Okay, hockey gods, we give. Uncle. There, we said it. Whatever cosmic balance needed to be achieved by wrecking the navel-gazing, misty-eyed nostalgia of the cursed Centennial season, consider it achieved. And, make no mistake, there is a curse at work here.
From the beginning of the actual hundredth year of the Habs last December, we've seen one unmitigated disaster after another. Coach fired? Check. Player scandals and innuendo of more? Check. Injuries of the long-term and freakish variety to every important player on the roster? Yup. Complete loss of confidence among key youth including the goaltender? Uh huh. Team implosion to the point of barely making the playoffs? Had it. Ignominous elimination at the hands of most hated playoff rival? Did it. Sale of the team in the midst of free-agent season? Done. Gutting of the roster, including the jettisoning of Saku Koivu? Happened.
Now, here we are at the tender beginning of a fresh new season. The new players seem to enjoy each other's company and the new coach appears capable and in control. But already the curse is at work, eating the delicate shoots of hope before they can flower, like locusts in a corn field. First Sergei Kostitsyn defects. Then the General is lost for two-thirds of the year. Now Ryan O'Byrne, who was just beginning to show he's finally reaching his potential as a pro, is gone for six weeks with a leg injury. And Glen Metropolit, who gives his heart on every shift and is an ace on the PK, is hurt too. Not to mention the rash of injuries plaguing the Bulldogs' roster in Hamilton. It all begs the question, What next? Will Carey Price, who seems to have found his game again, go down next? Or will it be Brian Gionta, who's sparking the team every night and playing with heart bigger than he is? Will it emerge that Bob Gainey's keeping an underaged harem in his downtown condo? I don't think we can stand waiting for the other shoe to drop for the rest of the season.
So, hockey gods, we give. The question is, what more do we have to do to break the curse? In all the stories, there's a solution. We've already sacrificed pride and ambition on the altar of last year's playoffs. We've said goodbye to players we've loved. We've come to terms with change and just found hope again, only for it to start falling apart right from the get-go. Isn't that enough? Or do we have to play out the entire ill-fated year before things turn around? Unfortunately, I fear we do. That's the way the stories go, too. Trials by fire. Proof through adversity. And that means December 5 can't come fast enough.
In the end, although we feel it keenly, it isn't up to us. We can only stand by and wring our hands and agonize every time something new goes wrong. Breaking the curse is in the hands and the actions of the people most affected by it: the players themselves. I think they're showing a togetherness so far that we didn't ever see last season. And there's a dash of determination to dig themselves out of holes that's refreshing and new. Maybe those are the lessons the futility of the Centennial season was meant to teach them, and us. If it's a matter of being tested, we surely will be by the time the cursed year ends in December. But I think there are signs that the team that's being forged in a furnace of adversity now will be stronger for the experience when it comes out the other side of this.
If not, maybe we should look into finding an uncursed rugby team to root for.