I woke up this morning disheveled and disoriented, feeling like a poorly-done charcoal sketch of myself. Didn’t get to bed until nearly 4 am, slept badly, dreamt of goalies- always a bad sign. When you feel like that on any morning, it should mean that you had a really great previous night. But not so, just interminable msging with S, who unfortunately grew up in
Fine, snarky head-voice, you want me to obsess about hockey? Okay, I’ll obsess about hockey.
The weather is blank. Sky like a dirty plaster ceiling. Clumps of grey slush. Nagging, gnawing chill. Snow that hovers in the air, immune to gravity, refusing to fall. The only way you can tell its spring is the smell- smells like dirt and gasoline. Winter in
Time to go. Go go go go. Somewhere, anywhere, so long as it involves going. Moving= thinking clearly. Time to think about this systematically. What could possibly happen? Think about everything, feel out every possibility, be prepared for whatever comes. It won’t hurt if it’s not a shock. Rationality and pessimism, please. Start from that which matters least: The rest of the playoffs, all those other teams, the pairings that are mostly set.
Parc. Senators vs. Penguins: Sort of an unfortunate matching, they’re too alike, everything up front, speed and offense, inconsistent D. Should be a high-scoring series, fun to watch, in a cotton-candy sort of way- points flying everywhere like gnats. Goaltending is the only thing that really matters. Emery. Instinct: Sens by a thread, although they do tell me that
Parc again. The calculations are easy now. Win one game and the Habs keep going, lose it and… reessayez S.V.P. How did it come to this? An 82 game season, think about it, months and months of games, so many games I can’t hardly remember them, how does it all come down to one? How can one game mean everything? How did we get here, in this situation so perfectly scripted? And why can’t I imagine the Habs making the playoffs? Why can I hypothesize every other possibility except the one I want?
Why is it easier to imagine them losing? The hot streak of rage cutting through the city for a few days, than the slow cool-down and the rising speculation about next season, the return of the trade rumors, Gainey front and center again, him all silence and distance, the questions we’re already asking: Will he resign Souray? Will he find a way to move Samsonov? Will he go after another big
Why can’t I imagine them winning? Kukla asks us all to tell him, in 250 words or less, why our team deserves to win the Stanley Cup. And if I really think about it, I don’t know if my Canadiens do. I can’t think of a good reason, a moving argument for why these Habs ought to win.
Certainly they do not need the Cup victory, there’s not a lot riding on it long-term.
But particularly, I don’t know if I can say honestly that my Canadiens have really done anything to deserve the Stanley Cup. They don’t have the most natural talent, hardly even any players of significant statistical value. They haven’t worked the hardest, indeed, they’ve dropped more than their share of games due to sheer laziness, and have a couple of guys who spent large parts of the season exploring the many possible ways to be totally indifferent to hockey while actually playing it. They have faced some adversity, but not significantly more than other teams, and were actually quite lucky in terms of injuries on the overall scale of the NHL. And as much as it does pain me to say it, they don’t have the best fans, or even very good fans. Passionate and numerous, but not good in any conventional sense of the word.
Can I say they should win exactly because they don’t deserve it? The underdog angle- they’ve been better than they should have been, doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? And if I’m going for sentimentality, there’s always the Saku Koivu trump card- come on, doesn’t he, of all people, after all he’s been through, deserve to lift the Cup before he retires? Cue cellos, video montage.
No, really the best I can say is that they don’t not deserve it for any particular reason, and that it’s a romantic myth to think that winning is about earning the victory. I couldn’t prove it, but I’m willing to bet that a good number of Stanley Cups have been won in silly, ridiculous, improbable ways by teams that were far from objectively deserving. In the end, whoever can get it, gets it, and it don’t mean nothin’ more than that: they got it. Winner is whoever wins. Might as well be us.
The outdoor rink is dead now, the boards still standing in a great oval around slush and mud- nothing. In spite of the cold, the snow on the ground and in the air, it is spring now, the time for hockey has passed. In the distance, a group of guys are playing soccer in shorts. They know.
Three months ago I stood here, exact same spot, and asked myself what exactly I wanted from hockey, to be so immoderately entranced with it. The question stands, but today it comes back in a different key. If, when, they lose, when it’s all over, what happens then? Is the spell then broken? Will I get my heart and my sanity and my sense of proportion back, everything in its proper order and on its proper scale? Will I wake up Sunday morning and laugh at how silly I’ve been for the past 5 months, saying, it’s just a game? Ethics in hockey? Nostalgia, narrative, gender, history, nationalism, HOCKEY? What the fuck was I thinking?
Is it possible, really, to just love the game? In general? In abstract? In a vacuum? The Idea of Hockey? Is it possible to love the game without a team? I don’t know, I’ve never really tried. The title of the blog is a hideous lie, I’m a crap theorist, any community college freshman could theorize circles around me. I need things, physical things, I need buildings and objects and bodies. Solid, tangible, touchable things with textures and smells. I need there to be an actual team and actual games to love, even mediated by the television, I need to see and hear it and know that it’s real and it’s vaguely mine. Don’t take my team away, not yet, I’m not ready. I'm not ready to lose hockey.
Whatever the environmental evidence to the contrary, this is the time of rebirth and renewal, resurrection. This is the part of the year when things are supposed to begin; we’re supposed to take comfort in life coming back after months and months of death. But standing there, looking at the rink that isn’t a rink anymore, all I have is regret and recrimination, and the creeping sensation of impending loss- for my Habs, and of them as well.
I want them to win, as deeply and darkly as I’ve ever wanted anything.
I just can’t imagine it.