I am still a relatively new fan to hockey. As I was being weaned on the sport to look at it through my own eyes, my hockey guru endeavored to pass on his loathing of the Vancouver Canucks to me. While there were a few players on the squad that annoyed me (the biggest being Alexander Burrows after he tried to digest Patrice Bergeron‘s finger), the Canucks were for the most part a clean and technically good team. If the Bruins hadn’t dug deeper since the days of Bobby Orr, the Vancouver Canucks could have won it all.
As the years progressed, I developed a love for certain clubs. On the strength of the fan base, I grew to like the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators. They were the nicest bunch of people you could ever disagree about hockey with. I learned to marvel at the obscenely gifted puck skills of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That developed into a respect for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Watching the Chicago Blackhawks (and the skill set of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews) on their run last season showed me that this was a team that was out to make a statement. That statement turned into a record, and the record run led them to take the Stanley Cup out of the hands of the Bruins. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and salute the better team (that year at least).
There were teams I didn’t like. Any team that took on Matt Cooke was going to earn my ire that year. (If you sincerely believe that Matt Cooke is a clean player, then I’d like to offer to sell you a bridge in Brooklyn or some nice ocean front property in Kansas.) I started not to like the Phoenix Coyotes. This had nothing to do with the players, but how Gary Bettman and the NHL were using the Coyotes as some form of statement, and they didn’t care how much money was lost, or how many people’s career ended in the toilet due to four years of receivership and chaos. To a lesser extent, I felt the same away about the Edmonton Oilers. All that talent and high draft picks, and management seemed on a never ending course of mediocrity. (Andrew Ference is now their Captain, and they have been forgiven for all previous trespasses.)
Of the other twenty nine teams that weren’t Boston, I found myself beginning to loathe one particular team. This was a team that had a strong history, and had built a tradition for success. However, that luster had faded in recent years, and the team seem to morph into one of those “In my day, we only spoke French at hockey games…and we liked it!” bitter old Francophiles that found the English language as some sort of deviant perversion on the land of La Belle Canada.
If you haven’t guessed yet, the team I find little passion for (save contempt and loathing) is the Montreal Canadiens. Why you may ask? The answer is direct and simple.
Cause Annoying Nasty Abrasive Divers In Every Nail-biting Series tend to raise my blood pressure. I’ve already survived two strokes, the last thing I need is to have the ‘third time’s the charm’ one delivered by PK Subban diving on a play while grabbing a Boston player’s stick in order to get a hooking call. I could post this maneuver from clips gleaned from You Tube but after watching no less than two dozen of them, I figured why bother. He’s earned his reputation.
That’s their problem. Their reputation. When they are playing a clean, technical game without the malarkey and skullduggery they are (I can’t believe I’m saying this) a very proficient and well-oiled franchise. Now, if they played to that strength, they would have a place in the pantheon of honored foes. (Ottawa and Pittsburgh in the East, San Jose and Chicago in the West) However, watching a bunch of adults treating a NHL game like it’s the Mighty Ducks: NHL version have given me an utter distaste for the bleu, blanc, et rouge. What I wouldn’t give for the refs to keep the Canadiens revolving in the sin bin for the hijinks for just ONE game. Then it might be the wake up call for Michel Therrien and the rest of them to play like a team that is worthy of their previous glory.
It’s a pity their fan base is more concerned about having a French-speaking coach and management than about a tradition of dedication and success. As soon as they cross that language barrier, le monde serait un meilleur endroit, n’est pas?
The face off is tomorrow night, and woe is the Habs fan that tries to tell me that Zdeno Chara should have been banned for life for that accident on Max Pacioretty. I won’t be in the mood to hear it, in any language.