I tuned into the Habs/Bruins game on CJAD last night, hoping for a good old-fashioned Bear hunt. It sounds like the Canadiens managed that, scoring three powerplay goals while holding the Bruins to one, even without the Habs' top-three defencemen in the lineup. It should have been a nice, comfortable pre-season victory over an opponent that's going to challenge Montreal in the coming season.
But it wasn't quite as nice or comfortable as the majority Habs' fans would have liked. That's because their some of their brethern who packed the Bell Centre decided that it was a great idea to taunt Michael Ryder all night long, for...nothing? Every time he touched the puck, the boos and derisive chants of "Ry-derrrrr" cascaded from the cheap seats. It was disrespectful when there was no call for disrespect. And nasty when there was no need for nastiness.
Ryder is trying to start his career over again in a new city, after knowing no professional organization except Montreal's. In his time with the Habs, he led the team in goals scored in two of the last three seasons, and even in his disappointing campaign last year managed some memorable moments...like scoring the first two goals in the magical Comeback game against the Rangers in Februrary. Ryder has never disparaged the Habs or their management, even after his production dropped off when he saw his powerplay time...his bread and butter...disappear. He didn't say a negative word when he found himself in Carbonneau's doghouse and scratched from the lineup. He worked hard in practice and made sure he didn't become a distraction to his teammates. Except for failing to score thirty goals for a third straight year, Ryder did everything right last season. Yet, he was greeted on his return to Montreal with catcalls and disdain.
I was trying to figure out why fans acted that way. Was it because Ryder was wearing a Bruins sweater? Or because he became the city's annual whipping boy last year, and the derision carried over? Or maybe just because he failed to score very many goals last season? Whatever the cause, it doesn't seem to me that Ryder did anything worthy of the treatment he got. I heard one fan say he has the right to boo whomever he wants when he pays his money to see the team. Fair enough. But, why would you want to boo someone as innocuous as Ryder in the first place? Samsonov, who complained to the media, arrived at camp out of shape, took Gainey's money and produced nothing and dogged it on the ice...okay, yeah, I can see booing him, if you must. Chara? Okay, he's the captain and one of the Habs' biggest threats with one of their biggest rivals. But Ryder? Please. Someone else argued that Ryder threw paper airplanes in the pressbox after he'd been scratched one night, and appeared not to care. There was never any evidence outside a reporter's comment in a blog that that actually happened at all. But, even if it did...let he who has never given in to frustration and anger throw the first plane.
I found the whole thing really disheartening. Once upon a time, fans in Montreal were renowned for their grace and class...cheering a worthy opponent when he made a particularly impressive play, or one of their own who'd left and returned with a rival. Of course, that's not to say there was no such thing as booing. Any player who hurt a Hab or dogged it for the Canadiens would hear about it. But there was always a reason. I'm afraid, in this hundredth year of Canadiens' history, that the team will honour its greats and mark its Centennial with all measure of dignity and class...but their fans will let them down and be the only embarrassment marring the anniversary.