It’s That Time Again!

Go, Habs, Go!Hockey Season!

If you think the average Canadian is nuts about hockey, Montrealers go absolutely psychotic at the mere thought of hockey season. Sure, there are die-hard fans in every NHL city but my hometown’s population has got to take the cake for hockey fixation. Everyday Montrealers’ children are being named Boom Boom Geoffrion, Serge Sevard, Rocket Richard, Patrick Roy, and Guy Lafleur, and those are just the girls’ names!

I have a theory about what causes this fervent loyalty to a team, even among people like myself who wouldn’t know this year’s star forward if he came up and cross checked them right into the boards. Montreal life and culture are fertile media in which to grow hockey fans. Let’s examine some of the characteristics of this fine city’s hockey-promoting influences and some other fun facts.

  • Before The Canadiens adopted Youppi in 2004, the team’s official mascots were real live kids that would skate around with the team during warm-ups and intermissions. In the U.S. children are told that when they grow up they can become President. In Montreal kids aspire to be a Canadien.
  • “Hoser”, a Canadian word meaning “loser”, had its origin in hockey. Many hockey rinks were natural-ice outdoor affairs that had to be maintained by the players themselves between games. So how do you determine who will do the maintaining? The losing team has to do it and this involves spraying the ice with water to build it back up after the three periods of wear and tear. So the losing team members are called “hosers”!
  • It is alleged that some of The Canadiens’ early playoff victories were at least in part due to The Habs sending copious quantities of alcoholic beverage over to the visiting team’s hotel the night before a big game. It’s not as bad as it seems because The Canadiens are also reputed to have sent sufficient numbers of women along to help the visitors consume the refreshments, assuring the visiting team would be fresh for the next day’s match.
  • Growing up in a climate where “frostbite” is not a Dairy Queen treat but a normal part of a child’s routine forces people to turn to hockey arenas for warmth and shelter from the elements.
  • The Easter Bunny brings chocolate pucks and Santa’s clothes are the same colours as The Canadiens’ uniforms — didn’t you ever notice that? Well, young Montrealers do and they associate Saint Nick with hat tricks. Oh yeah, and every smart mall Santa wears “a cup”.
  • The exact same chemical they use to paint the red center and goal lines on the Bell Centre’s (and, formerly, The  Forum’s) skating surface is used in place of Red Dye #25 in every steamé served on the Island of Montreal. [a steamé is a steamed hotdog, a staple in Montreal]
  • The brine that goes into making smoked meat [another Montreal delicacy] and dill pickles has the exact same salinity as a goalie’s uniform after playing three periods of regulation time.
  • Contrary to popular belief, there has never been a hockey riot in Montreal… those were fan-initiated sidewalk sales.
  • A Zamboni would make a wonderful mobile beer cooler, and every Canadiens fan would love to pull up to his friend’s chalet in one so outfitted.
  • A true Montrealer mows his lawn following the same figure-eight path that Zambonis make at The Bell Centre.
  • A Montrealer would do just about anything to just once be able to use the Stanley Cup as a pichet down at the local tav.
  • When The Habs played at the legendary Forum, if the line at the box office window was too long you could always get tickets across the street in “Pigeon Park”. What looked to the uninitiated to be an open-air stock market trading frenzy was actually a bit of Montreal-style scalper salesmanship.

In case you haven’t guessed by now, my team is The Canadiens. Now I’m not saying that your team’s no good, I’m just saying I like mine better and I understand that you probably feel the same way about your team. Let’s face it, if we were to take either of our teams out of the equation, hockey games would be pretty boring, right? So let’s just agree to disagree.

But let’s look at a couple of painless facts, The Canadiens is the NHL’s oldest team and has won more Stanley Cups than anyone else, twenty-four in fact, and were in the finals an additional nine times but didn’t win. The last time they did win was 1993, and I have a funny feeling that this season they’re going to increase their tally of Stanly Cup victories to 25. We’re long overdue!

On a personal note, in ’93 I was living on Atwater Avenue about a kilometer downhill (both geographically and socially) from The Canadiens’ home, The Forum, which was at the corner of St. Catherine Street and Atwater. After the deciding game of the finals was over in L.A., there was a rumbling coming from the street so I looked out the window. There were hundreds of people, some carrying items they picked up at the “We Won The Cup Midnight Sidewalk Sale”, running past my apartment being chased by about a dozen police cars. Montrealers are party animals anyway but when you add a Stanley Cup win to the mix, the celebration reaches critical mass.

If there are two things I hate, it’s rap music and rap musicians’ sampling of old songs from worthwhile genres of music. But, as usual, there is an exception that proves the rule. The song is called “Feels Like ’93” by Annakin Slayd and is an unofficial Canadiens anthem. The song sampled is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ “.

The intro is in French, but the song is in English. For the benefit of those of you who may not speak French, or cannot decipher the Quebec French accent, here’s a translation of the intro.

On that evening in 1944, Montreal defeated Detroit 9 to 1. Maurice Richard scored 8 points — 5 goals and 3 assists. A legend is born.”

Enjoy the video!

And here it is in French, with subtitles so you can sing along.

See you at the playoffs. Go Habs Go!

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About HoaiPhai

I'm up late digging up the dirt. View all posts by HoaiPhai

14 responses to “It’s That Time Again!

  • theplaceswevebeen

    A great post about hockey and its rich history in Montreal. I especially like how you describe the riots. HA! I’m a Leafs fan myself and a serious one at that! I’ll be watching the first game for sure and cheering against you. HA!

    • HoaiPhai

      Thanks a lot! In Montreal we have a joke…

      Q: Where is the redlight district in Toronto?
      A: Right behind the Leafs’ net!

      Sorry about that, nothing personal and you may use it against the Habs if you like (just don’t tell anyone I told you that)! I’d be happy just to keep The Cup in Canada this year.

    • HoaiPhai

      Thanks for your support! I really hope The Canadiens don’t have to face The Dallas Stars in the playoffs…. I don’t think we could take that southern heat in the arena!

  • Bliss

    Eeeew! to the red chemical and brine facts but otherwise I think I may have learned something valuable here today. : )

    • HoaiPhai

      Up here the conditionning from birth situation is sort of like how they bred people in Brave New World. It’s not always pleasant but the results speak for themselves!

  • Martina

    Very interesting! I don’t know much about hockey, apart from when I was in Finland, it’s their no. 1 sport…I’m afraid all we have here is football..yawwwn.. hehe 🙂

  • jennygoth

    hated hockey at school and always faked a bad ankle or other limb lol but then im not a sport person except for walking have a lovely weekend xxjen

    • HoaiPhai

      What I find to be one of the best aspects of professional hockey is that there is an infinitessimally small chance that I’ll get a registered letter at the end of the summer telling me I’ve been drafted and will have to actually play in the upcoming season. As things stand, all I have to do is turn on the TV, open a beer, and eat snacks. As long as nobody comes up with a 4D TV that might fire a stray puck in my face, there is no danger of my getting injured (or even tired) so there’s no reason to start faking excuse notes from my mom, like I used to do to get out of gym class in school.

  • The Hook

    Your passion really shows, my friend! Nice work.

    • HoaiPhai

      Thank you kindly! Whenever my son comes down for a visit, he goes drinking in Thorold with some friends he met there and always wears a Canadien’s jersey… I wonder if they have tooth replacement in Quebec’s version of medicare these days?

  • Back-to-back Honours « HoaiPhai

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