It Sure Wasn’t Hard Becoming A Habs Fan

I’m asked from time to time why I cheer for the Habs and not the Toronto Maple Leafs, seeing that I grew up only an hour north of Toronto, in Orillia. The answer’s easy. The Montreal Canadiens were a gift from my dad.

My dad’s 87 now, and of course, still watches hockey. He’s been a hockey fan all his life, followed the Leafs when he was young, and he once wrote a letter in the 1930’s to Ace Bailey who lay in a hospital after Boston’s Eddie Shore clubbed him over the head, ending his career, and nearly killing him.

Bailey’s wife wrote a thank-you note to my dad in return.

But slowly, my dad began to turn. The Toronto Star and Telegram both plastered their papers with Leafs stories and my dad began to wonder about the almost invisible other teams. It was always “Leafs, Leafs, Leafs” as he used to say. Foster Hewitt was the definitive homer, and this rubbed dad the wrong way. And dad, being the introverted type, cringed when he read or heard about the goings-on of brash, loud, and arrogant Leafs owner Conn Smythe.

In the fifties, with television entering households, it was only Leafs game shown, and when the Montreal Canadiens played in Toronto, my dad liked what he saw on his TV. There was the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Plante. Stanley Cups began to be won by the Habs on a regular basis beginning in 1955, and the Leafs just kept plodding along. The Canadiens had something the Leafs didn’t.

When I was a boy, my dad started a big Montreal Canadiens scrapbook for me. He helped me write fan letters to the the Rocket, and at one point, the Rocket sent me a Christmas card. He took me to Maple Leaf Gardens a couple of times, and once, when we were early and stood at the gate, the entire 1958 Montreal team walked right by us.

He bought me a hockey book which he mailed to Montreal asking for autographs in, and it was mailed back signed by the entire 1958-59 Habs – Richard, Plante, Toe Blake, Beliveau, Geoffrion etc, and the only one missing was Doug Harvey. When we went to a game at the Gardens, he brought the book with him, took it down the the Montreal dressing room corridor, saw Toe Blake standing there, and asked Blake if he would take the book into the dressing room and get Harvey to sign it.

Believe it not, Blake did just that. My son has the book now.

So of course I became a Habs fan. They’ve been magical for me, and the magic has never gone away. It’s been a lifelong love affair.

And it’s all because of my dad.

6 thoughts on “It Sure Wasn’t Hard Becoming A Habs Fan”

  1. LES CANADIENS

    WELL……ITS GONNA BE LIKE OLD TIME HOCKEY FOR YOUR DAD LES CANADIENS AFFRONTE LES LEAF TONITE .

    GOOD DAY D,G,

  2. Great story.

    I was originally from Galt, (now Cambridge) and it was nothing but leaf on the horribly biased hnic/cbc when I started to watch hockey around 1970. Luckily we had Radio-Canada and got the French telecast. My favorite Uncle was over every Saturday to play cards and drink beer. My Dad did not like sports but my Mon Oncle made me an instant Habs fan and explained that a true Canadiens fan hates the leaf. My son, Patrick, is 15 and loves his Habs. You can guess the rest.

  3. Dk,

    Surprised to see somebody missed me … hehehe, given that I’m not exactly what you would call `endearing’. What happened was my pc was zapped with a heavy-duty virus that has completely disabled it … sigh, looks like I’ll have to get another which means a long wait because I sure don’t have the moola. (I’m using one at this office I clean once a week) Was it a retaliatory strike by a Leaf-hired `geek hitman for baffing around their rep Bud on the Jerry Springer show?’ If so, the miserable l’il mangeurs de twinkies are in for a rough time when I become Lord & Master Of The Whole Shebang. They’ll regret their impertinence perhaps even as much as Danielleia regrets being a Sabre punk(ette). So what do you call Briere? Danny Vader? Gollum Briere? Benedict Briere? Peewee? And how about Drury? Ranger rat? Dreary Drury? Doublecrossing no-good low-life scumbag? Whatever. Truth is you can’t blame them, it’s that punky team of yours that is the real cause of their fan’s suffering. Danielleia, you could save yourself a whole lot of grief if you would only `see the light’ and come on over where the hockey is superior and the fans know their hockey. Hey, you’re young (although, alas, as long as you support the Sabres, you’ll remain dumb), you’re strong, you’re flexible – you can do it!

    Dk, I enjoyed your piece. I grew up in the heart of the Leaf Nation in sw Ontario and in part, at least, I became a Habber because my Dad enjoyed their brand of hockey, preferred it to the clutch & grap cheap-shot stuff of the Leafs. It didn’t take much to embrace the Habs because there was/is one thing the Habs did that the Leafs did not which was to fire up the imagination, bring speed and finesse and exotic `otherness’ (hehehe, luuuv that Gallic passion – nice to see Kovy starting to tune in to it!) which contrasted emphatically with the boring plodding pedestrian play exhibited by the lumbering Leafs. Yup, firewagon hockey, was and still is the essence of The Game.

  4. Good to have you back Habinator. I don’t mind admitting, I was worried. And so was Dani.

  5. I’m pretty sure the All Star game originally started as a fund-raiser to cover the costs of Ace Bailey’s care. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but was simply repeated annually afterwards.

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