Wednesday, December 21, 2011


It's been a few days and I've gotten my thoughts together. The week has been tumultuous in Habsville, extended beyond the hockey world, and I've got to have my say.

Less than a week after Twitter produced such a positive aura, where so many of us bonded together in outrage over a cruel and uninformed article, my timeline was once again filled with debate, argument, patronizing and dissension.

From a city whose passion is so strong for its team has come a firing/hiring and polarizing issue which has little, if any, relevance to the game we all adore.

Waking up Saturday morning, finding out the Habs had fired Coach Jacques Martin, I avoided Twitter. I was among those who did not feel the coach was the problem. I actually hated the calls for his head on a platter, and was as outspoken as I could be without being able to discuss every nuance of the game. All I knew was that, from the human point of view, the man was doing a job that also depended on a crew of others to execute it for him. Did I understand the decisions he had to make? Not really. I did have others explain them (e.g. time-on-ice decisions, special teams assignments, healthy scratches, etc). But I still could not believe that professional hockey players would underperform in order to show their disdain for a coach. I - perhaps naively - thought that no matter the coach, the team would play to win. Every, single time.

They may. As a Habs fan, I believe they do. I have to. But then, December 17th, the management of our team showed they believed otherwise, and decided to change coaches.

First issue I had to deal with that day was my compassion for the man himself. I felt terrible for him. I was told, "nevermind, he's got $1,000,000 firing bonus, he'll be fine." But somehow I believed that the money, to Jacques Martin, was never an issue. I believed he cared more about the game, not about his wallet. (Does the money help? Of course! But in so many people, there is a calling for the position and that supersedes the pay check).

I felt awful that he was spending Christmas out of work. Again, scoffed at by those dancing in the streets who said it didn't matter. Again, my above argument was negated by many who dismissed it as my being new to the game, new to the culture, and Mr. Martin's comfy nest egg.

Dave Stubbs wrote a beautiful article which expressed, better than I could, exactly what I had been feeling. And I felt the debate would, perhaps, die down.

But then, the Uproar. The Habs now have an interim coach, Randy Cunneyworth, who is - ready for this shocker? - an Anglophone. Worse, an Anglo who is not bilingual! (I hear the gasps)

Those reading this who are either non-Quebecois, non-Canadian, or unaware of this issue, Quebec is a primarily French province, though Canada's TWO official languages are French and English. There has been an unwritten rule that the Habs do not have a unilingual coach. Coach must be able to speak both languages, or he isn't considered. It's one of the reasons we did not see Kirk Muller as a future head coach for us; no one was fooled by the fact that he was always involved, effective, and obviously liked and respected by all, including players. We all knew Captain Kirk would never be able to take the podium as head coach, because he is an Anglo.

But I don't think anyone could have predicted the maelstrom to follow. Perhaps it was hinted at when Coach Cunneyworth, along with GM Pierre Gauthier, sat in front of cameras and recorders for a pre-game (FIRST game, to be clear) interview. French media directed questions only at Mr. Gauthier, while Randy got English questions from English press. And (too) many of those French questions focused on the fact that the new Coach was unilingual. If that wasn't bad enough, it was becoming a topic du jour on Twitter, where well-known French media personalities were posting actual disappointment over the hiring.

It got worse. It became a Story that spread to the rest of Canada (which highlighted the story Monday morning on Canada A.M.) and then to CNN, an American 24-hour news channel! Why? Because the Government of this province stated, clearly, its objections to Coach Cunneyworth at the helm. The government!!!

When the Montreal French-language newspaper, Le Journal de Montréal, published Tuesday, after a 2nd loss for the Habs under Coach Cunneyworth's regime, the front page was astounding. Not only was the headline, in HUGE letters, "Inacceptable" in French, there was another headline, below, in English: "Another Loss For Cunneyworth". This newspaper, as Québecois as any French-Canadian, made an obvious statement with its English headline. The poll it quotes, on the front page, states that 72% of Quebec is against a unilingual coach. Obviously a skewed poll, as I'm sure they didn't quite conduct a scientific study.

So the issue emerged on Twitter (where much of my Habs-related discussions take place): do you want a coach who will win, or a coach who will speak French? The consensus was the former, but would those who stood for the latter actually stand up? It is hard to tell, and yet, the undercurrents are growing.

We were asked, "will the language debate die down once the team starts to win?" I stated my opinion that no...those decrying this hiring were doing so before the coach took the bench for his first game wearing the hat. This isn't going away, win or lose, and that's the point I believe should be examined. Those who are more ingrained in the language issue are less involved in the sport. Otherwise, it wouldn't matter one bit if the coach spoke one, two, or three languages! As Habs fans, should winning, success, and future victories not be at the core of EVERY issue?

We may debate the lines a coach puts on the ice, we may debate the pairings and we may debate how much time-on-ice rookies are being given. But we do so because we want to see winning lines, winning pairings, and winning players make the difference between smiles and disappointments. Not because one is English, one is Russian, one may be younger, or one is African-American. We love our team because of the passion we feel for the game, not because of their individual make-up. We embrace the differences of our team players, we celebrate their individuality, but when they are on the ice, they are Our Team. Not Pacioretty, A.K., Louis or PK. We see them as a unit, working together to net the goals and tip the scales in favor of Habs wins.

