A FAN’S NOTES
The Puck Drops Here
Hockey! Hockey! Hockey! The first round of the NHL playoffs starts tonight. Every evening for the next couple of weeks promises two or three televised games of a quality far superior to the deep winter doldrums of the 82-game regular season. The nation’s sporting press has begun its seasonal hand-wringing, wither the Stanley Cup and will the championship trophy ever return to Canada?
Who cares. All that matters now is that my team, the Montreal Canadiens, qualified for the two months-long derby. I despise the other 29 clubs in the league. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I only dislike Pittsburgh because I believe Sidney Crosby is a wonderful hockey player. Boston, despite their rivalry with Montreal, well, Bobby Orr, the best there ever was, was a Bruin. The New York Rangers, Chicago, Detroit and Vancouver all have decent unis. Some teams only provoke indifference and I can’t be bothered to name them, but you wonder why they have any supporters at all. Otherwise, it’s sheer joy to seethe with the obsessive hate of an Ahab or Khan.
To be alive is to be angry, vengeful and as is the lot of the majority of fans, ultimately suffer the agony of failure. Even for losers there is schadenfreude. Toronto’s epic implosion against the Bruins last spring was probably as important a factor to me as fear, love and common sense when I realized that hanging myself in my garage might not be the best idea I’ve ever had: I want to be around to revel in it when those bastards crater again.
It’s been a decade since the Habs faced off against Tampa Bay in a series that really, really matters. I had to look that up because the Lightning is one of those clubs that merely plug a Tuesday night slot on the schedule. Despite winning it all in 2004, little mystique surrounds the Florida-based squad; they’re more notable for the two execrable alternate sweaters they’ve marketed to their lone fan in their short history. From my perspective, to know Tampa Bay today is to love them: their starting goaltender is hurt and they were forced to dump their snitty and second-best player at the trade deadline.
The Canadiens have ranged from awful to pretty good since they last won the Stanley Cup in 1993. This spring’s club rates as pretty good although scoring goals is problematic. Maybe signing point-a-game playoff forward Danny Briere will turn into one of those legendarily canny Sam Pollock moves. Here’s hoping that netminder Carey Price cut a deal with Ol’ Scratch: My soul in exchange for Sochi men’s hockey gold and the Stanley Cup in 2014. Deal? We fans are all in, heart and soul.