Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May 11, 2010: Yes, I'm Canadian...And I Don't Love Hockey

I’m not a huge hockey fan. Well, I suppose that’s not really fair because I follow the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) pretty closely, and there’s nothing I’d rather watch than one of my son’s hockey games, but when it comes to the NHL, I’ve never been one of those rabid Canadian fans who lives and dies by the puck. Growing up, my older brother and all of my friends were hockey fans so I had a peripheral interest, but it didn’t go further than the current Toronto Maple Leafs of the era: Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming, and Mike Palmateer to name a few. When we would play road hockey as kids, we would always yell out who we were going to be, but if I was in net and yelled “I’m Palmateer”, that didn’t mean I could tell you his stats, or even pick him out on the street if he walked by without his mask on.

I’m my teens, I gravitated toward the Calgary Flames. My best friend lived next door, and he was a Flames fan, so I think that’s why I came along for the ride. As I got older, proximity dictated that I become a “Leaf Fan”, but other than that amazing run in the 1993 playoffs, it wasn’t that prominent. Although that run in 1993 was fun. I was in my third year of University, and we would gather at my friend Rob’s house where we would watch the games in a big group. I remember that series vs. the St. Louis Blues when Curtis Joseph was the Blues goalie, and he was stopping 50-60-and sometimes 70 shots per game.

The one thing that has been standard in my NHL Fan-dom, is a complete and utter distaste for the Montreal Canadiens. I’m not sure what brought it on, but it has always been there. Maybe it was the fact that Calgary beat Montreal in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final. Maybe it was just that if you grew up liking the Leafs, then Montreal was “the enemy”. Maybe I just don’t like Quebec. I’m not sure what it was, but I always took great pleasure in watching the Habs lose.

Now, that whole preamble about my hockey history is to talk about this year’s NHL playoffs.

To be fair, I don’t devour the hockey playoffs like some people do. A few years ago, at our regular Wednesday night poker game, it was the first game of the NHL playoffs, and a friend insisted we have the opening game on the TV (which wasn’t even on the same floor), so he could keep running upstairs from the poker game to see the score on the TV. At one point near the end of the game, he just sat out his hands (it was a tournament, so he was losing blinds and antes) so he could watch the end of the game. I said to him, “Are you serious? This is the first game of the first round of a three-month playoff season!” But he had to see the game.

Coming into this playoff season, all I kept hearing was how the Eastern Conference Playoffs were eventually going to see another matchup of the league’s two best players: Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. Well, that became an impossibility after Washington was eliminated in the first round at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. And now, the Canadiens are one game away from knocking off Pittsburgh as well. It’s as if Montreal is single-handedly telling Gary Bettman “You know that Marquee Matchup you wanted? Sorry, we’ll take ‘em both out.” I’m finding it really difficult to root against Montreal on this playoff run, and that tears at the very fabric of my being. It’s a great story.

But then I thought of something.

There’s a great line in a song by Sloan called "Coax Me", where they declare “It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans” (which was my mid-90s mantra for the Tragically Hip), and I think that’s what it is that turns me off about Montreal. And not just the arrogant, ‘we-have-more-championships-than-anyone-else’ elitist attitude. I’m a Yankees fan after all, it would be pretty hypocritical to find fault in that.

But when I read that the streets had to be closed down, riot police had to be called in, and tear gas was used after rowdy fans spilled into the streets after a first-round playoff series win…come on. Are you serious? You didn’t win the Stanley Cup, you didn’t even make your Conference Final…all you did was win your opening round series. And don’t give me any garbage about it was the first time ever that an 8-seed beat a 1-seed after trailing 3-1 in a series. I can make up any stat I want to make something sound unbelievable. Did you know that when Mike Cammalleri scored two goals last night against Pittsburgh, it was the first time in NHL History that a player with a name ending in a vowel scored two straight goals at home while playing in a Game 6 vs a team that had a bird as a mascot? First time EVER!

