One year when I was about 8 or 9 my Dad and I went down to the local used sports store to by me a practice jersey. I had thoroughly outgrown my tiny Mats Naslund jersey (all jokes aside about the actual size of Mats’ jersey in his playing days), and so it was time to upgrade. There was no way my old man was going to shell out the big bucks for a new Habs jersey knowing full well how I treated my practice equipment, so he directed me straight to the used rack. At first I tried to find a home jersey (white in those days) that would work. Of course, the only sizes they had with a Canadiens logo were adult. They were far too big for a kid who might have stood 4’8″ in skates. Then I started looking for an away jersey in red. It was then that I found the only used red jersey that could possibly fit my tiny frame. As I pulled it from the rack I quickly realized that it was not the bleu, blanc, rouge that I was searching for, but the away jersey for the Chicago Blackhawks. It was my own personal ‘The Hockey Sweater” moment. Inside I secretly prayed for a cloud of moths to come eat my sweater and somehow provide me with a new Habs jersey with ANY name on the back – it didn’t need to be Naslund. I was desperate… not Andre Racicot desperate – but you get my point. My father decided that this jersey would do just fine. I was a young, growing kid playing hockey 4 nights a week on 2 teams, and was bound to destroy whatever shirt was on my back. It might as well be a Blackhawks jersey… better than having to replace one that mattered.
And so the Blackhawks became my practice team for the next two years or so. Although my allegiances have never wavered from the Canadiens, sure enough, the Blackhawks became my second favorite team. Through the years I’ve followed them from afar, happy enough when they did well (although they never seemed to do all that well), and saddenned when (as they most often did), the ‘Leaf’d’ out in the end.
That said, let me congratulate the Chicago Blackhawks who went out and took a back-and-forth Game 6 to bring the Cup back to the Windy City for the first time since 1961, saving all Habs fans the task of stewing over the summer about losing in the Conference Finals to the Champs. The Blackhawks are what every team in the league is trying to be right now: Big, Quick, Skilled, Fast. They were the better team in the series and the fact that an Original 6 franchise has won (in my mind) adds to the ‘collective capital’ of the NHL. I believe it is better for the NHL to see its Champions be able to fill their building from start-to-end of the season. Although hockey is only recently seeing its resurgence in Chicago – a city with literally everything else in America to offer – it is safe to say hockey is back. I couldn’t be happier with the result. My ‘other’ team took the cup which has never happened in my lifetime, and one of my mortal enemies – a member of the axis of evil (consisting of course of the Broons, Laffs, and Flyers) was vanquished in 6.
While those revelers in Chicago no doubt celebrated long into the morning hours, the rest of the league will turn its attention to the impending draft and free agency window of July 1. We will have plenty of time between now and then to discuss all the will happen in the 10/11 season. For now I just want to say that the season was a fantastic one, if only for the unexpected twists and turns it took.
Have a safe summer. I’ll be back when news, and the mood strikes me. Here’s hoping for a fruitful offseason!
Go Habs Go!!