Thursday, April 24, 2008

Universal inspiration

Remember when you were a kid, and you thought you could really influence whether the Habs won or not? If you wore your special sweater for every game without exception or wished on your birthday candles, the Habs would do well. And everything reminded you of them.

I remember in 1986, listening to the games with my ear pressed to a scratchy, fading radio signal, transmitted to me in French through a college station's receiver that picked it up from Montreal. That was on game nights. During the day, and on off-nights, I was just as obsessed, and everything seemed to me to be connected to hockey and the Habs. I used to sit in my room, listening to "Eye of the Tiger," because it reminded me of the Canadiens and their Cup drive. Hero shows on TV, rock music on the radio, the great, energetic spring weather...everything seemed connected to the Habs. It was like being in love.

Of course, when you're a kid, you've got lots of time to be obsessed. When you grow up, there are other things you need to worry about...friends, work, committments, kids of your you never get that all-consuming involvement with the team again in quite the same way. You might love it as much, but you don't throw your soul into it like you used to when you were young.

Still, at this time of year, with a good team on the ice and hope still burning, you'll hear something...a song, a bit of poetry, a speech in a movie...that reminds you of Les Boys and their mission. And you get just a little bit more pumped. I heard this one today, the new Great Big Sea single, and I thought of the Habs. So I thought I'd pass it on for your enjoyment, and inspiration, on the opening day of round two.


Silver in 16 said...

Ah, yes, commitment to one’s team…consUMED by one’s team. I remain a 10-year-old when it comes to the Habs. Your recollection about listening en Francais to staticky (sp?) radio takes me back to ’75-76 when I was going to the U of A and, even though I was taking bonehead French, I was very much a monolinguist. But CBC French radio broadcast the games and I listened assiduously. I had no idea what was taking place. The only way I knew there had been a goal was if the announcer hollered and the crowd cheered. And if the game was in ‘Day-twa’, and the crowd cheered, well, the Wings had scored. And if the Habs scored , it would be quiet; and I’d listen for the first, and then the second and third names, for the scorer and assists. It wasn’t until towards the end of the season that I could make out that a goal was signified by “La Bool” (or, so I thought).

Oddly enough, when I moved to MontrĂ©al several years later, and actually learned French, I retained the accent that I had developed in French 100. And if I was talking hockey, or art, I could get mistaken for European. My home office bulletin board is a repository for my life and has an invitation from those days – a Newfoundland artist friend’s first show in MontrĂ©al; she’s become quite successful, too.

And then, when I moved back to Alberta and wound up running a weekly newspaper in a town of about 5,000, everybody knew I was a Habs fan. The Oilers were on the rise in the early ‘80s, and I recall one game where I realized that I was vulnerable to major losses if the Habs didn’t beat the Oil in an upcoming game in Edmonton. And for about a week before the game, any time anyone taunted me and asked me if I’d bet $5 or $10, my immediate response was “You’re on!” Unfortunately, I didn’t keep track of who I’d bet with, and it meant that just about anyone would be able to come up to me and demand their five or 10 dollars – if the Habs lost. But they didn’t.

And when Guy Lafleur retired (the first time), someone called to tell me late in the afternoon. I still feel bad about the way I snapped, “That’s not funny!” I'm not sure if the rest of the office understood when I went to my vehicle and sat in it, listening to the radio, through the news until the sportscast confirmed the bad news. Even though I’d already written the editorials and my editor’s column for layout the next day, I went home and had a bite to eat and went back to the office and scrapped the editorial page to write about my first live, NHL game. The game was at the Forum and Guy Lafleur scored “my first goal”, which proved to be the winning goal – as we shut out the Philadelphia Flyers and Bernie Parent 3 - 0.

Thanks for the inspiration. I hope my little reminiscence augurs well for tonight…

Jay in PA said...

Interestingly, here in Pittsburgh, the local newspaper published a poll during the Steelers' Super Bowl run a few years ago. It asked if readers consciously maintained their routines so as to avoid jinxing the Steelers. A surprising majority answered in the affirmative.

I still think I can affect games, and don't tell me I can't!