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I heard this morning that Montreal police AGAIN had to close off some streets and send riot police out after last night’s Montreal win, which saw the Canadiens tie the series with Pittsburgh 3-3, forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday. So now, riot police are necessary when Montreal just ties the series? Are you kidding me?

Just when I thought they were giving me a reason to cheer for them, they’re giving me equal reasons to cheer against them.


sager said...

Not to toot my own horn, but my blog used to have a label, "When Did Habs Fans Lose Their Self-Respect?"

Obviously, I love hockey too, but it's only a co-fave among the big four.

Meantime, Sean, you like Duke, the Yankees and dislike the Tragically Hip? Geez.

Anonymous said...

Loved your blog until I read this post about the HABS... you had to be from Ontario to make comments like that.. Don't blame the HABS or Montreal because your hockey team sucks and doesn't win sh*t. You say HABS fans make up stats and then you feel so comfortable making up riot stories. No violent riots took place after the series were tied 3-3 against Pitsburgh or after the CH won against Washington. What a shame for a blogger like you to be such A SORE AND LAME LOSER.

Sean said...

What happened after Game 7? Looks like I was right on the money, actually.

Sean said...

Upon further consideration, let’s break down that Anonymous comment above, shall we? (and don’t you find all ridiculous comments are hidden behind the cloak of anonymity? At least pick a name like Angry Montreal Fan or something.)

“Loved your blog until I read this post about the HABS…” – your use of CAPS notwithstanding, I’m sorry your feelings were hurt, and that you no longer love my blog.

“…you had to be from Ontario to make comments like that.” – As much as I tried to be respectful in my post, and not label ALL Montreal fans with the same broad stroke, I know that I made some (very valid) generalizations. Your comment about being from Ontario is just as judgemental, if not more. And what “comments like that” are you referring to? I talked about a lot of things in this post, not just the Canadiens. Were you offended by my Mike Palmateer reference?

“Don't blame the HABS or Montreal because your hockey team sucks and doesn't win sh*t.” – I didn’t. But way to bring a logical argument down to a ‘Your Team Sucks’ argument. And who is my team? The point (and title) of the post is that I don’t love hockey.

“You say HABS fans make up stats and then you feel so comfortable making up riot stories” – Seriously, why the CAPS? But I didn’t say Habs fans make up stats. I said that the constant reminder of the 3-1 comeback was a BS upsell, and it was. It was the media that was doing it, not Habs fans. And I didn’t ‘make up’ riot stories. There were riot police for the win over Washington, and the Game 6 win over Pittsburgh. That’s not made up…that’s just a fact.

“No violent riots took place after the series were tied 3-3 against Pittsburgh or after the CH won against Washington.” – Clearly the key word in this statement is “violent”, and that’s fine…yes, there were no “violent” riots after those games, but there still were riots…and tear gas…which was my point. You can’t argue with the facts. And your argument would have had much more validity had you posted it after the post went up, instead of after Game 7. Hey, did you notice what happened after Game 7? Riots…violent riots…break and enter…looting…bottle throwing…riot police, SWAT Team, and more tear gas. 41 arrests. Tell me again how wrong I am. And tell me what other city in Canada this would happen in? I dare you to name one. And I’ll point out again…this was for a second round series!

But you leaving out that fact and pointing out when the “violent” riots didn’t happen, proves my point that you only see what you want to see. So thank you for proving my point for me.

“What a shame for a blogger like you to be such A SORE AND LAME LOSER.” – Ok, I get the use of CAPS here…pure emphasis. But in generally, aren’t most of us bloggers, by definition, ‘losers’? We sit around and write about whatever we want…often nothing. I’d like to think I’m breaking the mold on that, but maybe I’m not. Either way, I’m fine with it, but you calling me a loser is approximately the same as me calling you angry.

So, you keep making your angry Anonymous comments if that’s what makes you happy. No accountability. Just like a looter in the streets covering his face up with the shirt he just stole. Ironic, actually….

I’ll be happy being a loser with a valid point.

And not rioting.