This column is the second in a series dedicated to lovers of the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge worldwide. It recounts the stories of a select few, who, by the will of God, have been given a sentence worse than death – exile from Montreal. This motley collection of misfits has taken the time to send me tales that I hope will provide insight into the life of an international Habs fan. Our second guest is a poster who goes by the name of Ddawwid.
Previously we took a glance at Asia, where JeanLucPilon has spent most of his recent years as a displaced Canadiens fan. In this column we pick up our bags and move about 9 hours west to the land of poles, polls and Poles. In case you are a Leaf’s fan browsing through the site, this means Poland.
Despite its proximity to nations like Sweden, Russia and the Czech Republic, and its climate, Poland is not a hockey country. Hockey is not one of its televised sports. Shops don’t sell gear or memorabilia. Even the fans who reside there are few and far between.
Ddawwid’s first encounter was shortly after the collapse of communism, as the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals were shown on TV live. As great as this sounds, Poland is around 6 hours away from Montreal, which means that game began at 1 AM. The game would continue through to 4, and onwards with overtime. That piqued his interest and he became a hockey fan. Not necessarily a Habs fan, but that would come later.
Several years ago, he began writing letters to different NHL clubs with requests for anything they could get rid of. The most reliable of them all turned out to be the Canadiens. Every response was hand-addressed and personally directed back to Ddawwid, spelling his last name (which is a double digit non-Western-alphabet nightmare) and address perfectly each time. That sort of customer service is difficult to come by in this day and age, but the Canadiens aren’t just another franchise. They don’t treat one as “just another fan”. Among the requested items in his collection is a personal letter from Jean Belevieu, Saku Koivu and Jose Theodore autographs, and an unused ticket holder from the Habs’ last season in Montreal Forum.
Living so far away from North America, however, can dampen one’s hopes of ever meeting an actual NHL player face-to-face. That all changed when, during the first lockout, there was a tour featuring a motley collection known as the “Primus Worldstars” that visited several parts of the globe to play against assembled hockey teams. Lucky for Ddawwid, one of the stops was Poland. This allowed him to see players like Dominik Hasek, Sergei Fedorov, Stephane Quintal, and everyone’s favourite Pole, Mariusz Czerkawski. This would be a highlight in anyone’s books, but for an international hockey fan, this was a dream come true.
Like JLP, the internet plays a large part in Ddawwid’s following of hockey, and more importantly, the Habs. Sites he thanks are CJAD 800 and their free radio streaming, NHL.com for their great statistics, Internet auctions for the countless hockey memorabilia available, and, of course, HabsWorld, for a place to meet, greet and speak about your love of the Habs. If not for these sites, Poland would seem even further from North America than it is now.
Dawwid is most proud of the fact that, while most of his friends and family don’t know much about hockey, they know he’s a Habs fan. This can be seen in the way they ask about the NHL and the Canadiens, or give presents with some hockey relativity. While they don’t relate to this obsession, they respect it, because as many of us know, it isn’t easy. We are part of a huge fan base worshipping the most storied franchise in the NHL, and through thick and thin, wins or losses, and whether they like it or not, they are part of all of us.