It can be an excellent time for western Canada’s Montreal Canadiens fans. The team’s coming, with stops in Calgary on Monday, Edmonton Wednesday, and Vancouver Sunday. People are excited. They’ve had their tickets for months, or are now ready to fork out hundreds of dollars for the high-priced ducats.
I’ve seen the the Habs in all three cities, and in all three it’s a lovely sight. The Montreal sweaters everywhere, the “Go Habs Go” chant throughout, the cheers as loud as the home team when the Canadiens score. In fact, when the “Go Habs Go” chant starts, the home team faithful start their own chant to outdo them and it becomes a cross between funny and tense.
For many western hockey fans, the Habs coming is one of the big nights in a long season, regardless of the year. And regardless of the kind of team the Habs happen to be in any given year.
And what will fans in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver see this year? Will they see a team that makes bad decisions, horrible giveaways, and offers weak goaltending? Or will they see the other team, the one we see glimpses of sometimes, the one where passes are crisp, the scorers score, the defence crushes, and the goalie plays like he can.
It must make Montreal players feel good to see how they’re embraced in the west. It’s a clear example of what it means to wear the sweater. Vincent Lecavalier would be pleasantly surprised if he were a Hab on this western visit. This week they’re movie stars. The young heard from their grandfathers and fathers, many of whom grew up back east, about all the Stanley Cups, about Richard, Beliveau, Lafleur and the others. Most Flames, Oilers and Canucks fans, cheering on their team to wallop the Canadiens, know and appreciate the uniqueness of this club that has come to town on one of those rare occasions. So the atmosphere at the rinks is heavy-duty.
The only problem is, the Habs have looked incredibly mediocre lately. This west coast trip could be a disaster for all those who’ve waited, or paid those big dollars for a ticket. They may wish they’d stayed home and watched it on TV.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the Habs break out of their doldrums, for themselves, for their fans in general, and for the western fans who’ve been waiting impatiently for the big night since the schedule was announced.
And I especially want them to win in Vancouver.