So why should it matter what language our coach speaks? If he can motivate the team to work hard, if he can conduct drills in practices that strengthen and develop their skills, if he can find winning combinations of 5-player hockey, penalty-kill hockey, and power-play hockey, all to reach the end goal of scoring more than the opponent, does it matter if he can conduct a press conference in English only?

I acknowledge, respectfully and proudly, our two solitudes. I acknowledge that Habs hockey is ingrained in our culture, and that culture includes French and English. But the most immediate issue at hand for our Habs (OUR Habs, people) is the fact that we're finding it hard to keep leads, and win games. I'd like to see my Province NOT mocked on international news shows. I'd like to see people once again bonding together over hockey, not distracted by sub-issues. I'd like to see this Province give Coach Cunneyworth the respect he deserves for stepping into big shoes, faced with struggles on the ice, and for being at the center of a long-standing debate that will not go away if, or when, he is no longer with the organization.

This is about hockey. Language can wait.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Power of People

Something very powerful happened tonight. Around suppertime, a column was released that had mostly everyone shocked by its insensitivity and controversial finger pointing. I immediately blogged about it because I had to express my feelings and share them. Writing, for me, has always been a catharsis, a release, a therapy as well as a creative and intellectual process. I posted my blog on twitter, and was immediately met with people RT'ing (retweeting) it. I'm always honored when people do that because it is a peer recognition that never gets old.

I had people responding to me, both in my timeline and in private, and again, the compliments were as wonderful from the first to the last. It always moves me deeply to be able to touch another human heart with my writing.

We were also given a window to another heart. Julie V, metricjulie on Twitter. She posted her letter to Pat Hickey as well, revealing her own survival of sexual abuse. It is candid, heartfelt, knowledgeable and powerful. And we were given the info that the evening radio show on a local station would feature this topic, as well as a call from Julie.

I tuned in. And before the show began, well before, there were those who joined in the dialogue about what the article had done to us, for us, and what we wanted to see happen. For most, besides a retraction and apology, we wanted to see this topic become less taboo, more talked about and action taken to empower the victims/survivors.

The show began, and Julie was magnificent. She spoke about how the article had made her feel, and we all bonded yet again on Twitter as we listened to a fellow Habs fan/tweeter. Then another caller was on the line. Daniel, a fellow Habs fan, a tweeter I did not follow but whose tweets I had seen RT'd from time to time. He was inspirational. Daniel talked about his own sexual assault at the hands of his father, and mentioned how hard it is to go to the authorities when something like that happens. He said something that broke my heart: he said he knew his sister was being victimized as well, and said "I guess that makes me guilty like Pat Hickey says."

I won't talk about the article here but I was starting to see how it could have a negative effect on people.

I will talk about the positive. Suddenly, I was drawn to Daniel's story, and to his strength, and immediately hit "follow" on his twitter account. I tweeted (and followed) Julie, thanking her as well.

And a conversation ensued. We were listening to the show, where dialogue was serious, important, and open. We were bonding on twitter, with people we were listening to as well as reading (from the hosts to the callers). We were resolving to make this world better by taking action when we could, bringing awareness as we can, and just making life more positive by dismissing negativity.

I tweeted: "Folks, we are witnessing something very powerful here tonight." I felt like literally group hugging the people I was in conversation with, some I'd known from before, some I had just begun to follow on Twitter. I felt this light being lifted from what had been a confusing, dark mood, and I saw that the power of people - brought together by social media and a polarizing force - is stronger than any attempt to tear others down.

I read people tweeting Theo Fleury in support, in solidarity, and in thanks for his voice in this area. And I felt more hopeful about the future of humanity brought together by strengths, resolve, survival, and yes, technology.

What is even better is that this is only the beginning. I know those I spoke with tonight will keep up the good fight. And this gives me hope, most of all, for the future my children are going to experience.

Thank you to James, Cathie, Dave Kaufman (whose show highlighted this topic tonight), Marc, and Jay - as well as the aforementioned Julie and Daniel. I will have closed my computer with an incredible sense of optimism. So many nights, during or after Habs games, that is not present. Tonight, drawn together by a common outrage and concern, we transcended the world of hockey in support of those among us who represent so much more. I will not forget tonight. I look forward to these new friendships forged from words on a page and transformed to hearts connected.

Peace to all - I've got your backs!

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Open Letter to Pat Hickey

(photo courtesy of

Today, the Montreal Gazette posted a column by resident sports writer, Pat Hickey. I like Mr. Hickey, I think his analysis of hockey (which is the sport I follow) is very keen and he knows what he is talking about.

But today's column, about NHL'er Theo Fleury, goes beyond the pale. Mr. Hickey has crossed the line by blaming the victim of sexual assault (Mr. Fleury) and he says some inflammatory, ugly and accusatory things.

I have emailed Pat Hickey (whose email can be found in the above link) and will post the letter here. I urge readers to follow my lead, and the lead of others who have already done so, and write Mr. Hickey asking for a retraction and an apology. We have to stand up for those brave victims of ANY abuse, or we will see fewer and fewer come forth. Praise them, don't criticize them.

