Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Habs Pros and Cons

A fan and his team.
I always say there are jobs you can't pay me enough to do.

Most involve blood and other bodily fluids, or waste disposal of any kind. This is why my career choices have never led me towards health care or sanitation.

Lately I've been thinking that you couldn't pay me enough money to play hockey for the Montreal Canadiens either, even if a random genie were to appear and inexplicably render me both male and very talented at ice hockey on an NHL level.

As a fan I think there's no greater team.

A lot of that comes with the whole bonding thing my family did surrounding the team, and which still unites us to this day. Then there's the team's rich history which I thoroughly did enjoy growing up, and which it seems likely my nephew will not get to experience during his childhood.

But if I try to see through from the other side of the glass the team looks a lot less attractive. I've even worked up a list of Pros and Cons about this whole thing while we wait for the Habs struggle to regain their equilibrium.


1. Is there a bigger hockey town in this sport? Yes I know Toronto has greater revenues, but for sheer joy of the sport itself it's pretty hard to top Montreal. If you don't believe me go to the Bell Centre. Also go ahead and try to find an NHL player who hasn't quipped about how he loves playing there, regardless of which team he's on.

2. In addition to being passionate about the team and the sport, the Canadiens fans are highly intelligent. I think it was Hal Gill who once had a discussion once with a homeless man about hockey. Go try that in Florida and get back to me.

3. Montreal has an embarrassing richness of culture. From cuisine to art to music to language it is truly breathtaking. It's steeped in history, beautiful in its architecture and boasts a diverse population. Aside from the traffic I've never not enjoyed Montreal, and I'm not sure I can say that about any other city I've ever visited.

4. The team's history is both a blessing and a curse. Can you imagine being one of the players who actually hoists that 25th Cup in Montreal? What if it's your name on the Conn Smythe or the Vezina? How about riding in that parade down St. Cat's after the mayor sets up "the usual route"? When you retire and they hoist your sweater into the rafters alongside Richard and Beliveau and Roy you will reside among legends forever, never to be forgotten.


1. Let's flip the coin on the team's history. This town is used to winning. They've never had to wait so long to do it before either. You step onto that ice under the sweaters of legends and are expected to rise to their levels. A player here has to learn to thrive under enormous pressure.

2. The Montreal Canadiens fanbase can come across like a pack of rabid dogs. This usually only happens when the team is losing but not always. In other markets you can drop 8 or 9 games in a row. Here you get maybe 3 games before they are calling for your head, or your teammates' heads, or your coach's. No one else will tear you apart the way your own fans will. They will fight off other team's fans who take pot shots at you, but they themselves will come at you even worse during the first whiff of your inevitable slump.

3. Because these fans are also highly intelligent, you're not going to get it past them either. If you dog it they will know. If you screw it up regularly they will know. If you lie about it and fail to own it they will know. Even if you own it and apologize they will give you the stink eye, especially if you are a grunt and not a top tier player. And they will helpfully remind you of that fact every single time. This team always has a couple of goats - the biggest ones in the NHL - and if it's not you it's one of your buddies.

4. Taxes in Montreal are especially harsh. Yes you get paid an exorbitant salary, more than most people dream. Thanks to federal and provincial taxes you are also going to pay out an exorbitant amount of that dream salary, more than most people can conceive. You will be expected to do this with a smile on your face and not bitch and moan about it either.

5. In addition to performing well under intense pressure you will be expected to try to pick up some of the language as a show of respect and really just to live in and move around the city. If you're Francophone to begin with, this can also be a blessing or a curse depending on your performance. If you suck and you're French they'll say you only got signed or drafted because you're French. If you're any good there's less pressure in pretty much every other market in the NHL where your heritage doesn't routinely overshadow your hockey skills.

6. This team's constantly treading water, so they don't tank often enough to stock up on prospects and they don't contend strongly enough to make you believe. If you really want to win a Stanley Cup your chances are currently much better in Pittsburgh, Boston or preferably a Western Conference team.

7. Lack of privacy for you and by extension your family is also going to play into your happiness. If you go out and do something stupid in public, like accidentally swipe a purse or get into a fist fight at a house party, you're going to find it on the front page of every newspaper and blog and over-analyzed to death by the TV and radio shows. Not just until it blows over either. This is a hockey town and folks have long memories. You can't be young and rich in stupid in Montreal. OK you can, but you'd better be a top tier player. Otherwise it's just best for you and your loved ones to grow a thick skin and keep your heads down. Also, no having a personality. Your coach will likely publicly reprimand you if you have a personality that doesn't play well with the team's "only stereotypical schtick allowed" unwritten rule.

So after I tally the scores it's Pros - 4 and Cons - 7.

Are there more pros and less cons in another hockey market? Maybe. I don't know. I don't really care. This post is about the Montreal Canadiens.

All I know is that when Free Agency or Trade Deadline or Draft Day hit and twitter salivates over unrealistic prospect choices or speculates trading dross for gold, maybe I'll re-read this blog and remember why us Habs fans can't have nice things anymore.


  1. I am niot sure if this ranks as a con or not but there is the % of the population that could care less whether they win just as long as everyone is French. The Anglos not wanted symptoms. If they fired Therien today they could not get the best coach available but the only the best coach that spoke french. It seems to me that a focus has been put on trying to appease the language nazis rather than acting as a professional sports franchise and put the best club available to try and win the prize. Some still have the mindset as if it is still the original 6 and all Quebec players are available to the Habs. As we all know this has not been the case for a long while. Right now the D is like a sieve. If they wanrted to pay me league minimum to be a pylon I would accept their offer. Until they get over the language thing, I am afraid they won't hoise the cup for some time. Although they will win before the Leafs though.

  2. Frankly I don't care if the HC speaks only Swahili, dresses like Don Cherry and has purple and green Martian skin. Can he win a damned Cup? Probably not with this roster. I doubt Bowman or Blake could with this roster. I hate politics with my sports - regardless of policy and regardless of sport. If it negatively impacts the on-ice product, I'd say it's a con. But right now I think the team's problems are much deeper than a language coaching issue. Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. Every time I'm tempted to be disappointed with Marc Bergevin (at least as far as talent acquisition goes) I remember your cons. He took a lot of guff during the offseason -- rightly so, I'm afraid -- for Danny Briere. People wanted so many different 1st or 2nd tier players instead, but what's Bergy supposed to do if they don't want to come here and deal with the fans and the language (even the Francophones) and the taxes and the expectations?

    The best things that have happened to the team player-wise have been in the draft, IMHO. I wonder if that's likely to change in the near future ...

  4. Janet even the draft I find a bit lacking. After 12 years of Trevor Timmins how much closer is this team to a Cup? It's still just treading water, neither sinking nor swimming. I wish we'd either tank or make some bold moves and just go for it. I'm tired of treading, you know? And yes he did take guff for a washed up Briere. We need to stop signing players who use this team for a retirement home. Thanks hon.


Thanks for taking the time to comment.