The Habs, the Leafs and a dose of schadenfreude
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of my becoming a Townshipper. When I arrived here in the fall of 1968 I had no idea that I would call this lovely corner of the world home for most of my adult life. It was also one year after what was to be the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
In those days being a Leaf fan in Quebec was the equivalent of being the idiot uncle in a large family. People put up with you but shook their heads and laughed at your behind your back. When the Leafs’ Stanley Cup drought slipped into the double digits, what little sympathy Habs fans maintained went out the window, along with any attempt to hide the laughter. After 40 years without a parade down Younge Street, the Leaf jokes hurled in my direction could have filled a good-sized hockey encyclopedia. It was difficult.
Thankfully old habits die hard. You see, being from good old gothic grey Ontario, I was brought up cheering for the Leafs, the Hamilton Tiger Cats and the Queen; not, I may add, necessarily in that order but dependent upon who had the best season. So I put my blue and white away and, like Hamlet, managed to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune while biding my time. Well, that time has come.
As I write this the Leafs are about to begin a playoff series with the Boston Bruins. The Habs are heading to the golf course, having packed their bags and shuffled, heads down, out of the Bell Centre for the final time. It marks the second time in three years that Montreal will see no playoff action. The last time they missed that many playoffs was from 1999 to 2001 when they exited early three years in a row. And frankly, it’s sweet.
As a philosophy and history major in university I came across the term “schadenfreude,” one of those handy, dandy German phrases that sums up so much in one word. Sort of like using huffinpuffinschnortenzoomer for a steam engine. In this case schadenfreude means deriving pleasure from another persons misfortune. Now, normally, I like to think of myself as a sympathetic soul with a fair deal of empathy for those less fortunate than myself, unless, of course, they’re politicians, dot com billionaires or vegans. This, however, is an exception and I have schadenfreude in spades.
Being a Leaf fan who has done without a Stanley Cup since Moses was still living in Egypt, I have heard every excuse possible from management as to why a once proud team couldn’t make it past the first round of playoffs in a Rimouski pick-up league. Thus, I was tickled to watch the recent press conference where Les Canadiens’ owner, Geoff Molson, and general manager, Marc Bergevin attempted to stick handle their way through the very pointed questions of a disgruntled hockey press.
Bergevin’s concession that “It was a very disappointing season” qualifies as a genuine contender for obvious statement of the year. He followed this by pointing out that there was generally a bad attitude in the dressing room that affected the team’s play. And here we all thought Bergevin had sent the ‘bad attitude’ to play defense in Nashville. Nor did the manager explain how that bad attitude came about even though he had spent the last six years hiring practically all the players in the room.
At least Geoff Molson had the good grace to announce there would be no increase in the price of tickets next year. Upping the cost of a seat would likely have been just about as popular as Formula E automobile racing through the streets of downtown Montreal. Molson’s claim that money had not been a problem was hard to believe. If the cash was there, why wasn’t it spent to bring in new talent or at the very least used to keep some of it from going elsewhere?
Oh well, I’m sure things will be better for Habs’ fans next season. Mind you, that’s what I thought about my team, fifty years ago.