My letter:

Mr. Hickey,

I am dismayed and disappointed by your column of December 12, 2011, entitled Theo Fleury hypocritcal for blasting justice system's handling of Graham James case. You display an utter lack of sensitivity and knowledge on the topic of sexual assault victims that not only shows a deep insensitivity but criticizes a man we should be lauding as a hero.

You claim that Theo Fleury has no right to be angry that James is free on bail because he, Fleury, did not report the coach's crimes of sexual assault. You claim that Fleury remained silent because of his status as a hockey celebrity, and that he didn't show courage. Mr. Hickey, do YOU know that this is the exact reason Theo Fleury remained silent? Do YOU know his state of mind, heart, emotions, or thoughts when it came to speaking up?

You say that "nobody should question Fleury's decision to remain silent" and yet, you criticize him for doing so. A double standard? A dangerous one, in my opinion.

Yes, if he had come forth sooner, James might have received a harsher sentence. But the fact is, sir, he did NOT. For his own reasons. And yet, instead of applauding him for speaking up at all, you denigrate him for not doing so in a timely manner.

As anyone who has been the victim of any assault will tell you, there is a sense of shame, of stigma, of guilt, confusion and terror that are all wrapped up in the aftermath of being victimized. Victims sometimes feel they may have done something to encourage, or deserve the assault and nothing could be further from the truth.

And yet, you purport to know why Mr. Fleury remained silent. Unless he has stated those reasons himself, unless he told you personally, how can we even know? And no matter the reasons, can anyone on this side of the fence blame him??

So often, victims remain in the realm of their abusers; there is a fear that cannot be defined. No one has the right to state that there is a prescribed reaction time or fashion; every victim is different, every victim suffers in his/her own way and no one can be faulted for reacting differently from another in the same situation. Yet, you blatantly compare Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Fleury, stating one is the hero and the other, the enabler. THAT, Mr. Hickey, is the most appalling of all. You have, in effect, blamed the victim here. Has Theo Fleury not suffered enough? Now he has to absorb your accusations and perhaps struggle with another form of guilt? Do you not think he has already questioned having stayed silent for so long?

You write as though you know Fleury's state of mind. You state he must know the meaning of the word "enabler" - how can you put yourself in his shoes unless you, yourself, have walked his path? How can any of us?

Furthermore, you state "...if we have to find a poster boy for abuse, we can do better than Theoren Fleury." Let me counter: we need no "poster boy" for abuse. Your flippancy astounded me.

But I will counter with more: Theo Fleury, on Twitter and in the public eye, has brought awareness to the topic of sexual abuse (not only in sports but everywhere) in ways that others cannot. He has used his celebrity and his ability to interact with social media to make sure the world knows how insidious a practice sexual assault is, how it must be stopped, and how to help recognize victims. I say, if we DID need a poster boy for abuse, give me Theoren Fleury any day! At least he is using his celebrity for some good, instead of slamming others who are not yet strong enough to come forth!

Mr. Hickey, in my opinion, you must retract your column. You must not only apologize to Theoren Fleury, but to victims of assault and abuse everywhere. To let this column stand would be a travesty of journalism, of decency, and of humanity.

Lissa Albert
Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Doomsday for the Habs!

It's the cusp of 2012. The Year Of The End Of Days. Okay, maybe the Mayans were off by 12 months. Maybe we're seeing it now.

After all, the Habs have lost more than they've won, they can't beat even the puniest teams, and they're hardly in playoff position at 2 points shy of a spot. The coach is letting his ship sink without so much as a Titanic effort to lock himself in the control room and go down with the rats. The manager is remaining as quiet as the Ghost he is often called, and where is the owner of the team? Taste-testing his beer? Wake up, guys, this is DOOMSDAY!

Now. Everyone take a breath. Our Habs haven't done what we'd hoped - nay, expected of them this season. They haven't dominated, they haven't dazzled, hell, they haven't even won! So let's just bury 'em in the rubble of their failings and go find us another team, huh?


We can be the true Habs fans we are so proud to embody: we can bemoan the losses, analyze the failings, certainly cry in our bières and then look forward to the next game with the hope and optimism that comes from believing in a team - not just any team, OUR team.

We can stop calling for heads to roll. We can stop marking the end of a season that is barely 2 months old. We can definitely STOP making blasphemous comparisons between our team and *shudders* the Leafs.

And we can band together and support a team that is obviously struggling. After all, what's the worst that can happen if we do that, we'll be disappointed with a loss? Look at the BEST that can happen: we can celebrate as a cohesive fanbase, supportive of our team, proud when they win, and accepting when they lose.

I know what will greet me when this blog gets posted:

  • We are deserving of a better team.

Of course we are. Every fan is. Do we have a team that sucks? I, for one, am not prepared to say that. I never am. And never will.

  • You need to be realistic, not so optimistic all the time.

Maybe I AM being realistic. I see the team's struggling, I'm sad when we lose, and I sure as hell would like to see the world hold my Habs in the high esteem we've enjoyed before. But there are worse qualities than optimism, folks.

  • Statistically, we have no chance of making playoffs.

Statistical rules were made to be broken. Our Habs have broken many in the past and will do so again. And - worst comes to worst - if we don't make playoffs? Next year is another year. At least we've enjoyed playoffs for so many years when other teams are resigned to never seeing post-season play. Constantly. Chronically. And a new season, new lessons learned, not such a dismal future.

