You shook me like I’ve never been. Now show me how to live again.
Montreal, QC The morning after the Habs’ epic Game 5 victory over the Rangers was not a pleasant one for me, but none of them are these days. It’s safe to say I’ve been hungover every single day that I’ve been back in Canada, and since today is my birthday, it’s going to get much worse before it gets better. Anyway, it was hard not to, you know, go hard after the insanity that was the fifth game in the Eastern Conference Final. So, it wasn’t totally unheard of that I couldn’t quite recall all the details of the night before, as I slowly made my way through the hotel lobby to seek sanctuary in a welcoming Deville Dinerbar poutine. However, when I got downstairs all the hotel staff members excitedly ran up to me to ask me how I liked the game. At first I thought this was just part of the wave of excitement that had swept the city after what transpired at the Bell Centre the night before, but then the pangs of embarrassment began to hit me – I didn’t remember telling ANYONE that I was heading to the game the night before! Which made me wonder just how the staff had learned of this, and more importantly WHAT ELSE they had learned about me in the aftermath of Game 5! Was there a noise complaint or something?!?!
Nothing quite like starting your day with an unexpected walk of shame, eh?! However, I suppose if there was ever a time to forgive a girl for being her old, scandalous road warrior self, a do-or-die victory for the home crowd was definitely that time. I mean, it was impossible not to get swept up in the emotions that were running high all over the streets of Montreal. It may have been a Tuesday, but the people were flooding the town, and partying all night long, as if it was the most epic Saturday night in the history of Saturday nights! Riot police were stationed on every corner, and there was more than one occasion where firetruck sirens could be heard in the distance. This WAS Montreal, after all. They have a history of rioting even when they win! Yep, electricity was definitely in the air that night, so yeah, cut a girl some slack, already!
Last year, after I finally completed my NHL tour, I declared that my favourite rink of them all (atmosphere wise) was Winnipeg. It’s true, Winnipeg during the regular season is totally unmatched, and I’m sure someday they will get to show the hockey world just how insane they can be, if they were to experience a deep Stanley Cup playoff run. Of course, for the typical Ontarian, who has maybe visited Buffalo, Toronto, Detroit, Ottawa, and Montreal, Montreal is always the obvious favourite – even for the most devout Leafs fan. To me, the Bell Centre was always a pain in the ass that I tried to avoid. I’m not sure why, really, but perhaps my Toronto upbringing ensured that I despised all things Montreal both hockey-related and non, and I was just totally incapable of appreciating the Bell Centre due to the bad blood that has always existed between our two cities. But, I developed a newfound respect for Habs fans during game 5, and now I have to change my vote for favourite game day experience.
I saw things in the stands that I’ve never seen before. In my section, for example, a chant of, “Fuck you, Rangers!” had broken out. I guess some parental types had expressed their concern for their children’s virgin ears to Bell Centre security. But when the security guy went to deal with the situation, the naughties simply said, “But they are Ranger fans!” while pointing to the six or so blue shirts that were occupying the seats a few rows in front of them. The security guard suddenly understood, patted the guys on the back, and walked away as the chants continued with his blessing. And I loved it!
After the game, I nearly got killed, as speaking English automatically meant that I was from New York. Now, to be fair, I had been busting out the French earlier in the day, but my hangover headache was intensified by the insane noise levels at the game, so by the time a drunk and happy Habs fan had grabbed me on the street corner, and started saying God-knows-what, all I could manage was, “Nope! Just no!” To which he responded, “YOU ARE A RANGERS FAN!” Which then got the attention of other Habs fans, and soon I had five guys surrounding me saying, “YOU ARE!!!!!!???????” I tried to explain that I was not, in fact, a Rangers fan. I consider myself an NHL fan above all else, after all. But they didn’t buy it, and told me that the worst thing of all was that I was too afraid to admit it, “JUST SAY IT! SAY THAT YOU ARE A RANGERS FAN!!!”
Oddly enough, later in the night I would discover that claiming to be from New York was actually safer than telling the truth and admitting I was actually from Toronto. You’d think that wouldn’t be the case, since the Leafs suck and all, and you might expect that the people of Montreal would rather gloat than hate. Nope. New York may have been the headache of the week, but Toronto will always be the one true enemy!
Anyway, the final component to change my opinion of the Montreal game experience occurred in the wee hours of the morning. Somewhere between the shots, the good times, and a sneak attack from one of the world famous Montreal strippers, who came out of nowhere, and decided I needed a hug and that my “new friend” needed to be informed that he wasn’t good enough for me (it wasn’t true, of course, but I enjoyed that she said it anyway!), I started to think about what would happen in my town, if they Leafs were ever to get back to the Conference Finals. I was too young to be out on the town the last time the Leafs made it that far! I started combing the streets of Toronto in my mind, trying to imagine where the fun would be hiding. And, sadly, I just couldn’t imagine a night like the night I was having there in Montreal. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe after 4 years abroad, I’m just out of touch with my city. But whether I’m wrong or whether I’m right, one thing will not change. Montreal has earned itself the Psycho Lady Hockey stamp of approval for ultimate game day experience! Make sure you check out the Bell Centre next season, if you haven’t already!
And, P.S., you’re gonna wanna stay thirsty for that one!