I was born in Montreal, Canada, back in 1973, and have fond, although faint, memories of watching the Montreal Canadiens (aka The Habs) win the Stanley Cup year after year in the late 70s. Well, my memories are really about being with my father’s friends and lots of yelling, cheering, and high-fiving, and some vague mental imagery of guys in red and white (and a little blue) skating around the ice.
My real transition into a bigtime hockey fan happened in 1993, while I was a student at Carnegie Mellon University, which is in Pittsburgh, PA. Back in the early 90s, the Pittsburgh Penguins dominated hockey, and everyone picked them to three-peat the Cup victory in 93. But they got eliminated in the second round by the Islanders, and I happened to watch Montreal beat Buffalo in four games straight (three in overtime).
By the third round, I got a little excited, and some of my classmates started watching with me, and we watched Les Canadiens dominate New York, although there were a couple of nail-biting overtime moments (2 more games went to overtime). But by now, despite hockey being fairly dead to the city, I was completely enthralled.
The Stanley Cup Finals. The big moment. And my Habs were taking on none other than Gretzky and the LA Kings. Disaster strikes, the Kings win the first game 4-1. Game 2, Montreal wins, but in overtime. Game 3. Overtime, thankfully another Canadiens victory. Game 4, you guessed it, overtime. But Montreal wins to lead the series 3-1, and comes on strong in Game 5 to seal the deal, and take the Cup home for the 24th time.
Riots ensue, but otherwise it’s a good time for all.
Then the team is effectively dismantled, we trade Roy, and most of the 90s are fairly nightmarish.
Until 1999, when through the magic of the Internet, I finally get to start following Habs games through an online radio service from NHL.com. For the past 6 years, I’ve averaged 15-40 games per year online, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s hard to follow a team from afar, but if you’re a hockey fan, you’ll know that a good radio broadcast can be just as exciting as any TV coverage (especially compared to the ones with the blue “streaks” following the puck on Fox).
I’ll probably subscribe to NHL Center Ice next year, and use my Slingbox to watch from wherever I may be. Not sure if they’ll have the same beautiful HD coverage that I’ve seen some of the games broadcast locally (HD hockey is truly amazing to behold). But that’s next year.
For now, Habs v Canes. Habs in 6. Go Habs Go!
ps – special thanks to Eklund for inspiring me to reminisce