  • We're the Habs, we should be better, with our history, our longevity and our experience.

And ya know what I say to that? We're Habs fans. We're strong and proud, we're together and loud, we're historically known too. Are you ready to silence your voice? Are you going to crawl under a rock of shame because the team is struggling? Do you not want to be part of something positive instead of wallowing in every loss? Are you ready to throw YOUR team under the proverbial bus?

  • Shut up.

Well, there are those who will think, post, repeat that retort. And that one has no answer, so I won't even bother. Oh, and I won't shut up.

I will NOT bury my team. I will - realistically - admit that we've turned in some dismal performances. What, you've never bombed on a test before, only to go onto graduation? Pick yourselves up, loyal fans, stand with the proud and the optimistic, it's lighter on this side, and we have cookies (even if they DO cost $12 at the Bell Centre)! And if you want to boycott games, I will gladly relieve you of your sucky tickets to see a sucky team suck. </tongue-in-cheek>

Two more things:



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Finally - A Collective Sigh of Relief

(Pic courtesy of Habs Talk Radio

As I write, the smile is plastered across my face. My Habs broke the slide and won their first home game of this season, their 2nd win. This game was overdue but I believe things happen for a reason. What the reason is, we may never know. But it isn't important. I think we all learned something from the last couple of weeks.

We learned what it feels like to lose, too many times. That doesn't feel good but in many ways, it banded many of us together. I saw tempers flare, confidence shattered, and people snapping for really no reason. But I also saw fans digging DEEP for the belief in our team, never ever giving up or giving out. Never losing faith or hope that the Habs would come back. And sharing that loyalty with others in both camps.

And come back, they did. Winning 5-1 over the Philadelphia Flyers (now, at least throughout this season, to be known as The Team The Habs Beat), a team many had said would beat us easily. Our guys played hard, constant, fast and aggressive hockey, never letting up on the pressure, and you could FEEL the desperation to win. And the last 10 seconds, P.K. Subban dipsy-doodling with the puck in our zone, running the seconds down, wanting to be the first to congratulate his friend Carey Price and hand him the game puck for his 100th win (which had eluded him this season so far) - that was sweet giddy laughter that felt SO good to emote!

The firing-the-coach talk still continues, despite the surprise firing of A.C. Perry Pearn announced just 90 minutes before the game. I am not engaging in that talk, nor have I ever. It's all about the game, belief in the team, and the victory.

Now, one win at a time. We face the Bruins next, tomorrow and Saturday. Do I think we can win? I sure do! Because I have an undying loyalty for my team, and a neverending store of positive energy to send their way. I have seen others cautiously happy for the win ("we still only won 2 this season" and "it's only 1 win") and I get that too - can't get too confident, though it's not as strong as my abject conviction that we have what it takes and will get the job done.

But it's the team that will take this momentum and drive the point home: We are the Habs. We are the most storied, oldest and most Cup-winning franchise in the League. And NO ONE can keep us down for very long!

Go Habs Go - and well done, guys, you did an awesome job of rejuvenating this city and your fans!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Late to the Party: Through My Eyes

Sometimes, when you walk into a party later into the evening, you see things differently. By the time you arrive, the guests are pleasantly tipsy, or all-out drunk, they've eaten, they've mingled, they've become Part of the Crowd. Your presence may or may not register, but you are on the periphery no matter how many people you may know.

But your perspective is unique. You aren't tipsy. Your vision isn't clouded by alcohol or revelry. You may see what's there more clearly, or you may take your objectivity and turn it into your own story to write. You may feel left out or you may enjoy the separation between the Group and yourself.

The above analogy describes my experience in this, my 2nd season as a Habs fan. I commune with other Habs fans on Twitter, and can discuss only within my limited knowledge of hockey culture. I ask questions, learn and absorb, but my knowledge is also fed to me via the very subjective opinions of die-hard fans. I listen to people like Dave Stubbs, Brian Wilde and Michael Farber for the professional points of view - and sometimes I need them to tell me what/how to feel. For example, my question this depressing season so far has been, "should I panic?"

I've been told by the die-hards on Twitter that yes, I should panic (I'm not ready to do so). The Habs won't make playoffs, we're already too far out of playoff position. I've been told it's the coach's fault, the manager's fault, and in my
naiveuninformedinexperienced exposure to the game, I don't know that I can believe that 100%. I don't see the coach missing open nets, or giving up goals. Does he make a difference? I know that much to be true. But I don't believe the players are losing because he's "lost the room" or is unemotional.

So I try to keep positive. I don't believe firing the coach is the answer. (But what do I know?) I don't believe players on the ice are showing lackluster performance because they hate the coach or refuse to play for him or aren't communicating with him. You can take the conductor away from the orchestra but if they've played together long enough, the piece will be as flawless as if there were a baton directing them.

I find tempers flaring on social media. I see fans turning on the team - booing and swearing at them at the Bell Centre, calling them out via social media. With each one, I get more defensive of my Habs, from the players to the management. I try not to speak about things I don't know or cannot speak of with any authority. Like the new girl in a foreign school, I latch onto posts of those like-minded individuals whose opinions validate mine. My positivity and upbeat optimism seems to rankle others who would prefer to believe the worst. I state my opinion but fear my voice of inexperience diminishes the message.

