It’s no easy thing being a Montrealer.
You’ve got potholes en masse, highway detour signs that will keep you driving in circles for hours, and a transit system that’s just about as reliable as having your name spelled correctly on a Starbucks cup. Or maybe that’s just me. When people can’t pronounce your name properly, the chances of them spelling it correctly are pretty bleak. But I digress.
Montreal is like that girlfriend who was a complete detriment to your mental health but you could never seem to leave. Hell, maybe you’re in that relationship now. You argue on the daily, you never manage to see eye to eye, her mixed messages border on passive-aggressive, and most of your conversations end in yelling and screaming that it’s over and you’re never coming back.
And yet.… Here you still are.
Yeah, Montreal will drive you absolutely insane on most days, but no one has ever made you feel quite as alive, quite as in love as she has.
Hey, I would know. I grew up here, and have my own tumultuous relationship with la ville de Montréal to show for it.
I’ve had to reroute my commute so as to not get lost and/or trampled in a sea of carrés rouges protesting tuition hikes, I’ve been stuck mid-metro tunnel in a dark, unmoving train, and I have spent the majority of my life cheering for the Montreal Canadiens.
I grew up watching hockey on Saturday nights with my mom, who did the same with my grandmother in her hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick. My lullaby of choice was The Hockey Theme, and I’d harp about Saku Koivu, my favorite player, to almost anyone who would listen to my six- and seven-year-old selves.
I was three years old the last time the Stanley Cup called Montreal home, so I can’t come in here and say, “I remember when … ,” but it’s not all that difficult to imagine the bubbling emotion and excitement followed by extreme elation in this city 24 years ago. I’ve certainly felt the first two (followed by crushing defeat) my fair share of times.
I’ve watched this city spring back to life in mid-April, and I’ve felt the electricity of Montreal’s love for their hockey team connect and unite complete strangers on game nights. I’ve seen riots in the streets. I’ve seen people crying, yelling, and chanting “Go, Habs, Go!” like their very lives depended on it.
I’ve seen this city pour every ounce of passion they could muster into cheering on le Tricolore even though every season since 1993 has ended in disappointment. Yet every October, we come back just as hopeful as the last, ready to olé our boys to victory. You might call us masochists, but we call ourselves Habs fans.
Montreal is a beautiful city with so much to offer, but it is just not the same without hockey bringing us all together.
I’ve seen the wind knocked out of this city when the season collapsed. I’ve seen Montrealers head into sunnier weather with a noncommittal shrug of their shoulders because they can no longer continue to watch their favourite team in a crowded, jittery bar with floors sticky from the beer that erupted from their patrons’ steins after a game-tying goal.
Maybe this year will be different. Maybe this year we’ll go all the way.
I don’t want to head into the playoffs making bold predictions, because we all know just about anything can happen once the pucks drop tonight. But despite my cynicism, I am hoping for a good, deep run, and I believe this team, as they are, can make that happen. They have certainly proven they’ve got the fight they need to take them that far, anyway.
All this is to say I know where I’ll be at 7 PM tonight, and every other night the Montreal Canadiens take to the ice this year. Cheering, yelling, crying … and maybe if you listen hard enough when Max Pacioretty or Alex Galchenyuk scores a goal to give the Canadiens the lead, or Carey Price makes an insane save to keep his team in the game, you might just hear me whisper.
Ça sent la coupe!