keepcalmIf you’re like me, when the NHL announced the lockout you went from checking TSN (or RDS, or ESPN, or wherever you get your sports news) daily, to every few days, to once a week, to once in a while when you were bored, to not at all by December. By the time the World Juniors rolled around I had pretty much given up hope on an NHL season, so boy was I surprised to see them reach an agreement and get everything rolling for the January 19th start of a 48 game season.

Now, let’s be real for a second (not too real). We all have our opinions about the lockout and want to accuse one side or the other of being greedy since they’re all millionaires (or at less make a few hundred thousand a year) and so on and so forth. However, none of us are in their shoes. I know that at work I would be pissed off if my bosses wanted to reduce my salary by even a few cents and I know that if I ran a business I would be pissed off if my employees were making more money than I was. In the end, you can have your opinion and in the end both sides were probably in the wrong on some points and in the right on others.

In Montreal we at least have the solace of knowing that our team owner, Geoff Molson, was almost assuredly opposed to the lockout from the get-go? Why? Well, Mr. Molson sells beer. You know what people do when they watch hockey? They drink beer. From ordering a few pints at a bar, to paying insanely inflated arena prices for a beer, to picking up a 24 to watch the game with friends, hockey fans drink a lot of beer. Multiply all that by 30 cities and you have a pretty substantial loss. A loss that Molson Coors tried to mitigate by seeking compensation directly from the NHL. To think Geoff Molson was on board with this owner induced lockout is insane.

Anyhow, there are a lot of sports blogs you can read that will be talking about the makeup of the team, the possibility of seeing Galchenyuk take the ice, Emelin’s big hits, Markov being healthy, etc. However, that’s not what I’m gonna talk about. I’m going to talk about the Top 5 Not Really Hockey Related Things to Be Excited About:

No More Shame For Number 11:

If you’re like me, you probably cringed every time you saw #11 skating around on the ice since Saku’s departure. Tied as our longest serving Captain and 10th in all time points wearing the CH, it’s hard to argue against the eventual retirement of #11. Sure he never won us the cup, but he didn’t have a lot to play with, especially in the late 9o’s. If there was one player that personified the “underdog” spirit that the team has been battling with in the past 15 years it’s Captain Koivu. I don’t think anyone should be allowed to wear #11, it made it all the worse by having it on the back of the most overpaid and under-talented Habs in history. So long Gomez, I’m sure you’re a nice guy and all but I’m happy I’ll never see you in Habs jersey again. Especially not one with #11 on the back.

Seeing Your Friends You Watch Hockey With:

We all have those friends. You know the ones who we barely ever see unless it’s while watching hockey. Don’t you miss those guys (and girls)? You get out of work, you send a few text messages: “Where are we watching the game?” A few minutes later you get the reply: “This bar” or ‘This guy’s house.” Then you head over, hang out, have a few beers and bond the way Montrealers were meant to: while watching hockey.  I have a few of those friends. Not that we only have hockey in common, but our schedules are just different enough that if it’s not to watch a game, we barely ever see each other. I’m looking forward to seeing those guys again. To holding them in my arms and with a tear in my eye saying “It’s OK buddy, hockey’s back… I missed you.”

The Possibility of Commodore 64:

In 2011, when the Red Wings signed Mike Commodore there was an online petition to get Mike Commodore to wear the number 64. I don’t know why we don’t have this going again in Montreal. Commodore was was picked up by the Bulldogs back in November, and has been invited to the Canadiens training camp this week.  What’s Commodore’s usual number? 23. Sorry Mike, if you’re playing for the big club you’ll have to wear a new number, that number belongs to Mr. Gainey. Time to pick a new number. Time to pick #64 goddamnit. I have never worn a jersey with a number on the back, I’ve always preferred a blank jersey to show my support for the team and not just for a single player. If I could have a Commodore 64 Habs jersey, I might just change my mind. He can’t even wear #22 since that’s currently taken by Kaberle.

Socially Acceptable Drinking:

If you go to the bar and have a few drinks 3 or 4 times a week, people might start saying you have a drinking problem. If you go to the bar to watch the Habs play 3-4 times a week (especially with the tight schedule this year), you’re a sports fan. Even if you’re one of those people who is toying with the idea of boycotting the NHL after the lockout, do your local watering hole a favour and head down there once in a while to watch the game. The local bars have nothing to do with the NHL and believe me, if you haven’t been drinking there since there was no game on, nobody has. Or, if you’re serious about the boycott, head down on non-game nights. There’s no reason to punish local business and no reason not to drink on a weeknight.

Embarrassingly Low Expectations:

The Canadiens finished 28th last year guys. Barring a huge disaster we can only go up from here. The team can do almost anything they want to and we’ll be able to say “it was better than last year.” I don’t think anyone in the city is really believing that the cup is coming home this year and maybe if we cut the team a little slack for once they’ll feel less pressured and then the cup is coming home this year! Seriously though, I’m not expecting much from this squad, maybe a few moments of brilliance from the kids, maybe the groundwork for a real top 6, but certainly nothing life-altering. I’m just looking forward to my team playing and building towards a hopefully bright future.

If the Habs make the playoffs, there might be hockey on my birthday (my birthday is end of May), which is always a special treat. If they don’t, whatever. No matter what, it will probably be better than last year.