The birth of a freakin’ monster

Well, that sucked.

Seeing as the team will have already put that debacle behind them, I will do the same and just leave it all alone. Instead, I give you another installment of All Habs, All the Time.

Today the horrifyingly beautiful, true story behind a clinical obsession…

Day 5 – I shouldn’t even be a Habs fan.

Had I followed any normal path taken by young Canadian boys, I wouldn’t just cheer for someone else, I might actually be one of those misguided souls to detest the Montreal Canadiéns.

As awful as that sounds, it would have been the natural course for me. I basically grew up during the 1980’s – I was born before that but we don’t need to discuss my being 32 years old – in Regina, Sask. and so I obviously didn’t have a hometown NHL team.

At the time when I really started getting into the game, the Islanders were at the top and their biggest rival was the upstart Edmonton Oilers.

As a real youngster I remember myself thinking I would become an Oiler fan, seeing as they had this superstar player, who was already regarded as No. 1 and Edmonton was a place I could actually fathom existing.

Most of the kids I was attending Kindergarten and such with were making their choice between the Oilers and the Calgary Flames, who were new to the league but a perfect fit for many new, young prairie fan. At the time I didn’t understand why EVERYBODY hated Winnipeg, but then I witnessed its not-so-storied history for the next 12 years.

I guess most people just knew.

Well for the first and last time in my life, I decided to do something because other people around me were doing it and I picked the Oilers. After all, between them and Calgary there was absolutely no contest and so I chose Wayne, Mark, Jari, Glenn, Paul and Grant the User.

Briefly.

In the fall of 1985, I was playing hockey in my first competitive league – before that I had just limped along with the other non-gifted children in park league – and my teammates were far more into the sport than anything I had ever witnessed. NHL talk filled our dressing room every day that season and for the first time in my life I was really gaining an interest in the pros.

But I was also developing my personality in those days and as it turns out, the more people love something the more I feel an undeniable need to despise it at the top of my lungs. By the way, that did NOT payoff during high school when all the ‘cool’ kids started wearing Birkenstocks with wool socks but that’s entirely their demon to bear.

The point is after listening to all my friends talk about how great the Oilers and Flames were for seven months, I couldn’t flippin’ stand either one of them. And when Steve Smith banked one off the Freebaser to knock out the champs, I couldn’t help but take joy in the misery of so many.

Then the Flames met the historic Montreal Canadiéns in the Stanley Cup final. I didn’t know a whole lot about the Flying Frenchmen, except to say I knew they weren’t well liked where I lived.

First of all, my pop is a Detroit fan. He never pushed the Wings on me, though I am sporting a T-shirt in my Grade-1 school pick and I had a Steve Yzerman poster on my wall before even he knew he was amazing. But clearly dad wasn’t exactly loving the Habs.

Add that to a dressing room of French-hating eight-year-olds and you have a perfect opportunity for me to show my true against-the-grain colours.

“LET”S GO HABBIES, LET’S GO!!” *clap-clap*

“Hey Schmidt, pipe down or I’m gonna drill ya!”

“LET”S GO HABBIES, LET’S GO!!” *clap-clap*

“That’s it you’re dead.”

“LET”S GO HABBIES, LET’S GO!!” *clap-clap*

And the real Shmitzy is born.

Now, I figured I better pay some attention to this team if they are going to be my guys so I started the finals with a lot more focus than I had ever watched the NHL before. Up until then, I had never had a pure, deep-down reason to truly cheer for a team.

But now I had the best one of them all. I had spite.

And that’s when I saw him.

I’d been hearing about this unconscious rookie throughout the playoffs but I was only capable of retaining what any eight-year-old is and hadn’t really seen him yet.

His bright white mask looked funny next to the bleu, blanc et rouge of the Habs sweater and his baby face was easily seen through his cage.

Now most Habs fans will remember that first game didn’t go very well but after that, this phenom took over. Game two, that one with Brian Skrudland’s nine-second OT winner (I’ll get to him shortly) was the turning point and the club never looked back, winning in five.

I fell in hockey love with Patrick Roy at that point in a way that can only be described if you actually witness me watch this team today. He definitely started my obsession.

Then three years later, in the summer after the Flames somehow got their redemption, I had done a little weekend work for a Saskatoon gentleman, John Sallinger, who just so happened to be Skrudland’s father-in-law.

He finds out I’m a retarded Habs fan and a few weeks later I’m eating lunch with Brian GD Skrudland and HE’S asking ME about MY hockey career. It was AWESOME.

That December, I end up in Edmonton for that old traditional Christmas/New Year’s trip the Habs used to take west, and after the game – they lost 6-2 and Roy got yanked – I find myself being whisked down to the dressing room area, where I met SO many guys it would make you cry.

Roy, Chelios, McPhee, Smith, etc. etc. etc. I even met Don F. Cherry, who seemed short to me and I was only 12. But shaking all of these guys’ hands – including my hero, Pat Roy – still paled in comparison to when Skrudland came out. Not only did he remember me and strike up a conversation – in the wake of an embarrassing loss no less – but he also handed me this:

Self explanatory I do believe.

Thanks for taking care of this while I was in school AT.

And yes, that is a game stick but no it’s not from that night’s game. That is a game stick from the ’89 Cup final – who gives a s#!t that they lost – and it is signed by EVERYONE. Toe Blake’s autograph is on that stick folks. TOE BLAKE.

This all happened during a time when the team just happened to be one of the best in the league every single season. I could write another 1,100 words about how my obsession grew worse once the team started to falter and I had to actually learn humility.

And I could babble for even more about how in ’96 an old man, barely able to walk and a shadow of his former greatness sparked an ovation so long and so loud it made a building live forever. Or how a certain Finnish-born captain showed a city so used to winning it was all that ever mattered that the biggest triumphs in life have nothing to do with hockey.

No, maybe I shouldn’t be a Habs fan. But it’s sure easy to see why I am.

Now go win game two boys!

Framed jersey signed by '96 team. Donated to auction by Dick Irvin, bid on and purchased by my kickass pop and given to me for my birthday that year, with the Skrudland stick resting comfortably on top, in case you didn't get why I love them so much yet. Who's jealous?????

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7 Responses to “The birth of a freakin’ monster”

  1. jeannie Says:

    Just in case there are people out there who don’t believe this story – trust me – it’s true. I, being the lowly mother, had the privilege of living with this young man and witnessing his metamorphosis from a fairly meek and mild little boy to the rabbid Habs fan you see today. It’s okay tho – I am only slightly scarred from the experience.

    GO HABS! Trust me – it’s easier to convert than to explain why I would cheer for anybody else.

  2. i dont know…story seems a little far fetched..haha..but anyway that signed jersey..looks to me that the crest got signed..what kind of fag does that

    T-roy

    ESQ

    • Haha no fair. You’ve seen it! That pic wasn’t going to give it away that Mr. October was an idiot and put his ‘should’ve-played-golf-and-left-my-franchise-alone’ signature on the sexiest logo on the planet.

  3. Not to worry Smitzy, I have returned the stick/jersey back to AT’s Hockey Hall Of Fame where it is safe…..HALAAAAAAAAAAKKKKK!!!

  4. DUDE

    UNREAL. SOOOOOO freakin jealous!

    I’m still in mourning, and shall be for the remainder of June….until Draft Day. And then begins the excitement of the upcoming season.
    SO MUCH to be happy about for our future….and some pretty big questions that need to be answered, I myself am a little worried about the Price situation…he’s too good, too young to give up on….
    Anyways, I’ll call you in a cpl days-when we’re both in a lil better spirits

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