Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Day After 2 Birthdays

I watched the Canadien's ceremony before their 100th anniversary came against the Boston Bruins and I was touched by the pregame skate with all the old timers. For me in my generation I got very excited when I saw 33 Patrick Roy pull down his mask to take a few shots on goal. And again for Dryden when he took his place between the bars. Seeing all of these legends out on the ice that had filled so many stories my dad would tell in my childhood, brought something special on the day that also is my 25th birthday.
Ron Mclean did what every non francophone commentator in hockey has done so well since probably 1909. He tried challenged the franchise on the one night no one is really going to give a non fired up answer. Dryden thoughtfully answered some questions and I know at least one answer made the anglo announcers take pause.
Dryden said that the problem with the current habs did not lie with the weakness of the players, but they have been concentrating so hard on the past that they were unable to celebrate their own story and their own future. When I look back I do see all those moments in my life when being a habs fan has really improved my life. win or lose. Also the fact I'm now 25 means I'm allowed to look back on that as well.
For me the Canadiens are more than just hockey. They are a family. They are the stories my Dad and Grandma would tell on a Saturday night while we watched Roy and the crew make a run for the 93 cup. Stories about my family gathering around the TV to watch the game. When the games weren't on TV they would tune into french radio stations to listen to the game when all of the big names were playing.
Its also a team of friendship. I remember spending a night every year in the holidays playing road hockey with my highschool friends. One team wearing Habs jerseys, the other team going without jerseys at all. We had enough away jerseys to outfit everyone. I remember evening classes with Tyler, school interfered with the hockey schedule so the only logical thing to do was listen to the game in one ear and look to be paying attention. French internet audio feeds. And once and a while someone would hit the table, or we'd give a little cheer in the middle of class. We may not have been great students but we shared the love for a team and a game which defined Tyler and I both.
I called my dad last night to thank him for my gifts and to see if he were watching the game. He told me a story about a drive he was making to Sault Ste. Marie. "I had to stop and watch the game," he said, explaining about how he went into the bar alone on a Saturday night right off the highway. "The score at the end of the second period was 5-2, I though about leaving, but I don't do that. I never used to change the channel, I always watch to the end. And you know what? I'm pretty sure Lafleur and those guys won 7-5 or something like that." I don't know if my dad could hear it in my voice as we kept talking but the story moved me. Hockey and the Montreal Canadiens have become part of who I am as a Canadian and who I am as a MacDonald and Norman.
The team is more than it's past players and its current woes. For a lot of Canadians across the country it is part of their families and friends. Its a thumb in the eye of every Toronto Maple Leafs giftset found in stores without another Canadian team alternative. It is a proud part of who we are as a nation. Before money changed the game with expansions. I was very happy with the win last night, but mostly I'm just happy I could share the game with my family and friends through the long distance that separated us this year on my birthday.

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