The Habs, the Leafs and a dose of schaden­freude

Sherbrooke Record - - EDITORIAL - Tim Belford

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.

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