Wednesday, 18 November 2015


A Tale of Two Cities

Twenty-five years and 3000 kilometres from my hometown, the Montreal Gazette’s Hockey Inside/Out blog has become my main lifeline to the Montreal Canadiens. This because, thanks to Rogers-NHL television deal, I can no longer access all 82 Habs games on the French-language TSN for a mere additional $2.49 a month tacked on to the cable bill. Happily, my life has transformed enough that I no longer need to sit and watch all 82 regular season Habs games. The team is entertainment when I want it and not an escape because I need it. This personal insight speaks to a mature rebalancing of my life’s priorities. Really.

In the wake of Monday night’s comeback overtime victory over Vancouver, news this morning out of Montreal got even better: Carey Price practiced with the team. When the club announced a ‘lower body injury’ to their all-galaxy goaltender two weeks ago, my first thought as a logical and compassionate fan was, ‘Please, God, not his already wonky knee. Let it be a fresh, new, debilitating and possibly chronic injury.’

Sans Price between the pipes the Canadiens slumped to pretty good after a start hotter than an arsonist’s. The New York Rangers and Dallas Stars have since caught up to them in the overall standings. Still, there’s a firm mattress of playoff points padding for the inevitable Christmas and February doldrums; it’s a long season. Even if nobody in Montreal can quite remember the Stanley Cup parade’s usual route, it’s at least a legitimate topic for discussion there, especially given the city’s rotting infrastructure and the maze of dented, reflective orange RUE BARRE barriers.

In Edmonton this morning I hauled our bag of garbage out to the back alley bin for collection. As is becoming the norm, a dog walking douche in the neighbourhood left me a little gift to re-bag for the trash collector. Mercifully, it was frozen solid; and perhaps a perfect analogy for the state of the pro game on the northern prairie.

The Oilers float like untreated sewage in the NHL’s rank cellar, already 18 insurmountable points behind contenders like the Stars, Rangers and Canadiens. November isn’t over although Edmonton’s season is already. Winters here are harsh, long and dark; when the Oil stinks they provide no distraction to their shivering loyalists.

The chattering masses were excited before the puck dropped for real in October. Connor McDavid, the phenom, the godsend, the next greatest player ever, would wear number 97 even though he was just 18-years-old. Horrid orange retro pre-NHL World Hockey Association third marketing sweaters were actually sort of attractive in a diced carrot vomit, Reebok uniform system type of way. Downtown was being transformed by the construction of the new rink, more office towers and entertainment venues up the yin-yang. It was good, aiming toward really, really good in 2016.

McDavid of course suffered an ‘upper body injury’ 12 games into the new season. He was averaging a point a game, looking like the real deal and giving Oilers fans a reason to live. He’s expected to play again in February. The calendar at least promises longer and brighter days ahead in this winter town.

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