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Guest Post: Why we watch

Paul Campbell writes for InGoal Magazine, is a goaltending enthusiast, and passionate Habs fan.

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Down three games to none, then three games to one, they ask you why you bother watching, how you can still naively hope or dream this team with all its flaws could overcome a hill too steep for anyone to climb. You know the odds but still you watch; you know exactly why.

To be a Leafs fan, they say, it helps to have a short memory. To be a Habs fan, it helps to have a long one.

You are eight and delighted because bedtime was two hours ago and your dad is excited (he is never excited) with you there on the couch in the game. He is cheering for red and you ask "who are they?" and he says "the Canadiens" and you ask "why?" and he looks at you in that way that lets you know it's important and tells you that his father cheered for them and you nod and you know: this is like your last name he gave you to carry forever.

You liked Steve Penney but he gets hurt so you become Patrick Roy when you play for the Cup every day after school on the road. You watch with your dad, and you both die every time we lose (it's we because they are part of you now). "He's just like Ken Dryden" "who is that?" and he tells you the story so you find his book and use it for a school report but you take 20 minutes (you had five) because you love it so much you can't stop.

The last night you are winning and you've never felt like this birthdays or Christmas and the TV is roaring you wince when they shoot but he stops it and everyone cheers and you cheer and stand up because you can't remember ever sitting and you replay the saves to your dad and he laughs and they're still winning but now you're so tired and eyes close for a moment and awaken next morning. "You missed it" Dad tells you, and you ask him who won and he tells you we did and you cry because you're so happy but so sad you missed it and he tells you you'll catch it next time.

So you watch

You are nine and ten and it is hard but when you are eleven it is impossible because you lose in the finals and you see Every. Single. Second. and you cry again but there is no happiness in it this time. God Damn you Lanny McDonald his great moustache haunting your sleep.

You learn of the Rocket, the Pocket, Gentleman Jean, but the greatest is Jacques Plante whose book you run to the school library to read so much they just give it to you. They are your ancestors.

You are 15 and you watch still determined but hardened a little and more pessimistic but always, a little, still eight and excited up late in your room on the old black and white needing pliers to switch it from English to French (you've learned hockey French and the American anthem). They lose to Quebec, and again, but we answer, and win, then keep winning it's murder all overtime half asleep getting bombarded so tired in school. How can a boy hold his breath for an hour? Still wincing, almost despairing as they shoot and they shoot but he stops them and every time, a single chance, a lone rush the other way, and the restless inhalations of the crowd (on earphones) unites in a rush of purely electricly magical will. And he scores (et la but)! You did not know you could bear this ten times and you knew that all things end and you knew they surely couldn't win this way again but they do every time and when they push that giant silver perfect trophy into the air you see it all, and every bit of guarded doubt is burned forever from your heart. Every part of you believes.

Now you're nearly 40 with statistics and a thousand cynics screaming at the referee and coach and anyone who'll listen. But even though you know they aren't exactly wrong you know it doesn't matter. When the game comes on again you'll watch and as the red team takes the puck and needs to score to keep the game alive you'll rise, and hope, and be again the boy you cannot help becoming in the game.