I was spoiled growing up.
By that, I do not mean that I grew up in an upper-middle class home in an upper-middle class neighbourhood – I did. I do not mean that as a child I got everything that I wanted – I most certainly did not. I was nobody’s favourite, I was not a star athlete nor a star student… but I usually made the team, and I never failed a grade. I grew up in a city with low crime rates, good health care, and there was always food on the table… good food.
By my seventh birthday, my Montreal Canadiens had won the Stanley Cup five times in my lifetime. My father z”l was a partner with a law firm, and he would usually take me to 3-4 games at the Montreal Forum every year… along with 5-6 baseball games at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium (and prior to that at Jarry Park). I was nine years old the first time I saw the Montreal Canadiens – Les Habitants – lose a match live. I was about the same age when I first saw the Montreal Expos win a match live.
I may not remember the first Habs’ Stanley Cup win in my lifetime – I was not yet one year old. By the time I moved out of the city (at age 21) they had won their seventh championship trophy – I also watched them lose one cup in 1989. All this to say that in my first 20 years of life, I saw my team challenge for eight championships, winning seven of them. In my cognizant lifetime I remember standing along the route of six Stanley Cup parades through downtown Montreal. The problem is they stopped before I was old enough to drink in the United States.
On June 9, 1993 – scarcely a month shy of my 21st birthday, and five weeks before I would leave Montreal, I was standing outside the Montreal Forum when the team won their 24th Stanley Cup championship (it might have been 25 had the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1919 not ravaged the city of Seattle). I was as excited as I remember being in my life. We were, once again, the champs.
And then it stopped.
It has been 28 years since our beloved Canadiens hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup. That is the longest drought the Canadiens have ever had. It has been 28 years since any Canadian team has hoisted the trophy… and that is a tragedy. It is time for that to end.
My beloved Canadiens did not have a super team this year. They were mediocre at best… with a superstar goaltender named Carey Price. In truth, they did not really deserve to make it into the playoffs.
The thing is, that exact sentence was said in 1993… with a superstar goaltender named Patrick Roy.
While we were hoping to squeak into the playoffs, no objective fan really expected us to defeat the hated Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round… especially when we were down 3-1 after being outplayed up and down the ice in every game. If we are honest, they outplayed us in Games 5, 6, and 7 too… and if it wasn’t for that superstar goaltender stopping a lot of incredible shots, we likely would not have beaten Toronto to move on to the second round.
Wednesday evening we played a great game against Winnipeg, winning 5-3. While this article will go live Saturday morning, I am writing it Friday afternoon; I do not yet know who will win this evening’s match, but I am sitting at my desk wearing my Habs jersey and hat, excited about the game. By the time this article goes live, we will either be tied 1-1 or, G-d willing, Montreal will have a 2-0 lead going back to Montreal.
It is an exciting time to be a Habs fan… I am no longer spoiled. Our team is not consistently the best in the league, and there are many reasons for it… not the least of which are the 31-team league, and a management team that has been traditionally focused more on French Canadian coaching and management than excellence in coaching and management (four of the six last cups we won were under the decidedly non-French Scotty Bowman). We have not had the best organization to foster the best talent, and we have not drafted well. This year we may not have the best team, but we have Carey Price between the pipes… and while the 1970s were not like that, in both 1986 and 1993 we had decent but not great teams, with a spectacular goaltender.
It’s not everything, but it’s a start.
Go Habs Go!
Friday evening, 1911 hours PDT: Montreal wins 1-0!!