What I do know is emotions. And humanity. And while I don't know that our losing streak is a surefire bet against even making the playoffs (because my logical mind doesn't get that, with 74 games left till the April playoffs, that fact can even be determined), and I tend to eschew statistics (being a researcher gives me the right to question EVERY stat), I can only speak as a loving and loyal fan: I Believe. And no matter what it takes, or how long it takes, I know the Habs can come back and show us what we know they're made of - they are mes Canadiens de Montréal, and they'll regroup!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Reaping Rewards in Rivalry

When I answered the call to enter Eric Engels's blog-writing contest ("what does the Habs/Bruins rivalry mean to you?"), I enjoyed writing the piece I did. I always love writing, and the excuse to do so. It was easy to access the content of that blog; it was in my heart, and in very recent memory of Habs/Bruins incidents from last season.

When I won, it was an amazing feeling - I love writing, and writing about hockey isn't something I can do like Eric, or any of the other bloggers I love to read; I can't do stats, I can't do history, I can't even talk about play or action, at least not with the expertise that comes from longevity as a fan and keen knowledge of the game and the culture. But I CAN write about the human factor, I can access that which we all share and I can write about hockey in that vein, no problem. Having my blog published as Eric's gameday blog, as well as many of my Twitter friends taking the time to read, retweet, and comment on my blog and my win, was heady! To be rewarded (and so complimented!) on my writing sweetens the satisfaction of writing, and I believe I will be starting a new blog shortly. Details to follow.

But tonight, the rivalry between the Habs and Bruins rewarded me, and my sons. See, Eric had gotten 2 tickets to the game, and the winner of his blog contest was to accompany him to see the Habs and Bruins in preseason action tonight. Long story short, he gave me both tickets, I bought a third, and I was able - thanks to and Eric Engels - to take my two sons to this game. The third ticket was in the greys (affordable and let's face it, anywhere you sit in the Bell Centre is an optimum seat), so the three of us agreed that each boy would sit with me for a period and a half. And tonight I would premiere my new P.K. Subban jersey, finally to be part of the Habs-jersey-wearing crowd at a hockey game!! (Sometimes, it's good to not stand out but to blend in!)

We began with dinner at a Montreal landmark restaurant - Mr. Steer. Delicious burgers, great place pre-game, and just up the street from the Bell Centre. We arrived shortly after Eric, and when we got to the table, the two tickets were just sitting in front of him. Talk about effective! I introduced him to the boys, we all sat down, and the conversation never stopped. My kids were a little starstruck (Eric reports for as well as CTV Montreal Sports "Habs Hub") but more, they were in their element, talking hockey with a guy who could talk it right back. It looked like Eric was enjoying the kids too. And that makes me even more proud of my boys than ever!

We walked down to the Bell Centre, but before parting (Eric went to the Loft a.k.a. Press Box and we went to our seats), I asked him to pose for a pic with my boys. After all, he IS a local celebrity! (It was a blast to get an "I can see you guys!" text from him after the game began, and we texted back and forth a few times throughout the evening)

Inside, the boys decided that Sam would sit in the reds with me for the first 30 minutes, and Josh for the last. We parted, with instructions to keep in touch via text. When Sam and I walked into Section 118, I think both our jaws needed picking up. What incredible seats!! So close to the action and so bright and big and exciting!

The game began after our very own Michael Cammalleri received the Jean Béliveau Trophy (for community involvement), presented to him by the Gentleman himself. Jean Béliveau, for those who aren't familiar with him, is hockey royalty. Not just Habs royalty, though he is a Canadien through and through (having played for Montreal his entire career, from 1950-1971!), but he is truly one of the most respected men in the hockey world. Eric told us that Mr. Béliveau, if he should make eye contact with someone who is an obvious fan but too shy to say hello, will introduce himself and say hi to the fan. The man just exudes class. When he was introduced and came out on the ice, there was a spontaneous standing ovation by the 21K in attendance. He was visibly moved and it was truly a Moment for me and my kids too.

And then...the Game. Last night, the Bruins slaughtered my poor Habs, 7-3, in Halifax. Would we see a different outcome tonight? Well, we lost but it was a 2-1 loss, our guys played really well, and the refs blew a few non-calls (goalie interference, holding, tripping...blatant stuff the seeing-eye dogs must have missed). Can't blame the refs, I know. But it would have been awesome to see the guys win what would have been their 2nd of the preseason. Not to be. But super exciting because of our location.

When it was time for Sam to go to the other seat, I felt awful - just as awful as I'd felt to send Josh up at the beginning of the game. But my kids are good sports...I am - again - very proud of them. And Josh's ear-to-ear grin when he took his new seat was worth it. Sam and I enjoyed the first 30 minutes, Josh arrived almost minutes before the Canadiens opened the scoring, and I enjoyed the company of each boy for 30 minutes of play. What could have been better? Oh, right. A win!

