There were a lot of indications the Montreal Canadiens would have a good team this year.
Everything from last season’s strong showing to an emerging young core of talent to the addition of Alex Tanguay made it easy to identify the Habs as a contender in the Eastern Conference.
There’s another factor to consider that’s a bit less tangible, but very telling nonetheless; if you want to know the state of the Habs, take the temperature of every hockey fan who is not a Montreal supporter.
If you find their temperature rising and just a touch of steam coming out of their ears, it probably bodes well for Montreal.
The Canadiens’ immaculate past built a huge fan base for the team all over Quebec, Canada and the world. It also forged large factions of people who wanted nothing more than to see the bleu, blanc et rouge rubbed out every single spring. But that group of die-hard haters were able to put away their voodoo pins in recent times, as the Habs required no extra help on their journey down the toilet.
Of course, many people (mostly Toronto Maple Leafs aficionados) just completely relished the opportunity to kick the Canadiens when they were down. Now that they’re off the matt, the anti-Montrealers will start coming out in droves.
To be fair, I’m certain there’s a big portion of hockey fans out there with ties to other teams who would love to see the Canadiens complete the storybook season and win the Cup in year 100 – just as long as it doesn’t come at the direct expense of their own squad.
Success is always a flashpoint for resentment. Just as some people struggle to watch others around them ascend to higher ranks of employment or generate other big life achievements, fans of faltering teams direct anger at clubs making legitimate Cup claims.
That’s what used to make the Habs so easy to hate for so many.
The fact there’s a growing group of people wishing bad things on this year’s Canadiens only speaks to how good they can be.
This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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