As a 26-year old Canadiens fan, who first heard the sounds of Stanley Cup glory as a one-year old in 1986, and barely remembers the second as a bratty eight-year old, I can safely say the next time this franchise hoists the cup, I’m taking a week off work to celebrate.
Literally all of my life I’ve heard about the glory days from different generations. My grandfather who cheered along with the greats of the fifties, sixties and seventies has referred to the Canadiens as “my Canadiens” now that the last 20 years have been filled with bitter disappointment.
Many bar patrons and co-workers in his or her mid-forties who follow hockey that I’ve met have told me what a horrid team this has been for decades and how they can’t even watch games anymore. I’ve noted these are the same type of people who pipe up when a win streak comes along or any easure of success related to the team is brewing.
My generation was not spoiled with consistent cup riches and watching some of the greatest players of all-time take to the ice on a nightly basis and reward their fans with legendary displays that are now enshrined in Habs folklore. My generation are the ones that continue to watch this organization experience modest success, and I use modest success loosely here, and still keep the optimism and hope for them to succeed.
The closest thing my generation has seen to anything resembling the ultimate goal was an unprecedented run into the Eastern Conference Championship a few years ago on the back of the best playoff goaltending I’ve ever seen. That’s it. Maybe winning the East a few years before that but Carey Price said it best after wrapping up the number 1 seed, “they don’t hang Conference Championship banners from the rafters here.”
No, not with a rich history like ours.
Dynasties in the NHL are a thing of the past. The last true dynasty would be the Oilers of the eighties, and maybe the Penguins of the early nineties. These days, I would call the Detroit Red Wings, and to a lesser extent, The New Jersey Devils, as modern dynasties, teams that have achieved success over an extended period of time.
The game has changed from the days where Guy Lafleur would blaze around the ice electrifying the crowd while Ken Dryden would calmly watch, leaning on his stick. But I still hear about it every time we sign or trade for a sniper and every time our goaltenders let in a soft goal.
The NHL has developed and expanded. But it seems as though the fans who witnessed the glories of Habs yester-year haven’t followed. The sense of entitlement that radiates from older fans is confusing. The track-record the Canadiens boast of excellence, 24 times to date, should serve notice that they were truly lucky to be around when they were. They were part of a special time.
Which is ultimately why when the Canadiens win their next Cup, my generation of Habs fans will celebrate it with a sense that “we earned it” while I suspect most of the older generations will say “let’s see them win three or four in a row like back in the day.”
We have nothing to fall back on. All we have is what’s in front of us. So, when they raise that cup, and I admit it may not be this year, but when they do, it’ll be that much more special for the one’s that had to watch the highlights of past grandeur.