However, it's preseason. We didn't play the full team, despite the big guns like Plek, Cammy, Gionta, Gorges in the lineup, and Carey Price in nets for the full 60 minutes. We saw Brendan Gallagher work very hard to impress, and do an outstanding job of it. We saw Carey's acrobatics in nets, and Pleky's super-beautiful stride as he hustled down the ice to try to put the puck in goal or steal it from the opponent. We saw Cammy put one in, and best of all, we were back at the Bell Centre, losing our voices in cheers of "Go Habs Go!!!" for another year's fun. I have a good feeling about the regular season. That's just the optimist in me. Every game is a blank slate.

Tonight isn't about the season. It isn't about the players or the strategies. It wasn't even about the scoreboard. It was about the big heart Eric Engels showed me and my kids (yes, I won the blog contest - that was also a thrill but he didn't have to give us both tix), and a new friendship with a super guy; it was about the pure joy I saw on my boys' faces when I first broke the news to them, watched them immediately text and tweet their friends to share it, and their excitement all through today and this evening. That is the huge pile of rewards this rivalry has resulted in, and will continue to live on in the boys' memories, and mine. The lasting aura is enough to make this night a victory.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rivalry is a Beautiful Thing: Habs v Bruins

I became a rabid hockey fan in the past year or so. This means, in a nutshell, understanding the game and all its nuances - instead of the previous me, the Scoreboard Celebrant. So of course, it stands to reason that - between the newscasters and social media - I developed a keen understanding of the rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. Little did I know, at the outset, that this is a long-standing feud, more intense than the Hatfields and the McCoys. But I did find out rather quickly how deep those waters run.

I suppose it began with the January victory, last season, where Max Pacioretty scored the winning OT goal and started what would define the rest of the season for every Habs fan, and the NHL itself. It was the human factor I embraced and blogged and hockey was merely the umbrella under which the emotions resided.

On Twitter, where Bruins bashing was more rampant, I refrained; I could recognize the difference between rivalry and attack, and didn't like the attacks on people, no matter their team. Instead, I enjoyed the company of some classy Bruins fans who chose to celebrate the game, not defame its patrons.

The Cup was different - I couldn't watch the celebrations of the team that had beaten us out of a long playoff run. I’d seen the underhandedness of many Boston players and the newbie justice-seeker in me cried out, "where are the refs? Why aren't the rules being followed?" So it hurt to see them go all the way and hoist the Cup that has our name on it more often than any other team.

Flash forward to Season '11-'12: I’m optimistic that the bad feelings have run their course. I can now recognize the rivalry between our two teams, and anticipate thoroughly trouncing them on the scoreboard, with perhaps-naive hopes that dirty plays won't be accepted and good, intense hockey will be the order of any given day. I can now boo the Bruins with the intensity of having earned my Rival Badge. Go Habs GO!

(NB: this was an entry to a blog contest run by Eric Engels - to my utter delighted shock, I won the entry - the story is my next entry)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Panic, Negativity, and Bandwagon Jumpers

We lost in a 7-0 blowout to Boston, last night, of all teams. The head-hanging, the hair-pulling, the band-wagon jumping, the embarrassment, the shame...all of it by Habs fans. Imagine how the team is feeling?! Imagine how they'd feel if they saw the negativity by their own fans bombarding Twitter feeds and Facebook groups everywhere!

So my friend Mike posted to a Facebook group and I was just about ready to leave that group because more negativity is not what this 100-percent-forever-Habs-fan will abide right now.

But he has a point...and so I had to listen and decide whether I would stay in the group...

Mike wrote:

You can tell we’re totally screwed for the playoffs and won't do anything… This season, think of all the blowouts we’ve suffered! We lost to the Sabres 8-2! We lost to the Rangers 10-5! Double digits! Not only that, we lose 6-2 to the Islanders and 8-3 to the Sabres AGAIN!!!??? There’s no way we’re doing anything in the playoffs, NO WAY!

(If these games don't sound immediately familiar, these results are all from the 1992-93 NHL season in which the Canadiens completely sucked in the playoffs, right?)

So chill, people. If you want to come back to the fold after the next win, we'll probably welcome you back - but know that your band-wagoneering days are numbered if you keep hopping on and off at warp speeds. One of these days, the bandwagon might just leave without you.

And then which team will you support?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When it hits out of the blue...

© Original painting by Juan Bielsa

There are times I miss my mother more than others. I miss her presence in my life, I miss her phone calls, I miss having a mom. But there are times the realization (yes, even after almost 9 years) hits hard, that she's gone, and those times are days like today.

News of the legendary Elizabeth Taylor's death hit the news channels first, and then Twitter, where we carry out conversations in 140 characters (or fewer). And I found myself just thinking to myself, today would have been a day I'd have called my mother to tell her and share this news and memories of Elizabeth Taylor. We'd have talked about all Ms. Taylor's movies, many of them watched together; all Ms. Taylor's husbands (besides my grandmother, my mom knew this stuff cold - usually because of my grandmother); all Ms. Taylor's troubles. She'd have sighed, "Poor lady, she had one of those charmed troubled lives."

