Allow me to take a break from recapping, discussing even strength metrics or advanced statistics. To take a break from dissecting the players, the coaches, wondering went wrong, and what to do next. Allow me to just enjoy the moment.
At the end of every Habs playoff game, I get a phone call. Most of the conversations go something like this, give or take a few details:
Me: Hey Dad, great/bad game tonight.
Dad: Yeah, they played well/tried hard/played like khara (aka: crap).
Me: Yeah! Price/Pacioretty/P.K were amazing/soft/sucked.
Dad: It was a big win/tough loss.
Me: I’m excited/depressed.
Dad: Me too, let’s hope they can keep it going/bounce back in the next one.
Me: Yalla Pops, have a good night and go Habs go!
My Dad calls me almost as soon as the final horn sounds. I began to look forward to having that short conversation more than the game itself. You see, as you get older you learn more about yourself, more about life, and more about what is really important. I love the Habs, and that love was instilled in me by watching hours and hours of games with my father while I was growing up.
During this playoff run, while I was obsessing about various superstitions (Which hat to wear? What seat was I sitting in during the previous win? Do I put my left shoe on first? Do I wear shoes?? Did I pray to Zeus or Odin last game??! Should I breathe at all for 5 hours??!!), I was forgetting that the game is just that…a game. Ultimately, given all our superstitions, complaining, and over analyzing, nothing we do has a bearing on the games…that the best part of it all is that you can share it with people – whether it’s strangers at a bar, a random honk in traffic at Habs fans cheering on the sidewalk, meeting up with friends, or speaking with your father at the end every game. During the Habs’ current playoff run, I got so caught up in the x’s and o’s, in the routine, that I had lost sight of the whole reason I started this blog in the first place.
Six years ago I wrote a note that would eventually become the first real post on this blog. I posted the “The Pursuit of Habbyness” last year after numerous years of prodding and encouragement from friends to do so. It wasn’t meant as anything other than a spontaneous feeling that I wrote down to show my love for the Habs and my sometimes extreme support of the team, but it also spoke to the deeper meaning that the team can have on a city, creating bonds between people, and how the love of sports and a team can be passed down from father to son.
Two days ago, the Montreal Canadiens were eliminated from the 2014 playoffs. After defying the odds and fighting back from the brink elimination multiple times, the Habs ran out of gas – their bodies unable to to do what they so desperately wanted in their hearts. Watching the players hang their heads as they skated off the ice for a final time, I was overcome by emotion. I mean, yeah, I was sad but I was also damn proud of this team. I called my Dad before he could call me this time. I just needed to speak to with him to talk about the game and to tell him that although the Habs may have played their worst game of the playoffs, there was nothing to be ashamed of – they gave it their all during the playoffs. As always, my Dad was direct (“they sucked tonight”) but focused on some positives (“that Tokkharinski is pretty good!”) and finally said that it was a good run and he enjoyed it. So did I, and so did countless other Habs fans in this city and across the world. The Habs just had their most electrifying post season run in 20 plus years. That’s an amazing thing to be a part of as a fan. To be in this city for the last 6 weeks was inspiring and provided a glimmer of hope for what Montreal could be like…should be like. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a number of fans and media not waste too much time lamenting the loss, pointing fingers, whining, or launching complaints at certain players. Instead they applauded the Habs for their effort and success, for giving this city something to unite over; for providing, both old and new fans with so many new memories that will remind us of why we love this team, and why Montreal is the best hockey city in the world.
For all the fans who are unable to get over it yet; those fretting all our off season moves; those who still want to dwell on a failed clearing pass or missed assignment; let it go. Allow that sadness or disappointment to transform into appreciation and hope for the future. Just remind yourselves of why you watch the games. Yes, you always want your team to win of course, but it’s also to enjoy the game – to see your friends, to sit down with your parents or children, and spend a few hours with them while watching the game. Remind yourselves about new people you’ve met during this playoff run; strangers become friends; that cute girl or guy in the Koivu jersey maybe becomes a boyfriend or girlfriend. Remind yourselves of all the young Habs fans who don’t think Gallagher or Desharnais are too small, who don’t think Price or P.K. have a weakness, who wanted the Habs to win because they’re the “good guys” and the good guys always win in cartoons…and then remind yourselves that you used to think that way once too. I know it’s hard. I’m prone to falling into the despair trap, and during the games, I forgot to breathe, and paced so much at the local bar that I had to warn people not to fall into the trench I created. But hockey is not life – it only seems that way in this city. And like many other things in life, if you aren’t enjoying it…you aren’t doing it right.
If you don’t want to do that, if you don’t want to let the moment sweep you away and enjoy the ride for what it is…then think about this. Eller, Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Pacioretty, Price and Subban are all under the age of 26. If you want, you can throw in Beaulieu, Tinordi, Bournival, Tokarski, even Weise into that mix. Think about the deep prospect pool the Habs have built (I’m personally excited about De La Rose). Think about how the Habs got to within two wins of the Stanley Cup finals! This was a team that some analysts predicted wouldn’t make the playoffs! A few analysts picked them to lose to the Lightning in the first round! Almost ALL analysts (and one awesome blogger) picked them to lose to the Bruins! The future is bright, not just on the ice but in the offices as well. Bergervin and his team should also be commended and listed as another reason for Habs fans everywhere to feel good about the future of this team.
I’m excited, and I hope that the next decade gives my son and countless other kids the chance to build their own memories, and develop their own love for the game and the Montreal Canadiens…with a little help from their fathers of course.
Go Habs Go. Le Canadiens forever.