The day I fell in love with the Montreal Canadiens, and hockey

Sometimes you choose your sports teams, and sometimes they choose you...

[Note: The following is an edited version of a post that first appeared on The Active Stick. If you've already read that one, read this one anyway, it's much better. If you haven't, then read this one anyway, it's still better.]

This post is the beginning of an ongoing series on Eyes on the Prize wherein the authors will tell you how they came to love the Montreal Canadiens. It is also the beginning of a contest! In order to enter, write your own experience of becoming a fan as a fanpost on EOTP. All those who write a post will be entered into a draw for a Habs t-shirt jersey (shersey) of their choice. The Active Stick encourages you to not choose Rene Bourque. The deadline to enter will be December 1st, so we'll have time to give the winner his or her gift before the holidays.

I did not grow up in Montreal. I was born and raised halfway around the world, where ‘cold' isn't a thing, and I only moved to Montreal at 18. My family spent a considerable number of summers and holidays here, though.
Including one summer almost 20 years ago. One of my many cousins (my family is kind of like a clown car) had taped the entire 1993 Stanley Cup run, and when we came to visit one summer he sat me down and made me watch it.



All I wanted to do was watch Full House reruns but he was having none of that. Those were the days before I decided I could fight anyone, no matter how much bigger than me they were, so he always had the remote. Ten-year-old me started seeing Jacques Demers' big pale face in my nightmares, but over the next few summers, as my cousin made me watch those tapes again and again, Kirk became my dreamboat and Patrick Roy my hero.

Of course, living so far away in the days before the Habs' every move was plastered all over the intertubes, I had no way to ever find out just how badly the years after that 24th Cup went for the Habs. My only exposure to the Montreal Canadiens consisted of tapes of one Stanley Cup run. I just kind of sat around, confident in the knowledge that the Montreal Team Was Better Than All The Other Teams.

For years.

Back home, I discovered two sports I didn't totally suck at and kind of forgot about hockey. You can't really aspire to be the female version of Kirk Muller (dreamboat) when you have no access to an ice rink at all. Wrap your heads around that, Canadian kids... I still can't skate. What I did have access to: football and softball pitches galore (goalkeeper, outfield).

And then I moved to here, to go to McGill University, which is, always has been, and always will be better than Queens University. My first semester was an overwhelming mess of parties, term papers, homesickness, the demise of a high school relationship (and a friendship or two), and no time to watch hockey. Diva me eventually met a new boy, however, who took me to a hockey game on our first date.

That hockey game?

Saku Koivu's return to the team after kicking cancer's ass.

I don't care who you are, if you could be in that building that night and not fall head over heels in love with the game and the team, there is something seriously wrong with you. I remember bursting into tears and having no idea why, cheering so loud my lungs hurt for two days and clapping so hard my palms stayed red for two more.

And of course, the Montreal Team Was Better Than All The Other Teams. How could they not be, if the Captain came back and they won the game and they made the playoffs for the first time in four years all in one night?

That was it for me. I read and watched everything about the Montreal Canadiens I could get my hands on for the next couple of years. The (2004-2005) lockout year was especially convenient for anyone who wanted to catch up on almost a century of history, by the way.

I guess I know a little bit more about hockey now (not really, I'm just better at pretending now) and I love my Habs even more, not less, than I did for those few games they played after I "met" them. I am still not over Saku Koivu being allowed to walk. He is always going to be the reason I fell so hard for the game, even though there have been many other reasons I have stayed in a relationship with it.

I met the love of my life (hockey, not the boy) when I accidentally ended up at the Saku comeback game. I also accidentally ended up at the Centennial game a couple of years ago, as well as some other big games. Which is why I know, I know, one day I will accidentally end up at the game in which the Habs clinch their next Stanley Cup win. So you know who you're taking if you accidentally get tickets.

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