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...