thousand.

“Forward, the Habs Brigade!”
Was there a fan dismay’d?
Not tho’ the Boudreau knew
            Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Bell
            Rode the twenty-one thousand.

Ovie to the right of them,
Backstrom to the left of them,
Green in front of them
            Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with slapshot and shell,
Boldly they played and well,
Backed by the jaws of Halak,
Back towar’d the Caps to attack
            Rode the twenty-one thousand.

Drank all their Molson M’s bare,
Towels, they turn’d in air
Beating the Varlamov there,
Charging an army, while
            All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the penalty kill
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cammy and Markov
Reel’d from the ref’s joke
Then the Caps faded, but not
            Not the twenty-one thousand.

Ovie to the right of them,
Backstrom to the left of them,
Green in front of them
            Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with slapshot and shell,
While Gill and P.K. fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of elimination,
Back from the mouth of hell
All that was left of them,
            Left of twenty-one thousand.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
            All the world wonder’d.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Habs brigade,
            Noble twenty-one thousand!

Why The Montreal Canadiens Will Win the Stanley Cup (or How I Learned to Hate Jack Todd in A Single Sports Column)

Posted in Hockey with tags , , , , , , on April 13, 2010 by drawesomeness


Most people know that I’m a die-hard Habs fan. At the beginning of each NHL season I predict the same thing – The Montreal Canadiens will win the Stanley Cup. Since my fandom began at the age of 5, I have been correct twice: 1986 and 1993. And I was very close in 1989. I have been wrong 22 times. Nevertheless, each year I believe, with all my heart, that my prediction will come true and my beloved hockey club will win the championship. That hope keeps me mesmerized and it cements my emotional investment in the team. Without even a glimpse of hope, I wouldn’t care. Because what’s the point in cheering for something that has, with 100% certainty, no chance of succeeding?

Some Habs fans are less optimistic. Their assessments are not so clouded by emotion that they can come up with a clearer judgment of the Canadiens’ chances. They are realists. Right now, these realists are probably not putting too much stock in the Habs’ chances after they limped into the post-season in 8th place, poised to face the venerable Capitals in the first round. But I can guarantee that, deep down, those realists have at least a modicum of hope. We all believe that there’s a team that could surprise everyone and hoist the Cup by playoff’s end. It may take a few sigmas of variance to the lucky side, but it’s possible. That’s all we need – any number greater than zero that they can do it. Possibility. Every Habs fan believes in possibility – even the realists.

Jack Todd is not a realist. Perhaps Jack Todd isn’t even a fan of the Canadiens. Maybe he’s just a sports reporter for the Montreal Gazette who writes about hockey and doesn’t have any interest whatsoever in the home team. But one thing is certain – Jack Todd is not a realist. He’s a buzzkill. He’s the guy who tells you that red meat causes cancer just as you’re sinking your teeth into a juicy burger. He’s the guy who tells you on the way into the cinema that the movie sucked. He’s the guy who tells you that you paid too much for the television you just bought. He’s the guy who relishes the chance to tell everyone that the picnic in the park will almost certainly be cancelled because it’s going to rain.

In his Monday, April 12 column in the Montreal Gazette, Jack Todd gave Montrealers this sun-shiny forecast:

What happens now? The Canadiens get steamrolled by the Washington Capitals. There are only two possible scenarios here: Jaroslav Halak is very hot, in which case the Habs might take this first-round series as far as six games. Or Halak is merely ordinary, as he was Saturday night, in which case it’s a repeat of last spring’s four-and-out.

Chances the Canadiens will beat Alex Ovechkin’s Caps to advance to the second round? Roughly equal to the possibility that you’ll see me flinging Penelope Cruz around on Dancing With the Stars.

Translation? Won’t happen.

Next season? Given Scott Gomez’s contract and all the other problems with which Pierre Gauthier was saddled by the departed Bob Gainey, it will be more of the same, as a 17-year stretch without an appearance in the third round of the playoffs stretches toward infinity.

You read it here first.

