It’s that time of year again, where most hockey fans are spilling tears at the bar and sulking over another early playoff exit or another season of underachieving. There are other fans that have skipped the stage of sadness and are rejoicing that the draft lottery has taken place and their team has a chance to rebuild (five of the top 10 teams from 2016’s draft made the playoffs this season.) But regardless of whether your team is playing in May or not, have you ever sat back and remembered what makes the game of hockey so special to you? Hockey is unlike any other game in the world for so many reasons, and it starts in Montreal. Loving hockey begins in a city in Quebec.
But regardless of whether your team is playing in May or not, have you ever sat back and remembered what makes the game of hockey so special to you? Hockey is unlike any other game in the world for so many reasons, and it starts in Montreal. Loving hockey begins in a city in Quebec.
It Starts in Montreal
I was 19 and would’ve considered myself a serious hockey fan. I was studying abroad in Montreal and the Habs had just advanced to the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers. This was the same year Dustin Tokarski took to the net after an injury took Carey Price out of the goal crease. I was surrounded by university students at a watch party in downtown Montreal outside of the Bell Centre, largely outnumbered by French-speaking hockey fans that had likely been watching the Habs play since they could remember.
What Loving Hockey Looks Like
At this time, I knew little about the Canadiens organization other than the name of P.K. Subban, who I’d grown to adore.
PK Subban's reaction after seeing his tribute video during his return to Montreal. This is amazing https://t.co/JJaH3YzLaV
— Goalie Ways (@GoalieWays) March 3, 2017
However, as I was immersed in the culture of Montreal love, I grew infatuated with the organization and the game in which they made popular on the continent. The evening would end in dramatic fashion as Tokarski stood on his head. He would earn his first playoff victory while fans in Montreal were loving hockey more than ever.
I’ll Never Forget the Roar of the Crowd
It was Game 3, far from the glory of a Stanley Cup, which has been something Habs fans haven’t experienced in quite some time. But the roar of the crowd that late spring night in downtown Montreal was something that I’ll never forget. For me, it was the moment I fell head over heels in love with the game of hockey, and how perfect of a place to make that memory than in the great city of Montreal, where many, including myself, would consider it to be the birthplace of hockey.
The Canadiens embody everything that is special about hockey; history, camaraderie, and a united body. They set the standard for every other NHL franchise that we have in the modern-day hockey world. As I explored the city of Montreal and learned about their history as hockey fans and the icons of their culture, such as Maurice Richard, it was obvious that hockey was more than just a game to the people of Montreal, and the citizens of Quebec…it was a way of life that united them.
For the Love of the Game and So Much More
We live in a world that is affected by heartbreak much more serious than sport. During the playoffs, we can lose sight of the world’s problems and hockey can serve as an escape. Several years ago, when Canada experienced a few terrorist events, the country took to the ice for comfort.
As an American citizen, the NFL tends to be what our nation centers around and finds comfort in, and to those of us that love football, that’s great. But for the country of Canada, they all have one sport that they love and hold near and dear to their heart. Hockey. They are passionate, loving, hockey fans, and when life outside of hockey gets tough, they put their rivalries aside and they let their love of hockey begin the healing process for their nation.
Hockey is a lot like life—so much can change in a split second and when the buzzer goes off, you’re left with a very different situation than you ever thought you’d be in. But at the end of the day, or the end of the game, one thing will always remain the same: our love for hockey will help us get through tomorrow.
Smith works full time with Rise Against Hunger, a non-profit set on ending world hunger by 2030. He’s a hockey enthusiast living in Pittsburgh, PA and formerly covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for THW.
Follow him on twitter @BSmithWV