Josh Freed: Canadiens fever is a virus we don’t mind spreading

Amid a pandemic that appears to be easing, Montreal’s magical run to the Stanley Cup closing has crammed an emotional black gap within us.

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That is probably the most unbelievable Saint-Jean-Baptiste weekend ever, with extra Canadiens hockey flags flying than fleur-de-lis.

On this Saint-Jean: Nous sommes tous des Canadiens.

Stanley Cup fever is a virus that spreads virulently in Quebec each on occasion, overwhelming all else. However this 12 months it’s additionally changing one other virus, COVID-19, which can be leaving city because the Stanley Cup considers a go to.

After a 12 months after we had been all afraid of getting a fever, everybody’s ecstatic to have Habs fever. After a 12 months of avoiding others, we’re determined to squeeze collectively and cheer.

After a 12 months with nothing to rejoice, we had an enormous emotional black gap inside us, able to explode — and the Canadiens have crammed it.

Euphoric crowds had been out on Parc Ave. Thursday night time, within the full moon, celebrating and singing until effectively after 3 a.m. If the Habs carry on profitable, they’ll hear us screaming “Olé! Olé!” in Madrid.

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The confluence of COVID and the Canadiens’ miraculous run has introduced pleasure to Coneville — as soon as once more infecting anglophones, francophones, allophones and xylophones, wealthy and poor, Habs and Hab-nots.

Nice-grandmothers have was in a single day hockey followers, studying the blue line isn’t a part of a COVID crimson zone — and icing isn’t a part of a victory cake.

A good friend flying a Canadiens flag on his hood says many motorists open their home windows at crimson lights to yak: partly to commune over hockey and partly to lastly speak to somebody who’s not of their family bubble.

Our long-craved, no-curfew summer season nights are out of the blue insignificant, as most individuals huddle indoors round TVs to observe males in skates battle on ice.

We’d like to proceed watching TV into mid-July in 30-degree warmth — so long as the Habs hold profitable.

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Canadiens fans were in a party mood downtown on Thursday night after Montreal defeated the Golden Knights to advance to the Stanley Cup final.
Canadiens followers had been in a celebration temper downtown on Thursday night time after Montreal defeated the Golden Knights to advance to the Stanley Cup closing. Picture by John Kenney /Montreal Gazette

Including to the magic, this 12 months’s Canadiens are a staff out of mythology: David vs. Goliath underdogs by no means thought to face an opportunity.

Of the 16 groups who certified for the playoffs, Montreal was ranked final, squeaking into the post-season by shedding their second-to-last sport in extra time. They had been slated to be slaughtered weeks in the past by Toronto.

However they’re impressed by hard-working heroic younger children who didn’t get that message — whose names are already legend. We’ve stopped studying new pandemic phrases like variant, bubble and overzoomed, eclipsed by new rising monikers like:

Child Caufield, Cerebral Suzuki, Reliable Danault and Kotkaniemi — the Finn with the grin.

There are few francophone names on Les Glorieux this 12 months, however hockey victories converse no language in Quebec. Names like Lehkonen, Toffoli, Staal, Suzuki, Kotkaniemi, Gallagher, Gustafsson all spell “hero” — and no title is extra Québécois than Value.

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This 12 months, the staff’s normally indispensable French-speaking coach has been quarantined by COVID. He’s been changed by an English-speaking Ontarian — however nobody’s complaining. Les Canadiens get a particular language exemption.

This can be a time when federalists, sovereignists, anarchists, Catholics and Buddhists worship on the identical altar, when it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re cheering in a Habs jersey or hijab.

Nonetheless, there are completely different ranges of religion. Religious followers have watched all season and plenty of are strolling encyclopedias of statistics courting again to their childhoods.

They keep in mind Los Angeles Kings’ Marty McSorley’s unlawful stick in 1993 that led to an important Canadiens power-play aim. They recall Jacques Lemaire’s Cup-winning shot from centre ice in 1971.

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They know what number of photographs on internet Increase-Increase Geoffrion had within the third interval of the fourth sport of the 1957 Bruins collection. In the event that they’d used their outstanding reminiscences to review math, they may have turn out to be well-known scientists — and a few are.

Much less religious followers like me solely leap on the bandwagon as playoff fervour grows. Some shut their eyes throughout tense matches like at horror motion pictures, or flee the room within the third interval when the rating’s too shut.

Like several faith, hockey has its rites and superstitions. Some followers put on the identical Habs jersey all collection, by no means washing it. Others sit in the identical fortunate chair, in the identical fortunate bar as final time we gained.

For Monday’s sport, you’ll in all probability gown in some fortunate underwear you wore when the Canadiens got here again in opposition to Las Vegas in Recreation 3.

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You’re be able to belt out your fortunate tune — O Canada — although you’re a lifelong sovereignist and it’s Fête nationale week.

However hey, something that works! A lawyer good friend recollects a cement employee consumer telling him the Canadiens had been so valuable they had been tattooed on his coronary heart.

“I believed he was talking metaphorically,” says my good friend, “however when he opened his shirt, there was an precise “CH” crest tattooed over his coronary heart.”

Subsequent up: the New York Islanders or Tampa Bay — an even bigger, even scarier Goliath. If the Canadiens ultimately lose, they’ll nonetheless be nationwide heroes for coming up to now and lifting our metropolis’s spirits after we most wanted it.

However who is aware of? On this storybook season, perhaps we will have our huge Saint-Jean parade on Ste-Catherine St. — as a Stanley Cup parade.

To do my half, come Monday I’ll warmth up the leftover fortunate pizza I ate final Thursday simply earlier than Montreal gained.

Bonne fête and bonne likelihood to us all.

joshfreed49@gmail.com

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