It's interesting how someone else's news becomes bigger for me than the news; it becomes a sad reminder of the absences in my life.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Opposite Side of the Emotional Coin

(photo created by me - to express the City's heart this week)

There have been a lot of emotions running rampant in my city this week. Since The Hit on Canadiens' forward Max Pacioretty by Boston Bruins' Zdeno Chara, hockey fans - and many non-hockey fans - have gone from shock, to fear, anger to outrage, confusion to utter mystification. Yesterday's news that Patch was home brought hope and relief. Letters from Air Canada to the NHL, and Geoff Molson to the home base brought a renewed sense of empowerment. The news that the Montreal police were investigating the Hit brought everything from amusement to derision. And bloggers streamed into my Twitter timeline from Habs Inside/Out's Dave Stubbs after The Hit and after The Decision, to Kyle Roussel, Sports Illustrated's (and Montreal's own) Michael Farber and Montreal Gazette's Red Fisher. The emotions ranged from low to high on every front, and as each blogger weighed in, emotions were renewed.

But what struck me most profoundly of all was the solidarity we were all experiencing. Montreal is a hockey city, and I've never been more aware of that since my hockey awakening began with last season's playoff run. But this week, as we all tweeted (2 days where hundreds upon hundreds of tweets updated by the second and I made many new Twitter friends), posted on Facebook, called into radio shows, emailed one another, and kept abreast of the story online, I felt a pride that was only strengthened by our togetherness.

We were banding together in positive energy sent to MaxPacs. We bonded over the anger that his assailant got off scot-free. We agreed on analogies comparing street thugs and hockey bullies, criminal behavior vs "part of the game", and we shared our resolve to have our voices heard as fans, fanatics and humans.

I found myself reflecting on my city. My City. Montreal's been home to me all my life, but I've seen it in a new light being a new fanatic of the game of hockey. I watch American broadcasts of our games and swell with pride when they show pictures of downtown, the Bell Centre, and talk about our history - hockey and non-hockey related. I travel the subway with my kids, on the way to a Habs game, and feel At One with every other attendee going my way, wearing the bleu-blanc-rouge. I talk to people from other cities who, even if they root for another team, laud the electricity felt at the Bell Centre. I go to games and feel a new awareness of how lucky I am to live in a city which has a European flavor, a metropolitan buzz, and yet sometimes - like this week - boils down to a village mentality where we are all one with each other.

So instead of blogging anger (which I still feel) or loathing (which is now stronger than I thought I'd feel toward another team and its fans) or disgust (if I even qualify that I WILL blog about it), I would like to share my profound love of being a Montrealer, my extraordinary pride in my city and its citizens, and my continued support for my team, its players, and the fans who help make Loving My Habs that much more of a global experience.

Go Habs Go!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writing the NHL Corporate Sponsors

Will you help? Inspired by Air Canada's letter to the NHL, in which the company threatens to withdraw its significant corporate sponsorship if the NHL does not reconsider its lukewarm stance on dangerous hits and headshots (a HUGE impact should it happen), I have drafted the letter below to appeal to other corporate sponsors of the NHL. Besides Air Canada, there is a long list, including McDonald's, Pepsi, Bell, Scotiabank, Canadian Tire, etc. I would like to know if you're on board - if you'd like to sign it. If so, I will arrange for that to happen in an electronic manner, and let's take some action.

Max Pacioretty deserves our support, and if this is something I can help to make happen, to vindicate the non-action taken on Zdeno Chara for his ugly hit on our player, it will be an honor.

The Letter:

Dear ____________________________

As you are no doubt aware, in a game vs. Boston at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec on Tuesday night (March 8th, 2011), Canadiens forward, Max Pacioretty, took a hard hit from Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, who rode him along the boards to the turnbuckle (post holding the Plexiglass that separates the two benches). Pacioretty’s head and neck took the brunt of the hit, he slumped to the ice where his head hit the surface, and was knocked unconscious. He was transported to hospital where he has been diagnosed with a severe concussion and a non-displaced fractured fourth cervical vertebra in his neck.

This is a very serious injury. Not only did those watching – in person and on television throughout the nation and beyond – not know whether Pacioretty was breathing, not only did those watching not know whether he would ever walk again, not only is his prognosis unknown at this time…but at the very least, his season is over. This is a player who began with the Canadiens December 12, 2010, and has played with his full heart and soul, winning games and scoring goals and assists (17 points in total until the injury that hospitalized him). Max Pacioretty has become a central part of the line-up, someone the Habs have counted on to go to the net and play the game in the very best way he can, while maintaining the team spirit and integrity of the game of hockey. He has been sidelined for an indefinite amount of time by a player 6’9, who should have known better.

As you are also aware, the National Hockey League has not taken a very firm position against headshots and dangerous hits (both of which describe the one on Pacioretty). There have been a few perfunctory suspensions, but nothing that resonates with players who return to the ice only to execute the same types of hits again. As well, the inconsistent NHL has sanctioned players for merely talking (case in point, Sean Avery’s 6-game suspension resulting from some derogatory remarks he made in December 2008, about his ex-girlfriend who was now dating another hockey player) or mere gestures (case in point, James Wisniewski’s October 2010 2-game suspension for making a lewd gesture to another player). However, the day after what could have been a crippling hit to Max Pacioretty, Zdeno Chara was in a phone meeting with Mike Murphy for a review of his actions. (It should be noted that Murphy stood in for Colin Campbell who could not associate himself with this case as his son plays for Boston – a problematic situation in and of itself, in the NHL) Chara was not penalized in any supplemental fashion (other than the game misconduct and 5-minute penalty on Tuesday night) for what happened, not even a perfunctory suspension or fine, and that has reverberate through the hockey world, polarizing fans, players, writers and coaches for and against such measures.

