Well, at least the Bruins didn’t win.
The lockout-shortened NHL season is mercifully over. The Boston Bruins lost, the Chicago Blackhawks are champions for the second time in four years, and if I forgot to mention it earlier, the Bruins lost. Here’s to small victories.
As an unwavering, monomaniacal Habs fan, once my team was eliminated in the first round I sulked in a corner, proposed conspiracy theories on Twitter and denigrated the remaining teams as being comprised entirely of goons and cheats in bed with crooked refs (possibly under the supervision of a Janet Gretzky-Rick Tocchet gambling ring). I also put together some terrific draft spreadsheets, for what it’s worth.
Anyways, these built-in prejudices prevented me from enjoying what was seemingly an entertaining back-and-forth final, which included a Cup-clinching Game 6 decided in the final minutes. “If you don’t love this, you don’t love hockey!” I heard a great many hockey fans say, although some of them seemed oblivious to Crawford’s unreliable glove hand, Jagr’s lead feet, Boychuk’s raised arms, Lucic’s oversized shoulder pads, the complete lack of referee supervision and the utter futility of either team’s power plays.
While I told most people that I tuned out after the Canadiens’ drubbing at the hands of the Senators, I kept a roving eye on the finals, and rest assured that with my rage blinders on, all I could see was a sea of cheap-shot artists scoring garbage crease goals, illegal pads as tall as smokestacks and a mouth-breathing giant who was -6 in the last three games because playing sound defence doesn’t provide the same adrenaline rush as driving another human’s skull into a stanchion. I couldn’t even enjoy the courageous efforts of native son Patrice Bergeron, since his ability to continue playing after suffering injuries that would have killed a weaker man was a painful reminder of that time the Habs drafted Cory Urquhart five spots ahead of him.
To make matters worse, former Habs general manager/dietary shaman Pierre Gauthier — a man partially responsible for the Habs’ present woeful state — is currently director of player personnel for the Hawks, meaning he got to hoist the Cup only a year after getting fired here. I typically root for whoever plays against the Bruins, but the thought of Gauthier sipping Shirley Temples out of the greatest trophy in sports is making me question that belief.
The Hawks’ victory is also problematic because for years, when the Habs were floundering under Molson Corporate ownership, we weren’t the most inept Original Six team out there. Once Chicago’s famously thrifty owner “Dollar Bill” Wirtz kicked the bucket, things turned around for them almost instantly. Comparatively speaking, we’re the ones in serious need of a spitshine.
By winning the soon-to-be defunct Northeast division this season, the Habs appear to be on the right track, but when are Nos Glorieux going to return to Cup contender status? As easy as it was to nitpick the glaring issues with the Bruins and Hawks, the saddest truth is the Habs are nowhere near that calibre yet.
So, yeah, these Finals were infuriating, and the pointless lockout was still on my mind, but I hear winning solves everything. ■