My man Drew, aka LloydtheBarber, holds it down over at Ghostrunner on First. It is, in his words: "Blue Jays Detritus from OPS to OMG." It's also prolific. If you haven't been reading his work, your 2009 Toronto Blue Jays season has been a lot worse than mine. It's quality writing as found on Ghostrunner that makes following the Blue Jays, with heart and soul, a little less painful.
Drew also happens to be a Montreal Canadiens fan. And he's agreed to opine on life on the other side of a rivalry that only seems to get better. Ladies and gentlemen, Drew:
If you are in any way familiar with my baseball work, you'll probably agree that I'm one of the least sentimental guys around. I don't care for celebrating old victories or varnishing near misses or Pyrrhic triumphs for the greater good. Additionally, I don't give a good God damn about the CFL or the CBC or the Tragically fucking Hip or any other arcane Canadiana foisted upon the great people of this great land every day of the week. To me it seems abundantly clear we live in a very different world; let's all move on and celebrate the next victory, the next triumph rather than resting on our increasingly distant past.
How very progressive of me, no? Except for one thing: it all goes out the window when it comes to the institution that is the Montreal Canadiens.
In no other pursuit in life do I longingly gaze to the past more frequently than excitedly looking to the future. Nowhere else will I make excuses and turn a blind eye to unfair historical advantages (All Your Francophones Are Belong to Toe); nowhere else will I covet the past so tightly and appreciate the way the team continues to pay homage to the glory days.
I was born and raised in Southern Ontario, a young Leafs fan because I didn't know any better. One ill-fated trade later and I was a Habs fan. Things are simple when you're a kid. "I like Russ Courtnall, he plays for Montreal now, I guess I like Montreal." I was just in time for Cup runs and Forum crowds. I moved seamlessly from St. Patrick versus the hated Bruins to Jeff Hackett and the realignment to 8 games a year with the local Leafs, the team we love to (and have to) hate. I take it all in stride because my fandom is unwavering, neither up nor down.
I take the good with the bad, the incredible third jerseys alongside Mario Trembley. I remember Pierre Turgeon with nothing but fondness thanks to his participation in the Forum closing festivities. I long for the return of Sheldon Souray and believe implicitly in Carey Price. On the baseball diamond I resent the business of fetishizing "grit and heart" but I spent years arguing I'd rather have Saku Koivu over Vinny Lecavalier.
Judging by that last statement, you'll see I'm unlike many Habs fans. I will not turn my back on the players on the ice at the first inkling of underperformance. Habs are Habs, and I support them all the same. Be they Stephane Richer, Patrice Brisbois, or Chris Higgins. I'm sure I'll come around on Gomez and Gionta or whichever undersized speed guy is next in Gainey's sights. I don't comb through the team news minutiae or rosterbate the night away because it just doesn't bring me the same pleasure that simply watching the Trois Couleurs fly around the ice and listening to the Beer/Telecom Centre crowd does every single time.
The allure of the mildly exotic and the built-in rivalry with my Leaf-loving friends hooked me early on and continues paying dividends today. One game in Montreal and you'll see. The wall of red shirts and Export cups, the biting, smoke filled air around the arena and the sense of something bigger than the game at hand and you’re lucky just being there to take it all in.
Since my gracious host asked for a season preview and I've wasted far too many words trying to explain what it feels like to be Habs fan, here is my thing with the Habs in 2009/10: they'll either compete or they won't. They'll be good or they'll get crushed.
I’m sure it will be a swell year. The Habs will battle the Leafs and Sens for the final “playoff” spot as French-Canadian hands are wrung so tightly you’ll see the smoke from 40 Bay Street. To be honest, I don't really care. Being a Habs fan (for me) means the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The only thing I know for sure: those 8 games connected by the 401 make the entire miserable winter worth while.