Well, here we are...game day! What a relief, because the last four days have been a carnival of talk. Carefully chosen words from players and coaches, overdone predictions from the pundits and a plethora of smack talk from the fans. Maybe I wasn't as plugged in two years ago, the last time the Habs made the playoffs. But it seems to me the number of electronic venues hockey fans have in which to connect with each other and dis the other guy have multiplied like Mr.&Mrs.Cottontail.
This week, the volume of traffic on Habs fan boards has increased alarmingly, with topics ranging from "What strategy should the Canadiens take to counter the Bruins' physical game," to "Should the players grow full beards or just goatees?" There are polls on everything from who'll win the series to what people think of the team playoff slogan. And if you turn off the lights, seventeen new Habs-themed blogs will have sprung up in the dark by the time you turn them on again. Go to youtube and enter "Kovalev." There are pages and pages of video and slideshows set to music...dozens of them made in the last month.
Some of this stuff is fun, and some tedious (Really...I think I never want to hear Carey Price's name in the same sentence as "Roy and Dryden" again. Unless, of course, he wins the Conn Smythe this year.) But the amount of access we now have to the thoughts and words of others is really showing me for the first time how in love people are with this team. And, on the flip side, how much fans of other teams hate them. Considering the dearth of success the Canadiens have had in recent years, I would have thought the level of antipathy towards them would have dropped off. Not so.
Most Bruins fans are like us...fairly realistic and mostly rational. They know their team is in tough, and while they may hate the Habs for the damage they've done to the Bruins over the years, they're generally being cautiously optimistic. But some of them are not. Some are convinced that Kovalev or Markov or Price alone are the key to Montreal's success. And they're advocating things like sending Thornton to take out Kovalev's knees. Or have Lucic slam Markov's head into the boards. They're promising to do things like call the Habs' hotel at all hours and wake them up all night on Saturday. Sometimes I think being able to access the thoughts of opposing fans isn't such a good thing. I had a random Bruins fan, whom I'd never met, send me an email describing how my team sucks and how "you're going down hard." We just hope Claude Julien isn't the kind of guy who thinks the same way.
But while the B's fans send cyber-trash talk at us, we're finding others of our own kind out there too. I'm far away from Montreal, so I'll spend my playoffs chatting with a handful of equally rabid fans...friends I met first online and then in person...who get it. They know what it means to be a fan of this team outside the city where it all goes down. In 1986 I celebrated the Habs' win by myself beside a crackly radio in my room because no one else in the house liked hockey and they'd turned the television off and gone to bed. Seven years later, I saw the '93 win on TV, but again, I was the only one in the house who cared about what was happening. This time, if the team goes far...or if it doesn't...I'll have other fans to laugh and cry right along with me. If overexposure of the players in the media and the dissection of every possible piece of Habs-related minutae in print and online is the price we pay for the ability to share our love of the team with others, it's not too great a toll. Even if it means listening to jive talking from the other team's fans.
We'll talk about it together...and we'll see who gets the last word.