Confessions of an [ex?] Habs Fan

When I started to become a Canadiens fan three years ago, I ignored the criticism I received for liking two teams in the same division. I made it clear that my primary team was, and always would be, the Buffalo Sabres. Most couldn’t comprehend why I began to love the Habs, but I knew that becoming a fan of the Canadiens was a great choice. Now, upon the start of the 2009-2010 season, I find myself utterly unable to stomach watching the squad from Quebec. I want to start at the beginning, and tell you how my discontent has surfaced.

My senior year of high school I entered my 5th year of French education. We studied Quebec and French Canada, much to my pleasure, for in the summer of 2006 I spent 17 days in Jonquiere, QC at a French language immersion program and simply fell in love with the province of Quebec. I reluctantly left Quebec to fly to Toronto and return back to the United States. From then on, I dedicated my French language studies to my experience in Quebec, with intent plans to return there.

Back to senior year- in French class, we watched the film “The Rocket”- about the life and accomplishments of Maurice “the Rocket” Richard and the Montreal Canadiens.

What can I say? I was hooked! I researched the team and its successes, and I immediately was enthralled. I was impressed with the team’s history and I could easily sense a feeling of dignity, almost royalty, stemming from this hockey club. I admired the team’s fanbase, and how passionate they were about this team. Montreal ate, breathed, and slept hockey. Almost immediately after I became an avid Habs fan. Following graduation, I spent a chunk of money buying my first hockey jerseys- a vintage Sabres jersey and a Montreal Canadiens jersey. Months later, I would eventually spend  6 hours sewing the 100 Saison/Match des Etoiles patches on the jersey, fighting through mistakes and pricked fingers. I quite literally put blood, sweat, and tears into that Canadiens jersey. Yes, I was an American Canadiens fan.

My freshman year of college, I proudly wore those colors around campus, especially when Montreal squared off against the hometown Penguins. I was stunned by the firing of Guy Carbonneau.  When GM Gainey took over, I cheered for Montreal so hard after my Sabres failed to make the postseason, and instead watched the Canadiens be easily swept aside by Boston. I was crushed in the defeat, and I celebrated the re-sale of the Canadiens back to the Molson family.

And then, this past summer, I looked on in utter horror as my Canadiens were torn apart, piece by piece and spread throughout the NHL. The players that I had grown to admire and be a fan of, such as Kovalev, Komisarek, and Higgins were all gone. In their stead came players like Gionta, Camallieri,  and Buffalo’s Jaroslav Spacek.

When this new season came around, I expected the same Canadiens hockey that I had watched the previous year. Good, classy hockey from the NHL’s most respected and elite franchise. Instead, I witnessed a scrappier, dirtier, and I will say “goonier”, type of hockey. I was, and still am, absolutely appalled. These were not the Canadiens I fell in love with. Dirty, unneeded penalties against the Maple Leafs, stupid fights being started, and cocky/arrogant goal celebrations all stemmed from this “new-look” Habs team. Why, Bob Gainey, why?

And then, October 3rd came. Opening night for my Buffalo Sabres, against the Montreal Canadiens. I watched cautiously, knowing that I actually wanted the Canadiens to lose. But what I saw that night changed my perception of Montreal. Watching the Habs do battle with the Sabres in their new, more physical and goon-ish style of play was the final nail in my Canadiens coffin.

I was disgusted. And truthfully, I still am. I want my old Habs back. The ones that played with a dignified air, that I perceived as classy. As far as I am concerned, these new Canadiens cannot measure up to the squad from last year. Last year, our players had heart. They played with emotion, and wanted nothing more than to win it for the fans. They intended on coming back with a vengeance. Instead, they were shown the door, and bought out by cheap, physical talent.

As I write this, I look at my Canadiens jersey just hanging in my closet, next to my Sagueneens de Chicoutimi [QMJHL] jersey. I haven’t touched it since the Canadiens/Sabres game. I refuse to wear it, along with my two Canadiens t-shirts and winter hat.

