Welcome to the refreshed Habs Eyes on the Prize! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
At EOTP, we also have a series called FanPost Friday which highlights the best community submissions. Feel free to share your thoughts on the team, whether it’s a personal story, analysis of their play, opinion on a topic, or a full-blown rant, and it could be a featured article on the site.
Everyone who knows me has learned that I love hockey. My enthusiasm for it bursts out at odd moments, and once I start talking about it, I have a hard time stopping. I have literally stood for an hour in the freezing cold of an Ontario winter as the sun went down because a friend and I couldn’t stop talking about hockey. I have made an embarrassing amount of real-life decisions based on watching or covering hockey.
But how does a born-and-bred New Yorker now living in Utah, by way of Boston and Toronto, become a die-hard Montreal Canadiens fan? It’s kind of a long story.
You see, I’m a Medievalist. I have both a B.A. and M.A. in Medieval Studies. I love stories, and heroes and warriors are in my soul. So it is perhaps not entirely surprising that the two friends who got me into hockey are both master storytellers, and that we used to joke that hockey is where the knights in armour went. They were, of course, also both Habs fans.
Compared to many people, I haven’t been a serious Habs fan very long. In fact, compared to a lot of people, I haven’t been a hockey fan very long. I missed out on Saku Koivu, Patrick Roy, and Teemu Selanne, Mario Lemieux, and Wayne Gretzky. I only know Jaromir Jagr and Andrei Markov as elder-statesmen, and Marty Brodeur as a really bad goalie.
Brian Gionta was “my captain” because he happened to be the captain of the team I fell in love with, not because I felt strongly one way or the other about him specifically. However, my real love for the team grew around a core of players who figured most prominently in the stories my friends told.
My friend swears she told me stories about Lars Eller and Max Pacioretty when they were rookies, but I honestly don’t remember them, because at the time they were just two more unfamiliar names among 21 others in a sport I knew next to nothing about. However, I do remember the drama when Jaroslav Halak took the starting position from Carey Price, and I hated the Boston Bruins for the hit on Pacioretty years and years before I ever saw it.
Things didn’t really pick up though until the summer of 2012 when the Habs drafted Alex Galchenyuk. That year, my friend began a second, and much more vigorous campaign to make me a real Habs fan.
I heard stories about P.K. Subban’s sizzle, Pacioretty’s well-established and miraculous ability to heal, the antics of the rookie Gallys, the brick wall that is Carey Price, and so, so many stories about Brandon Prust.
Had a bad day? Have a story about the enforcer who looks after our rookies. School getting you down? How about this time when a guy on the Habs went to war for his teammates. Family drama? Look at one of the veterans on our team yelling and laughing and celebrating harder than anyone because one of the kids scored their first goal.
Perhaps it is not surprising that the lover of epics was caught not only by personal stories, but also by the glamour of the NHL’s most storied franchise.
Needless to say, I was completely doomed, but though I was now actively rooting for the team, and keeping track of scores, I had only occasionally watched them play.
That all changed in the spring of 2014.
It wasn’t so much a trip as a pilgrimage. I had poutine for the first time, tramped around the Old Port in the snow, ate a frankly frightening amount of delicious food at a sugar shack, went to Tim Horton’s, and most importantly, visited the Bell Centre.
Unfortunately, the Habs were out of town at the time, but we watched them play Florida and Tampa Bay on television, toured the arena and the museum, and spent far too much money at the team store.
Moreover, Brendan Gallagher, Pacioretty, and Galchenyuk had established themselves as my first favourite Habs players, followed closely (and soon surpassed) by Eller. (Honestly, are you surprised that the girl who did her honours thesis on Beowulf ended up loving the Dane best?)
By the time I got off the train back in New York City at the end of my trip, Pacioretty had scored a hat trick in a 7-4 drubbing of Ottawa, I had three new t-shirts to my name, and I’ve never looked back.
It is entirely unsurprising that I tore through the Habs’ behind-the-scenes reality show 24CH, with it’s flair for the dramatic, and it’s sweeping narratives of players, games, and seasons. By the same token, it is perhaps just as unsurprising that writing about hockey has became one of the main ways that I enjoy it.
Though most of that 2013-14 team is gone, my collection has grown exponentially, and my relationship as a fan of the Habs has become more complicated.
I’m still here for the stories though, and I probably always will be.
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