As far back as I can remember I have always been a Habs fan. I have my family to thank for this.
My grandparents are from Portugal. After having lived a few years in Venezuela, they decided to head north and see what things were like in Canada. They arrived in Montreal in 1969. It’s unclear for me to say how quickly they got into hockey because, well, I wasn’t there. But they always seem to have great stories of watching legends like Cournoyer, Frank Mahovlich, Henri Richard, Larry Robinson etc…play for the Habs.
My grandfather and godfather watched the Habs raise 7 Stanley Cups from 1969 to 1979. But they always seem to talk about the Stanley Cup victory in 1986, the year I was born. Thanks to them I was born into the great religion that is the Habs, and learned to worship Les Glorieux. My godfather was the one who got me my first Habs jersey. I wore it so often that I can’t even get the stains out. A couple of years later, my godfather got me my first personalized jersey, which is now framed on my living room wall.
One of the things I love the most about the Habs is its rich history, and how over the course of my own life I have also seen many great moments in Canadiens history. Moments like McSorley’s illegal stick on June 3 1993, the 24th Stanley Cup Win over Gretzky and the L.A. Kings, Plante’s #1 rising to the rafters in 1995, the last game at the Forum on March 11th 1996, the passing of “The Rocket” in 2000, the return of Captain Koivu after his battle with cancer in April of 2002, the 2003 Heritage Classic, that AMAZING comeback vs. the New York Rangers in 2008, and the Centennial celebrations in 2009.
My personal favorite was the historical comeback in 2008. With the New York Rangers leading 5-0 23 minutes into the game, half the people at the Bell Center left. I like to assume that those were the “bandwagon” fans because of the fact that they jumped ship. But the diehard fans, like me, stayed and stood by our team and watched our bleu-blanc-rouge come back into the game and see Captain Koivu win it in the shootout.
I have also managed to convert some people. When I first started dating my girlfriend, she didn’t follow hockey religiously. She thought the Habs were a bunch of losers, I knew this had to change or it wouldn’t work out lol. Seven years later she’s just a big a fan as I am (or so I let her believe) and tries to make sure we watch as many games as we can. A classic example of this would be when she went to go work in France at the end of the last hockey season. She found a website that had a live feed of the game, and we would watch some of the playoff games together while Skyping. Her feed had a 30 second delay, which inevitably caused her to know about any exciting plays before she saw them, due to my reactions.
Last April, while the Habs had their magnificent playoff run, my cousin Anthony was visiting from Portugal. He had no idea what hockey was. But he does now (not that he had much of a choice…really). I mean, I know I hadn’t seen him in 12 years, but the Habs were in the playoffs! So because my dad, my sister and I would watch the games, he would sit and watch also. After the first round vs. Washington, he knew all the rules, knew all the players on the Habs’ roster. After game 6 vs. the Pens, he got himself a Montreal Canadiens baseball cap. My job was done, he was hooked. He left Montreal after the Pittsburg series. When he got back to Portugal, he found a way to watch the Philly series streaming live, even if the games were at 2 or 3 in the morning. He emailed me last week, wanting to know when the season starts; he wants to keep watching them.
People around me sometimes laugh, at how devoted I am to this team. I always tell them that the Habs have always been, and will always be a part of my life. I live for the Habs, I bleed bleu-blanc-rouge, I will always support the Habs, in good times and bad times, till death do us part. Tricolore jusqu’au bout.