I was a small lad of eight growing up in the NDG neighbourhood of Montréal in 1985. I was aware of the game of hockey as on Saturdays I would be allowed to stay up slightly longer than normal to watch the Montreal Canadiens play a period, and sometimes when I was really lucky, two periods.
But really, my life revolved around Star Wars, G.I. Joe, and little hand-held games by some company called Nintendo. On occasion, someone would wear a Canadiens shirt to school, but all in all the fervour and passion for the team were not immediately apparent in my surroundings.
In the spring of 1986, something started to change. My dad started letting me watch the games in full because, "it's the playoffs." In the first round Montreal swept Boston 3-0 and moved on to face the Hartford Whalers in the Adams Division Final.
The series against Hartford was a back-and-forth affair and required overtime in Game Seven to decide the series winner. For the first time in my life I understood the severity of the situation and became emotionally invested in the Montreal Canadiens. Nervousness had previously been a feeling reserved for waiting my turn to recite something in class or being told to wait in my room while my parents discussed a suitable punishment for something bad I had done.
All of a sudden I was on the edge of my seat, unable to take my eyes off of the television screen...
The next morning the Montreal Gazette had an iconic picture on the front page of Claude Lemieux whipping that backhand home past a surprised Mike Liut. I kept that clipping for about 15 years (sadly I can't find it anywhere online now).
My school became filled with Montreal Canadiens shirts, and the passion grew as the Habs progressed through the playoffs that year, culminating in the Stanley Cup victory.
I was all-in by that point, but it was thatgoal that set me on the path, and a goal I will always remember.