Oh I see what you did there Mr. Todd – you compared the Canadiens’ chances of winning their first-round series to a preposterous scenario infused with a pop-culture reference. How fiendishly clever of you, sir! Because I’ll bet you’re never going to appear on Dancing With the Stars with Penelope Cruz. Oh wait, you even clarified that the chances are exactly equal to zero by saying “Translation? Won’t happen.” Phew. Without that clarification I’m sure many readers would have been clamoring to deduce the exact probability of your scenario so that they’d have an informed estimate of the Canadiens’ chances. They’d turn to their friend and say, “Hey, do you know if Montreal Gazette sports columnist Jack Todd is being considered as a contestant on the next installment of the hit reality show ‘Dancing With the Stars’? What about Penelope Cruz? What are the chances they’d be paired up as dance partners? Roughly speaking? Give me a number. What percent chance would that happen? Because apparently the Canadiens have the exact same chance of winning their first round series.” Again, thanks for spelling that out for us.

Jack Todd hates hope.

His job is to watch sports and tell us what happened. Sure, he can colour in some analysis and even reflect on what may come. But Jack Todd goes a step further by sucking any semblance of hope out of the equation and recklessly cheapening the experience of an entire fan base. His column can be summed up as such, “The Habs are hopeless and they will continue to be hopeless for at least another year.” He’s telling everyone there’s no point in watching. The party is over for the foreseeable future. Don’t bother. Forget it.

He’s the sports writer equivalent of Martin Seligman – the psychologist who took perfectly content dogs and blasted them with electrical shocks until they became utterly helpless creatures.

Fortunately, Habs fans are never going stop hoping. You can shock us over and over again (17 years and counting) and we’ll still be there cheering on the red, white, and blue. We may be dogs – but only underdogs.

Jack Todd doesn’t have to watch. He should write their obituary right now and proceed to the nearest exit. He’s already decided that not only do they have no chance this year, they don’t have a chance next year. So go ahead and take a year off, Jack. Don’t talk about the Canadiens for a year. I’m sure you can fill up your schedule making visits to oncology units to tell cancer patients that they’re goners, or sitting at the base of Mt. Everest telling climbers that they’ll probably never make it to the summit, or going to hockey rinks across Canada to tell youngsters that they will most certainly never make the NHL.

And if he’s so sure, why doesn’t he stake his job on it? If it’s 100% certain that they’ll lose in the first round, then Jack Todd would have no problem declaring that he will resign from his job if the Canadiens beat the Capitals. But I’d say the chances of him actually standing behind his flippant comments are the same as me getting into a fist fight with The Situation in the next season of Jersey Shore. See what I did there? Just to be clear, what I mean is that it is impossible.

What annoys me most is that he has set himself up to look smarter than everyone else. He knows the fans will cheer for the Canadiens anyways. So, if the Caps win he’ll say “I told you so” (way to go Nostradamus) and if the Habs win he’ll simply colour himself surprised and applaud their plucky determination.

We’re not stupid. We know the Habs are longshots to get past the first round. But when someone declares them dead-in-the-water by saying they have ZERO chance, that’s a slap in the face to everyone who loves the team and has cheered for them for the past 82 games. Piss off with your dimestore musings, Jack Todd. You can take your 0% and shove it up your ass.

How’s this Jack – The Canadiens will win the Stanley Cup this year. Then they’re going to win it next year and the year after that. You read it here first (you self-serving prick).

(you can tell Jack Todd he’s terrible at Jacktodd46@yahoo.com)

Blame Pepsi for that Silver Medal

Posted in Hockey with tags , , , , , on January 7, 2010 by drawesomeness

On Wednesday morning, millions of Canadians woke up with a terrible hangover – an anguished realization that their junior team lost to the Americans in the gold medal final. It was a valiant effort and an exciting finish, but it just wasn’t enough. The result ended Team Canada’s run at an unprecedented 6 straight World Junior Hockey Championships. Shit.

They lost to the Americans of all teams! Why couldn’t it be Sweden or Finland? I’ll never complain about losing to the Scandis. But the U.S.?! Argh. It’s like watching the high school jock steal a pretty girl away from a really likable guy she had been dating for 5 years in a row. That jock won’t treat her right! Sure, he’ll be nice to her for a couple of weeks. But then he’ll grow tired of her appreciation of foreign cinema and quirky sense of humor. And then he’ll dump her and forget all about her because he heard through the grapevine that Becky Anderson likes him (and she totally puts out!). Meanwhile, the forlorn likable dude will always love that girl. And he’s going to do everything he can to win her back (probably around January of 2011).