I, in no way, want to bash the Canadiens organization, although I think that I have just done what I wanted to avoid. Deep down, I still may love this team, but I’m writing this to just express my utter disappointment in a beloved team. I realize that grit and physicality are parts of hockey, but it is possible to possess those characteristics and still keep your reputation intact.

And as far as I am concerned, the Montreal Canadiens have to win me back as a fan.

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About the Author: Currently a college sophomore in Erie, Pennsylvania. Born and raised in Buffalo, New York and a passionate sports fan- raised on Sabres hockey, Bills football, and Yankees baseball. Studying to be a high-school history teacher, where he plans on wearing a hockey jersey every casual Friday.

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  1. rei says:

    Are we watching the same team? I mean, grit and physicality are certainly there and necessary but I fail to see the… “goon-like” hockey you describe. I mean, sure Gorges Laraque is still there but in the five games I’ve watched this season he’s only fought once, same goes for Moen. It’s not like last years Habs were angels, with Koivu even trying to drop the gloves against now-playing-for-the-habs Scott Gomez.
     
    And… what physical talent? Moen and Mara certainly are physical players, but aside from Gionta’s tendancy to hang out two feet away from the mouth of the goal, Montreal has bolstered itself with small offensively talented forwards. Even their ‘biggest’ aquisition, Hal Gill, isn’t a checker predominantly despite the fact he’s the second tallest player in the league.
    Yes, the leafs game was overly physical, but Montreal can’t really play that way and doesn’t even try to. I think you’re basing your criticisms off of nostalgia for the players lost, and seem to be seeing things that aren’t really there.

  2. Steven says:

    rei – Moen fought twice in the first game against the Leafs alone. 

  3. rei- yes, I do believe we are watching the same team. However, like I said, I stopped watching the Canadiens after the Buffalo game. I’ll be sure to catch the next few games to make sure my theories still hold water.
    And no, I’m not saying that last year’s Habs were angels, and yes, I am being nostalgic- that was the main point of this blog-and just voicing my disappointment and disapproval of what happened to Les Glorieux this past offseason.
    I still believe the Canadiens became a much more physical team than last year, but thank you for your criticisms. I’ll watch a few Canadiens games and see what’s going on up there in Quebec.

    oh, and rei- checked out your blog. great stuff! I found the Habs drinking game pretty hilarious, what a way to get smashed in a hurry! haha =]

    • rei says:

      Thanks for the checking out; and sorry I wasn’t well versed this morning. Comes with getting up at 5 am to go to work.
       
      I think its important that while the back-end may be more physical, the finesse of Kovalev will be replaced by Cammelleri fairly well, and while I love and miss Koivu, it will be nice to not have to endure as many hooking penalties.
      I’m still undecided on the grand experiment, as it added players I liked without logic, sort of players I’d trade for in video games for no really good reason.

  4. Ok just a few problems.

    1. – You started a Sabres fan and decided to become a Habs fan because you were impressed by the Rocket Richard and the French language.  That’s just bizarre.

    I can understand admiration for your opponent, which is frankly what such tales should actually engender, but apparently you lack anything resembling a sporting spine – thus out and out loyalty confusion results.

    2. You think the Habs are a physical, goon like team.  This despite the fact that they currently have 7 fighting majors, 3 of which occurred in one game against the Leafs?  They had zero fighting majors against the Sabres… how were they remotely goon like?

    Hall Gill took a double minor for roughing on the same series that Scott Gomez took a minor for roughing in the second period.  That’s 3 of the 5 roughing minors they took that night on ONE series.  You’re considering them goon like for taking roughing penalties in situations where the other team takes roughing penalties?

    As far as I can tell, what you object to is the fact that the team has players like Travis Moen, Paul Mara, and Hal Gill playing alongside the likes of Georges Laraque?

