Monday, May 19, 2014

Les Habs and Me

The last time the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup, in 1993, I was a young standup comic, full of piss and vinegar, pissing vinegar more likely, from metabolizing lethal doses of alcohol, marauding down town Toronto screaming Les Glorieux! Les Canadiens sont la!! Now, in 2014, I am unlikely to be drinking alcohol any time soon, but I am sorely tempted to join, or start, a riot again. Because if the Habs win the Stanley Cup, unbridled emotion will ensue.
I haven’t lived in Montreal for 25 years, but I still tell people I am from there. It’s in the blood, (or these days in the mucus, this being spring allergy season).  Being from Montreal isn't just a fact of birth; it’s a state of mind. It’s picnicking with your best friends on Mont Royal; it’s narrow cobblestone roads and lounging on a terrace; it’s minus 35 degrees and not being able to feel your fingers; it’s referendums on sovereignty that keep the rest of Canada hostage. The Canadiens, the hockey team that helped define Quebec, unite Montrealers from far and wide. In Toronto, when I see a brave soul coming out of the closet as a Habs fan, donning a Habs cap or wearing a Canadiens T-shirt, I resist the urge to kiss them.
Why I pour so much emotion into a hockey team, I can’t say. I do know that the game of hockey has seen me through some dark times in my life, when grief and anger almost swallowed me. Much has been said about the Montreal Canadiens being Quebec’s new religion. It is accessible worship and immediate communion. I have had to remind myself to pull back at times, to not get overly invested emotionally in a game’s outcome. But, lord, how the Canadiens can enthral and invite devotion! It is the rouge, bleu et blanche, those vivid bold colours that ignite the eyes and heart.

Why do I still love the Habs? Because they were my youth -- helped me through all the pain and glory of it. They were my young adulthood and now, my middle age. They are my long time companion. The team, no matter what, will always be my Glorieux.