In a city where life revolves around hockey, and more importantly, the Montreal Canadiens, expectations of hockey’s most storied franchise are high. The players are all expected to play to the best of their abilities, and their abilities are expected to be the best in the league. It goes without saying that the Canadiens of the past decade have not quite been the Canadiens that the hockey world was used to seeing.
So when the team gets into a funk and starts on a losing slide, the fans tend to get restless, and the players get frustrated. And when a team is not playing with the utmost intensity, coaches will bring them back to basics. That means a long, hard, and usually extremely tiring practice. Sometimes it has adverse consequences.
Ask any player in the NHL, and they’ll have a story about a fight at practice. So when the captain of the struggling Canadiens blows steam off on the hometown hot dog, the media – French and English alike – are the first to call it a fight.
Let me be the first to say that it was not as much of a fight as it was two guys playing hard at practice. Was it unnecessary? Yes. Was it bad? No. Hockey is a contact sport, and tempers can flare at any time. So if “fights” like the one this past week tend to happen to every team once in awhile, what makes this so different? As the media surrounding the Habs have done so many times before, Koivu has been selected as the city’s new whipping boy. He was greeted by booing from a small minority in the stands, much like Craig Rivet was, and much like Patrice Brisebois was last season.
Have we learned nothing from Bob Gainey’s speech during the start of the season? Maybe replica Canadiens jerseys should come in yellow, instead of the beloved “blue, blanc, et rouge”. The bottom line is, those “fans” (and I use the term loosely) who are heckling our captain are only creating bigger problems. Saku can’t be too fond of the idea of staying in Montreal much longer, and if he leaves, he’ll be one of many Habs to have been run out of town by the media and a select group of ticket holders who are better off wearing the blue and white of the Maple Leafs, or the horridly ugly “pooh bear” of the Bruins.
If there is a mastermind in this saga, it is the media. They have constantly and consistently turned this into something it is not. And the very few who choose to keep their blinders on and agree with what’s in print, on TV, or over the airwaves, believe that Koivu is the villain here.
If Ribeiro is not to blame, then neither is Koivu. Both of them should be greeted with cheers, as they have both given us a level of play that this team requires if it wants to become a cup contender in the near future. Koivu has been this team’s best all-around forward, and Ribeiro is having a storybook season. Those who boo Koivu, boo the team. And when you disgrace Koivu, you disgrace this great franchise. Voicing your opinion is great, but do your lashings towards the rest of the teams. Leave the pointless slander to the rest of the league’s fans.
I was born a Habs fan, and I plan on dying a Habs fan. I’ve been following this team since I was in the bottom rungs of grade school. The greatest tragedy us as fans could ever do, would be to send Koivu out of Montreal. He embodies the heart and soul of what it is to be a Canadien. Have we all forgotten when he stepped onto the ice for the first time since he was diagnosed with cancer, and we all jumped to our feet, holding back tears, and cheering for the “little viking” for a full seven and a half minutes? Have we all forgotten what it means to wear the CH on our shirts, our replica jerseys, and our hats? If Koivu was to leave town under these circumstances, I probably won’t be far behind.