Where were you on May 17th ,2014?
Ranger Chris Kreider crashed into Carey Price, knocking the star goalie out for the remainder of the game, and more importantly, the series.
Though the Habs fought hard, they eventually faltered to the Rangers, who were then picked apart by the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.
We all held our heads when the Habs lost. We threw our TV remotes, tossed our Subban jerseys into the laundry, and cried like Mike Weaver’s shinbones would if they had tear ducts.
Six months later, I’ve begun to understand that perhaps, as the cliché goes, the hockey gods knew what they were doing.
Montreal rocketed to the top of the standings to begin the new season. Their record was a stellar 6-1, and those wins were awe-inspiring.
Up and down, the team’s statistics were not earth-shattering (its powerplay sat at the bottom of the barrel). But in a time of overthinking analytics and underthinking team play, the Canadiens showed that their untimely ousting last year did not knock them down.
Those hockey gods, hailed as all-powerful in matters such as these, believe in timing.
Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien worked in sync with one another to craft a lineup that is ready to win Canada’s first cup since 1993.
That lineup had an opportunity to redeem its previous incarnation on a Saturday night, October 26, as they took on the Rangers in a significant matchup- for reasons unrelated to hockey.
Where were you on October 21st 2014?
That day, Martin Rouleau drove his car into a pair of soldiers in a Quebec parking lot. One of them died from the injuries.
The attack was grim, and influenced by the growing spectre of international terrorism.
But the week’s horror was not over.
The next day, a gunman caused chaos on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, shooting and killing Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a soldier on guard.
We held our heads. We threw our TV remotes. We cried like the brave people who tried to help Cirillo before he succumbed. What’s more, we were united.
Hockey served as a sanctuary of recovery.
NHL games featuring two American teams played O’ Canada in solidarity. Every team extended its prayers and thoughts to Ottawa, Canada, or Cirillo’s family.
These events provided a blow to Canada, and each Canadian team was put in the middle of a national crisis.
When the Canadiens suited up against the Rangers three days later, the Bell Centre was not only filled with pride for its team, but pride in its country.
Loyalties diminished, as even some diehard Rangers fans were rooting for Canada’s greatest team.
Montreal skated out, and outskated New York. 3-1 Montreal. Final.
Cirillo was a native of Hamilton, Ont., home to the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal’s farm team. The day after the Habs’ victory, his 5-year-old son dropped the puck as the Bulldogs took on the San Antonio Rampage.
The Winnipeg Jets did not have a designated anthem singer in their game that Sunday night, allowing fans to belt it out with no assistance, with each word carrying not new, but revisited, importance.
Hockey galvanized our nation. It healed. It protected. It served its greatest purpose.
Now, as Canadians face this enormous tragedy, their passion and pride are projected onto hockey teams, with the Habs responding positively.
On May 17th, the hockey gods didn’t think Canada was ready for a Cup. On October 26th, as Montreal took on New York, they showed that it needed one.
As the season progresses, the Habs will attempt to keep up their impressive play, in what is now one of the most important seasons for Canadian teams in NHL history.
The hockey gods were not the cause of these catastrophes, but when the game provides all it does for our country, our teams, our communities, our people: it is hard to deny their existence.