I am a 33 year old from Halifax, Nova Scotia. More importantly, I am a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and have been since, well, forever. Prior to this past weekend, in all these years of fan-dom, I had never seen the Leafs play live. Correction: I had never seen the Leafs play a hockey game live. I have memories of watching a couple Leafs who had come to Halifax in 89/90 to play a charity softball game. I got autographs from Tom Fergus and Tahir Domi and was very sad to learn that Allan Bester would not be playing as advertised due to a cold and/or flu. Cue foreshadowing: The Leafs dominated a local team of Haligonian fire-fighters.
I have seen a few NHL games. Edm @ NJ and Bos @ NYR on a high school trip in 1993. Car @ Mtl because my best friend is a Canes fan and wanted to see them play, and paid my way. Never the Leafs. Never my Leafs.
The circumstances surrounding my first Leafs game involved Britney Spears and Crayola crayons.
Back in November, my wife heard news that Britney Spears was including stops in Montreal and Toronto on her upcoming world tour. For some reason that I have never really been able to comprehend, my wife is a fan of the celebrity gossip culture. In turn, she is a fan of the entire Britney saga. Who am I to judge, as I write this in the middle of a 2nd year nursing lecture on Neurological Assessement? It is all about priorities. Anyhow, my wife was determined to go to this concert, and I knew I could use this to my advantage. I said "maybe I'll tag along and take in a hockey game..." I checked to see if the Leafs were playing at home around the time of the Toronto concert. No luck. I guess I'll never see them play, I thought.
Then, my wife, god bless her soul, suggested I check if the Habs were home on the weekend of Brit's Montreal circus. It's not the Leafs, but at least it's hockey, she said. I didn't even realize my wife knew Montreal had a hockey team. Happily, they did have a home game scheduled. The concert was on Friday, March 20th and the Habs were playing at home on the 21st.Lets just check and see who they're playing. Against Toronto. What? Toronto in Montreal?! Habs vs Leafs?! YES!!
I tried to get tickets through the Bell Centre, but the game was already sold-out. So, instead I bought a ticket from an online vendor and paid 200$ for a 50$ seat. I happily paid 200$ for a 50$ seat. I paid more for my seat which was 3 rows down from the very back row than my wife did for a seat in the Reds within spitting distance of Brit. I did not care.
My ticket came in the mail. I took it and posted it to the kitchen fridge with a magnet. The game was three months away. Within a week, my 5 year old daughter pulled a chair over to the fridge and climbed up to look at my ticket. She pulled it from the fridge and took her crayons to it. Apparently unhappy with her art, she crumpled up my ticket and threw it in a corner of the kitchen. When I realized what had happened, I quickly straightened out my ticket and inspected it to see if its barcode remained intact. It did. I would never hit my children as punishment. Had that ticket been rendered useless, I may have considered it.
Months passed. School was getting hectic. My wife and I are both fulltime students raising two kids and trying to work enough to pay all our bills. We don't get a lot of help and our lives are generally quite crazy. For a while, it was looking like we might have to back out and sell our tickets. Still, we managed to find childcare for the kids so we could go on the trip and completed a bunch of our schoolwork early in order to be able to go. I'm still not really sure how. It is all about priorities.
March 21, 2009
We all know how the game went. For me, the result wasn't as important as the experience. Here is an email I sent to a friend, a Habs fan, shortly after the game:
I was at the game tonight, and made sure to soak in as much Habs culture as I could tolerate. I took pictures of the monuments outside the main entrance to the Bell Ctr. I even enjoyed an amazing video tribute before the game which was about how far-reaching the Habs really are. Pictures of people wearing le bleu, blanc et rouge all over the world. really cool stuff! I sat outside for a while and listened to scalpers arguing about how Sam Pollack would have dealt Saku four years ago, and that KOIVU is the real problem with the team this year. It was really quite interesting. I sat surrounded by Habs fans. Watched them argue with Leafs fans who dared to wear their jerseys. I watched those same fans go from the edge of their seats to slumping back in their chairs after Toronto scored the first two goals. I don't speak french well, but I'm pretty sure the two fellas to my immediate left stopped watching the game and were actually discussing university course schedules at one point late in the first.
As a Leaf fan, I was pleased by the outcome, but was really hoping for a close game to see just how intense that building could get. Instead the Habs simply did not show up. They gave the third star to LaPierre for scoring their two goals, but do you think anyone on that team deserved any sort of honour after that game? Halak looked awful, the defense was dis-interested and the forwards were ineffective. Toronto are basically playing their farm team at this point of the season. That means the guys out there are going to be busting their asses to show they deserve to be NHLers, but they really shouldn't be beating a team that is battling for a playoff spot.
The woman sitting on my right was there for her first ever Habs game. She said she was a fan of theirs since the 70s. I couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for her, so I tried not to gloat during the final minutes. I'll do the same for you, Scott. I will not gloat because you and I know that there is always another game just around the corner.
Sorry about that,
I enjoyed watching this team that I have followed for so long through so much. I enjoyed watching Grabovski score four points against the Habs given the recently history we all know so well. I enjoyed watching Kulemin and Schenn and being able to follow them during entire shifts without having to rely on television cameras. I wish it had been a closer game, and I wish Kaberle was in the lineup. Still, no regrets. I am behind in my schoolwork and we are broke, but no. No regrets whatsoever.
Overall, it was a great experience. Walking back to my hotel after the game, I high-fived every person in a Leafs jersey I saw. My vintage Blue Jays tshirt allowed me to gain their trust and acceptance. It was such a fun night.
I'll be posting some of my photos from the game over here after I have had a chance to go through them. Perhaps after I have gotten back up to speed with my schoolwork. Perhaps sooner. It is all about priorities.
I would like to hear about your first game...