    They aren’t a particularly tough team, and if anything their forwards are undersized on average.  I guess it’s the comparison to Buffalo that bothers you…

    My advice? Get over it… and try to stick to one team.

  5. Goon Squad says:

    Buko, this is hockey.
    Violence and physical aggression are requirements in this great sport.
    The Habs are looking to return to their Cup winning ways, and they aren’t going to do it by pussy-footing around the league with pretty goals and without checking or fighting.
    What will you do when the Slugs turn up the heat and start throwing their bodies around, give up on hockey all together?
    Hockey is obviously not the right sport for you.
    It’s seems that all of your ‘French Studies’ have made you soft.
    Maybe you should take up watching golf…

  6. MJS says:

    It’s unfortunate that people mistook your saying “goony hockey” as “fights”, maybe if it was rephrased as “cheap hits” they would get what you’re talking about, because the Habs have been very guilty of such things so far.
    You said you liked the Habs because they were a classy organization who had a squad of players they had some pride in- they started losing that last year with the Kostitsyns getting in trouble with hanging out with some bad characters, and then they had a fire sale- and bought a bunch of players, looking more like the Rangers who buy players who don’t mesh well year after year, so its confusing when people accuse you of not liking physical hockey.
    You liked the Habs because they were the history filled, classy type organization, and now they’ve changed into something you don’t like. It’s your right to dislike it, as a fan. Ignore people who try to tell you how to be a fan, they have no idea how you actually feel, especially if they just randomly attack you without any reading comprehension.

  7. j0e says:

    Have you ever watched hockey, let alone the team you claim to support?

  8. Goon Squad says:

    No comprehension?
    I read what he had to say. He doesn’t like the Habs new style. Did I miss something?

    A random attack?
    He posted it in a public forum.

    Todays NHL has changed.
    It’s not the Rocket/Flower era anymore! Wake up!
    It’s a kill or be killed game nowadays.
    If the Habs wanna play nicey nicey, they are in the wrong league.
    The kids playing today are 19-20 year olds that are 6 ft + and 250 pounds. You can’t battle them with pretty goals alone.
    Fights after every clean open ice hit and goal crashing is the norm in pro hockey now.
    The ‘cheap hits’ you mentioned are at an all time low.
    The Habs’ good old days are over, I respect that, and I adapted to the new style of play like a true fan, player and coach does.
    Whatever the Rangers have done is finally working for them, why bash it?
    Maybe Buffalo will catch up and finally get somewhere.
    If so, where will Buko stand then?
    MJS, keep holding his hand, sunshine, and let me know how it all works out in the end.
    And anon, I appreciate your witty input to the discussion.
    It’s fans like you that ruin blogs like these.

  9. rei says:

    Shame people are cutting into you without actually making points. I gave you a shoutout in my newest post ( http://habinhiding.blogspot.com/2009/10/shout-outs-and-liveblogging.html ) but I doubt it’ll give you much of a traffic bump due to my fairly limited reader share.

  10. Goon Squad says:

    rei, there are valid points being made from a few of us.
    I can’t say that MJS, joe or anon are one of ‘em, but I think I made myself pretty clear…

  11. Ben says:

    really?  really??  i should have just stopped reading after:

    “When I started to become a Canadiens fan three years ago, I ignored the criticism I received for liking two teams in the same division.”

    that is quite possibly the dumbest thing i’ve ever read.  who can literally say they are a hardcore Sabres fan, but then say they are a Habs fan on the side? 

    you shouldn’t be allowed to have a blog about the NHL.

    also, your reasoning for starting to go away from the Habs is because they are “goonier”?  really?  you better hope that team has some goon in them, because if they don’t, all those midgets are going to get run over all year.

  12. BDGallof says:

    I thought the piece was well-written. The hockey perceptions are subjective and the criticism that some gave were constructive.

  13. Grrrreg says:

    Some of the comments posted here are just really sad. Don’t listen to those telling you you shouldn’t be allowed to have a blog or you aren’t a real hockey fan because you like two teams or because you said something they disagree with. That’s just garbage.