Now, I’m as heartbroken as the next maple syrup-blooded Canuck, but I think we need to take an important lesson from this experience. And the lesson is this: YOU CANNOT MANUFACTURE NATIONAL PRIDE!

I’m talking to you Pepsi. “Eh-Oh-Canada-Go?” What in the holy hell is that?! What do you take us for? Shame on you Pepsi for trying to make us look like a bunch of dim-witted corporate-shilling assholes. And maybe, just maybe, if we, as a nation, weren’t so irritated and distracted by this pathetic excuse for a marketing campaign, we would have cheered just a little bit harder. And that could have made all the difference. Maybe a fraction of a decibel more cheering and clapping would have pushed those boys a little more and they could’ve gotten the job done. Maybe the puck dropped in overtime and there were Pepsi Reps in the stands yelling at the fans, “Okay, everyone together now – Eh-Oh…!” And the fans looked at each other and said, “What the shit is this? We’re in overtime for the gold here. Sit down you Pepsi peon mo-fo!” And in that moment, perhaps there was a brief lull from the stands, and the players thought to themselves, “What happened to the fans? I thought they were behind us.” And that deflated them, and the fire was gone. Truth is, we were there the whole time. It’s Pepsi’s fault. Yes, that’s right – I blame Pepsi for the loss.

I still don’t get it. Cheer Nation? What does that even mean? It’s as bad as “What is G?” – the annoyingly abstruse ad campaign by Gatorade (coincidence that it’s another Pepsico product? I think not!). Really though, what the fuck is G? I believe it to be the seventh letter of the alphabet and an impossible-to-find spot on the female body. Perhaps you have something further to add. Tell us. We didn’t bring it up. You did! Fill us the fuck in. Similarly, you can’t just make up something so ridiculously abstract as “Cheer Nation” and expect it to be blindly co-opted by 30 million people. What would happen if I suddenly started telling people, “Hey guys, I’ve decided that I want you to start calling me ‘Bonfire'”? You want to know what people would start calling me? They’d call me Will. Why? Because that’s my fucking name and unless I start making a habit of burning bales of hay in my front yard, no one will ever call me ‘Bonfire’ or any other nickname that I give myself. That’s not how it works. And that’s why “Cheer Nation” was a colossal fail at the World Juniors in Saskatoon. I wasn’t there, but in each broadcast of the games, not once did I hear that ridiculous chant coming from the stands. Someone correct me if they were at the games and they heard people who were big enough tools to actually fall for this pitiful marketing tactic. But I think it’s safe to say that, as Canadians, we would never be that stupid. Why? Well for one, it’s an embarrassingly lame chant and I think anyone with an ounce of self-respect as a human, regardless of their nationality, wouldn’t be caught dead letting those words escape their mouths. In fact, it’s offensively bad. It’s about as tasteless and unimaginative as a high-school drama class production of an episode of Jersey Shore. It’s the cheer equivalent of proposing marriage at a Red Lobster. I even heard it described as “a tacky and arrogant attempt to sell mediocre cola” by that insufferable, self-unaware woman at work who always tries in vain to get everyone together on Friday afternoons (“We’re all totally going for wings tonight!” “Uhhhh, I’m busy.”).

Secondly, Canadians take their hockey seriously. Our love is built on its traditions and, above all else, the purity of the game. That asinine chant was the biggest “fuck you” to hockey fans since the fuzzy blue puck debacle that American TV execs tried to implement back in the mid 90s. There’s a reason that nonsense didn’t last long. It’s an insult to the beautiful game of hockey. We don’t suggest the Americans should jazz up baseball by adding a slip’n’slide in between 2nd and 3rd base (although I would watch that). Why? Because it’s important to maintain the sanctity of the games. And with Cheer Nation, Pepsi tried to take a steaming hot dump squarely on centre ice. Well guess what Pepsi? We’re going to shovel it up and drop it right back on your unsuspecting chest. I’m never drinking a Pepsi product again. And neither should anyone else who believes in Canada, and hockey, and everything that’s good in the world. I’m dead serious. Never again. No more Pepsi. Get me a Coke. It tastes better anyway.

Eh-Oh-Pepsi-No-Mo.