Pacioretty, speaking out today after having seen the video for the first time, said the following:

“I am upset and disgusted that the league didn’t think enough of (the hit) to suspend him. I’m not mad for myself, I’m mad because if other players see a hit like that and think it’s okay, they won’t be suspended, then other players will get hurt like I got hurt. I thought the league would do something, a little something. I’m not talking a big number, I don’t know, one game, two games, three games…whatever, but something to show that it’s not right.”

I am writing today, with a list of supporting signatures, to draw your attention to the words of Denis Vandal, director of marketing/communications at Air Canada, who – in a letter to the NHL Wednesday March 9th – expressed concern over recent incidents of headshots and concussions. Mr. Vandal wrote,

“From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents; action must be taken by the NHL before we are encountered with a fatality.

"Unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threatening injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey."

I would like to appeal to your sense of integrity, moral decency, ethical considerations, and your own concern for lending your corporate sponsorship to an organization that seems to feel nothing short of death will change its attitude on dangerous hits. Will you, too, stand up for players who deserve to be part of a league that stands for safety and justice in the case of borderline criminal behavior? Will you, too, contact the NHL and voice your own intentions to reconsider your corporate sponsorship of its organization? Leaders like your company can set the tone for our current players, those who will follow, and youngsters who aspire to the NHL, all of whom are questioning the lack of action against a player whose flagrant disregard for the life of another almost resulted in the ultimate tragedy. Your leadership will be lauded by those of us who stand for justice. For players like the Montreal Canadiens’ #67, Max Pacioretty, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ #87 Sidney Crosby, Boston Bruins’ #91, Marc Savard, and others who have had career- or season-ending injuries, you must represent them with your voices raised for justice.

Thanking you for your attention, we remain,

Hopefully yours,



If you're on board - comment on this post. If we get enough people willing to sign this (and feel free to pass along this blog entry), I'll take care of the rest.

Let's do it for Patches!!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Habs Loyalty

Okay, I'm coming up to my first anniversary of Total Habs Fanaticism. That would be the turning point in my life where I ceased to be a "clap for the team when they score" fan, and began paying attention to game strategies, behind-the-scenes goings-on, a little of the Business of Hockey, and even yesterday's trade frenzy. My Hockey Education began with the 2010 playoff season, where the Habs' Cinderella run coincided with my being a double hockey-mom (TWO kids playing) and having no choice but to absorb the culture which was growing as fast as my boys, in my household.

So besides becoming utterly intense when it comes to games, understanding how every point counts and treating each regular-season game as if it were a Game 7 in the playoffs, I became fiercely protective of my team. I saw, last year, how so-called fans turned on the team (and its individual players) the second we lost, or a player did a stupid move. It made me think - what could cause me to turn on the team like that?

Answer: Nothing. Nothing short of dirty playing (à la Matt Cooke) or unlikeable players (à la Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, and down the line) or incredibly consistent stupidity (hasn't happened yet). So, in short, nothing can turn me against my Habs. I am a fan to the end, and even when they're playing in a less stellar manner than those Game 7s, I cannot find myself criticizing them.

Does this make me less savvy than the die-hard hockey-knowledgeable people I know? Maybe, in some ways. But part of my love for my team is my faith in their ability. And if this isn't the year, it isn't the year. All I care about is if we've been entertained (we have), enjoyed success (we HAVE), seen miracles (Boston 2-0 for 3 periods, Habs win 3-2, anyone?) and felt the pride in our team, our city, and our reputation. We have. Or, at least, I have.

No one can bash my team. I expect it from adversaries, I expect it from fans of opposing teams, I definitely expect it from the fierce rivalries but the vitriol I've seen this season has been an eye opener. I don't have that many non-Habs fans on my Twitter account (by choice, btw) but I've seen reposts and it can be shocking, at times, how ugly the comments can be.

But to see it from people who wear the bleu-blanc-rouge in their Twitter pics or avatars...that's discouraging.

Short Twitter 101: in Twitter, the # used for the same word or phrase by a large number of posters will cause it to "trend", meaning it will show up in a list in the sidebar on which people can click and join the trend with their own posts. It can be fun (the "#BadRockGroups" trend was fun and creative) but it can also show what people are talking about, in Canada, USA, World, etc.

The latest to add to my discouragement is a derogatory nickname for one of our players. He is definitely not showing the star quality he did last year, the quality he is being paid multi-millions for, but does that mean I will start a trend on Twitter, or join one, to put him down to all who follow me? Does that mean I will use a hashtag to make sure that he, or his teammates or friends, will see that I've jumped on the Bash-This-Guy bandwagon? No. Will he care if I, in particular, do so? Probably not. But I will. He's on our team. Do I wish he'd sit up straighter and take notice of the game going on in front of him? Of course. But he's one player. We have many more and most of those are pulling their weight. We win as a team, we lose as a team.

Am I judging those who bash? No. But I hope they won't judge me for keeping this sometimes-idealistic faith in my team, a faith that translates to hope, and excitement, and anticipation, and love for a team that has given me a new passion at this stage of my life, one I can share with my children, my dad, and friends, old and new.

Peace, guys.

Oh, and...