When I answered the call to enter Eric Engels’s blog-writing contest (“what does the Habs/Bruins rivalry mean to you?”), I enjoyed writing the piece I did. I always love writing, and the excuse to do so. It was easy to access the content of that blog; it was in my heart, and in very recent memory of Habs/Bruins incidents from last season.
When I won, it was an amazing feeling – I love writing, and writing about hockey isn’t something I can do like Eric, or any of the other bloggers I love to read; I can’t do stats, I can’t do history, I can’t even talk about play or action, at least not with the expertise that comes from longevity as a fan and keen knowledge of the game and the culture. But I CAN write about the human factor, I can access that which we all share and I can write about hockey in that vein, no problem. Having my blog published as Eric’s gameday blog, as well as many of my Twitter friends taking the time to read, retweet, and comment on my blog and my win, was heady! To be rewarded (and so complimented!) on my writing sweetens the satisfaction of writing, and I believe I will be starting a new blog shortly. Details to follow.
But tonight, the rivalry between the Habs and Bruins rewarded me, and my sons. See, Eric had gotten 2 tickets to the game, and the winner of his blog contest was to accompany him to see the Habs and Bruins in preseason action tonight. Long story short, he gave me both tickets, I bought a third, and I was able – thanks to HockeyTickets.ca and Eric Engels – to take my two sons to this game. The third ticket was in the greys (affordable and let’s face it, anywhere you sit in the Bell Centre is an optimum seat), so the three of us agreed that each boy would sit with me for a period and a half. And tonight I would premiere my new P.K. Subban jersey, finally to be part of the Habs-jersey-wearing crowd at a hockey game!! (Sometimes, it’s good to not stand out but to blend in!)
We began with dinner at a Montreal landmark restaurant – Mr. Steer. Delicious burgers, great place pre-game, and just up the street from the Bell Centre. We arrived shortly after Eric, and when we got to the table, the two tickets were just sitting in front of him. Talk about effective! I introduced him to the boys, we all sat down, and the conversation never stopped. My kids were a little starstruck (Eric reports for Hockeybuzz.com as well as CTV Montreal Sports “Habs Hub”) but more, they were in their element, talking hockey with a guy who could talk it right back. It looked like Eric was enjoying the kids too. And that makes me even more proud of my boys than ever!
We walked down to the Bell Centre, but before parting (Eric went to the Loft a.k.a. Press Box and we went to our seats), I asked him to pose for a pic with my boys. After all, he IS a local celebrity! (It was a blast to get an “I can see you guys!” text from him after the game began, and we texted back and forth a few times throughout the evening)
Inside, the boys decided that Sam would sit in the reds with me for the first 30 minutes, and Josh for the last. We parted, with instructions to keep in touch via text. When Sam and I walked into Section 118, I think both our jaws needed picking up. What incredible seats!! So close to the action and so bright and big and exciting!
The game began after our very own Michael Cammalleri received the Jean Béliveau Trophy (for community involvement), presented to him by the Gentleman himself. Jean Béliveau, for those who aren’t familiar with him, is hockey royalty. Not just Habs royalty, though he is a Canadien through and through (having played for Montreal his entire career, from 1950-1971!), but he is truly one of the most respected men in the hockey world. Eric told us that Mr. Béliveau, if he should make eye contact with someone who is an obvious fan but too shy to say hello, will introduce himself and say hi to the fan. The man just exudes class. When he was introduced and came out on the ice, there was a spontaneous standing ovation by the 21K in attendance. He was visibly moved and it was truly a Moment for me and my kids too.
And then…the Game. Last night, the Bruins slaughtered my poor Habs, 7-3, in Halifax. Would we see a different outcome tonight? Well, we lost but it was a 2-1 loss, our guys played really well, and the refs blew a few non-calls (goalie interference, holding, tripping…blatant stuff the seeing-eye dogs must have missed). Can’t blame the refs, I know. But it would have been awesome to see the guys win what would have been their 2nd of the preseason. Not to be. But super exciting because of our location.
When it was time for Sam to go to the other seat, I felt awful – just as awful as I’d felt to send Josh up at the beginning of the game. But my kids are good sports…I am – again – very proud of them. And Josh’s ear-to-ear grin when he took his new seat was worth it. Sam and I enjoyed the first 30 minutes, Josh arrived almost minutes before the Canadiens opened the scoring, and I enjoyed the company of each boy for 30 minutes of play. What could have been better? Oh, right. A win!
However, it’s preseason. We didn’t play the full team, despite the big guns like Plek, Cammy, Gionta, Gorges in the lineup, and Carey Price in nets for the full 60 minutes. We saw Brendan Gallagher work very hard to impress, and do an outstanding job of it. We saw Carey’s acrobatics in nets, and Pleky’s super-beautiful stride as he hustled down the ice to try to put the puck in goal or steal it from the opponent. We saw Cammy put one in, and best of all, we were back at the Bell Centre, losing our voices in cheers of “Go Habs Go!!!” for another year’s fun. I have a good feeling about the regular season. That’s just the optimist in me. Every game is a blank slate.
Tonight isn’t about the season. It isn’t about the players or the strategies. It wasn’t even about the scoreboard. It was about the big heart Eric Engels showed me and my kids (yes, I won the blog contest – that was also a thrill but he didn’t have to give us both tix), and a new friendship with a super guy; it was about the pure joy I saw on my boys’ faces when I first broke the news to them, watched them immediately text and tweet their friends to share it, and their excitement all through today and this evening. That is the huge pile of rewards this rivalry has resulted in, and will continue to live on in the boys’ memories, and mine. The lasting aura is enough to make this night a victory.