    That said, I also don’t really agree with you on the habs: I miss some of the players from last season too, but I’m slowly getting used to this new lineup, and I think they have their own merits. This is a team that’s not quitting. I don’t think they’re really goonish. I think they’re sometimes trying a little too hard to dismiss the easy criticisms about their size, and they’re sometimes overcompensating. But this is a team that’s still looking for its identity, and I think you should not abandon them this quickly. Wait a little, and start watching the again in a few games. Once they find a better chemistry, they will be more interesting to watch.
    (and I like the way you became interested in the habs: it worked a little like that for me too. I’m not from Montreal either, and I fell in love with Quebec before falling in love with the Canadiens too.)

  14. I wanted to ignore all the feedback and attacks on here, but I simply cannot.
    1. I realize that I posted in a public forum. However, there is a fine line between criticism and “attacking” an author, a line which I feel has been crossed here.
    2. I also realize that my writing here was subjective. IE, my opinion. And of course, my opinions may be wrong. These are just my thoughts this early in the season. And I admit that giving up after 2 games may have been rash. I jumped the gun.
    3. I’m appalled that I’ve been labeled as “stupid”, “dumb”, and even a “retard” at one point [thank you to whoever deleted that]. I don’t even know how to respond. I’m sorry we don’t see eye to eye, but this season [and my writing] are works in progress
    4. I can delete the comments I don’t like on here, but I’m not going to.
    5.Thank you to those [rei, Steve, MJS ,Grrreg and even Goon] who gave me some sort of feedback and things to watch out for, and to improve upon.
    6.And, I’ve decided to watch Montreal/Atlanta. I’m hoping for the best.

    • Goon Squad says:

      I’m watching it too, Buko, and I apologize if you feel that I was attacking you.
      It is just my opinion that if you don’t like the violent nature of the game, that maybe you are watching the wrong sport.
      Thanx for having the balls to interact with us after the postings.
      A lot of bloggers just delete what we write and ignore us.
      I’ll do my best to keep up with you and interact when I have the opportunity.
      Jim (Goon)

      • thank you, and apology accepted. And hockey is my sport. I love it more than I can say.
        It’s not that I don’t like the violent nature of the game. [Kaleta's hit during the Phoenix game? EPIC.]
        It’s just that I feel like the Canadiens had lost their class and finesse-  which I now see they’ve combined in this game against Atlanta. I also think I jumped the gun.
        And in the end, I personally feel better now that I got my opinions out there, and got some feedback in return. This should be a great season.
         

  15. kevincrumbs says:

    I’m really confused here. I don’t get what exactly makes you a Habs fan. As hockey fans, we all have teams we may lack onto during the playoffs when our team doesn’t make it in or has been eliminated. I enjoyed following the Oilers a couple of seasons back when the Canadiens were eliminated in the first round by the Hurricanes. Sure, it’s okay to admire the way a team plays or the skill of players not on one’s favourite team. However, it just seems very odd to be a “hardcore” Sabres fan and then declare your love for another team, even if it’s coming from a place of interest in French-Canadian culture.
    I feel that as fans, a crucial part of it is sticking with the team through thick and thin, regardless of whether we agree with what’s happening. We may not like the GM, the GM’s moves, the system that the coach has installed, the coach himself or the players but at the end of the day, that team is MY team. The Canadiens could lose the rest of their games this year, I could decide I hate all of the players on the current roster but at the end of the day, I would still love the Canadiens because they are MY team, MY Canadiens. I know that they piss me off like none other and drive me crazy precisely because I care so much and I know that even if I were to decide to jump on someone’s bandwagon full time, it would never make me feel as good and happy as the Canadiens winning. You’ve got to take the highs and lows as a sports fan because if you don’t, you’re always a front running bandwagon jumper, which is the biggest insult another sports fan can call you.