My Montreal Canadiens, a team I call my heart, got some tough breaks in the playoffs, eliminated in Round 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals by the Ottawa Senators. In Game 1, a player from the Ottawa team ran one of our players and our guy was sent to the hospital after a horrific injury that took him from unconscious and bleeding on the ice to a stretcher off the ice. The coach for Ottawa, a man named Paul MacLean, made some very disrespectful remarks about our team and especially showed no compassion for our injured player. The next day, one of our newly acquired forwards – a man by the name of Brandon Prust – made this statement: (the video shows the passion of our coach Therrien as well as Brandon’s expanded statement) He was quoted instantly:
I don’t care what that bug-eyed fat walrus has to say.
See, Paul MacLean has a – shall we say, distinctive look to him. See for yourself:
The minute that statement hit social media, we were all talking. It was Friday midday, and by game-time, many photoshopped images had hit the web. And Dave Stubbs, a popular sports writer for the Montreal Gazette, had posted that he planned to wear his cartoon-walrus pin to the game, as well as present Prust with a 2nd pin sporting the same cartoon walrus.
At 10:30 p.m., a fan whom I’ve known on Twitter, posted:
“I wonder if Dave Stubbs gave Brandon Prust the walrus pin…let’s adopt a walrus for Prust and name it ‘Ballsy Paulsy’!”
I replied instantly: “Or just ‘Bug-Eye!'”
That started a Campaign. Between posts on her website dedicated to another Habs player and a hockey-related communal board, and both of us on Twitter and Facebook, as well as Dave generously writing about it in his column after the weekend, the Adopt-A-Walrus Campaign began.
At first, we thought we’d raise 1- or 2-dollar donations so that we could adopt this walrus (from World Wildlife Fund, a wonderful cause that raises awareness and funds for animal conservation), but suddenly, people were opening their hearts and their wallets. The adoption is symbolic but comes with a stuffed animal of the species being adopted.
In discussion, my co-organizer wondered whether we should put the money toward other adoptions for the other players involved in the kerfuffle (Lars Eller – our injured player who was stretchered off – and Raphael Diaz, the player dismissively referred to by Coach MacLean as “Player 61”) but it was my husband, fresh from the Bell Center and that very game in which the injury had occurred, who suggested we donate to the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation which is dedicated to helping children in need. Anyone who has ever attended a Habs game at the Bell Center knows how dear to the organization this Foundation is; there are constant videos between periods that show the work done by the Foundation, the moneys raised, and – to everyone’s delight – the visits to kids by Habs players themselves. (I urge you to visit their website and spend some time there – and keep it in mind when your life affords you a little extra to give to others).
The idea took wing and by the time Dave’s column hit the papers, the deadline was extended in order to give everyone a chance to donate.
I am proud to say that we raised enough for the stuffed walrus which was sent to Brandon Prust as well as a total of $470 that was given to Ryan Frank of the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation this morning. He graciously consented to a photo of him with the check, strategically taken in front of Brandon Prust’s and Lars Eller’s photos.
Ryan and I talked at length about how hockey is not just a game, at least not to those of us who are avid Habs fans. The injury to Lars Eller (now, thankfully, recovering), the Ottawa coach’s subsequent tactlessness and Brandon Prust’s most passionate statement, tinged with his unique sense of humor – those became a Story. In 2011, The Story was Max Pacioretty’s injury and it got the city energized. This year it was the Walrus. As Ryan said, next year, there will likely be another Story. And each time there is, there is a renewal, a resurgence or just a re-affirmation of how much this team (not just the sport) unites us as a Habs Nation, a family of fans and supporters of the players, the staffers, the behind-the-scene players and now, the Children’s Foundation.
I have to think heroes come in all forms. For Habs fans, we have our legends like Rocket Richard, Jean Béliveau, past stars such as Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, Guy Lafleur. We have those heroes who used the platform of their notoriety to speak out and make this a Story. We have our current warriors – every single player, too numerous to mention – from the 2012-2013 Montreal Canadiens, a team that rose from last place to give us a season filled with victories, triumphs, and achievements, regardless of where we ended up in post-season action.
But to me, the heroes are the fans who continue, day in and day out, without fail, to show up to games in their seats or on the sofas, online or on barstools, in their Habs gear or in jammies, with their beers, sodas, or juice boxes. The fans who support this team not only on the ice (with voice-straining, eardrum-shattering cheers that must be experienced at least once in a lifetime) but who give of their hearts to these guys on non-game days, in off-season, and in events such as these that raise money directly because of Habs players, to benefit kids who may not have the opportunity to experience this luxury of hockey games at the Bell Center.
To me, YOU are the heroes.
Go HabsFans Go!!!
(here is the money order given to The Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation, presented to Ryan, in the photo above)