Loving the Chicago Blackhawks back in the day

Posted: April 5, 2011 in Uncategorized
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With the Chicago Blackhawks due at the Bell Centre tonight (April 5) to play the Habs – and with me and my son Keane set to head down for this mucho-anticipated match-up – I got to thinking back to my childhood obsession with the Blackhawks. My favourite player when I was a kid was Hawks goalie Tony Esposito – I still have the Espo-style mask that I used for street-hockey back in the day on the rough-and-tumble streets of Lachine.

The weird thing was I loved the Blackhawks and my older brother Dermot was a huge Bruins fan – his hero was that other Esposito. This in the ’70s – one of the greatest eras in the oh-so-full-of-great-eras history of the Montreal Canadiens. This was when Mayor Jean Drapeau famously said the “annual” (more or less) Stanley Cup parade would be following the usual route.

So why weren’t me and Derm on the bandwagon? I think it has something to with the fact that we weren’t originally from here – our family arrived from Glasgow a few years earlier and we knew more about Celtic than the Habs. We were a minority in Scotland – as a family with Irish-Catholic roots – and, to our surprise, we joined another minority group here. And ever since, I’ve spent no small amount of time trying to explain how we didn’t really fit into the majority culture in either Glasgow or Montreal.

That’s the long way of saying maybe it came naturally to us to identify with hockey teams that most Montrealers didn’t dig. But remember that English-Montreal has always had a strong pro-Bruins subculture. Chalk it up to an Irish-Montreal west-end thing. I’ll never forget at the late (unlamented) Montreal Daily News in the late ’80s, watching Pierre-Karl Péladeau – who was in running the troubled Quebecor daily as publisher – walk into the newsroom and stare in horror as the entire sports team openly cheered for the Bruins as they watched the playoff game on the tube that night.

So like everything else, hockey too is wrapped up in the whole messy linguistic/cultural back-and-forth that is (still) the defining thing here.

The worst is I finally jumped back on the Habs bandwagon in the early ’90s – just in time for the sorriest two decades in the team’s history. I know, I know, I’m an idiot. But that, as they say, is another story.

– Brendan


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