A Divisive Fan Base

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Human beings come in all forms, with many different backgrounds, upbringing, experiences and mindsets. You can have five people looking at the exact same thing and you’ll have five different descriptions of what they’re looking at. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that as society has evolved and items were invented because of this diversion of thoughts… unless it’s combined with narcism, egocentricity or the need to be right at all cost.

Fans of sports’ teams are no different. They are human beings who will have different levels of involvements and interest in their favourite team. In Montreal, fans of the Canadiens are often referred to as passionate, knowledgeable, but also as irrational and bipolar, going from one extreme to the other. Ouch. But what is the definition of a “fan”? The word ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic’. There are a couple of definitions in dictionaries that make a whole lot of sense, particularly when put together:

1- a person who is extremely enthusiastic about and devoted to some interest or activity (Merriam-Webster)

2- : a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause. (Oxford)

How many times have we heard Habs’ fans saying that hockey is not a sport, but a religion? Being in my fifth decade on this planet and having lived life’s experiences, it’s not something that I personally agree with but it would be futile on my part to think that there aren’t people seeing it that way. And that’s where things get complicated…

The need to be right

In today’s society, with the sense of entitlement this generation is living with, where everything is owed to them (or seems to be), there is a feeling that the “my way or the highway” is more predominant than ever. Too often, opinions are mistaken for facts. If one thinks or perceives things one way, then it must be factual, right? Not so much. Whatever happened to agreeing to disagree?

Pushing things even further is this need to be right… at all cost. People put themselves out there, have strong opinions, and they are so vocal and feel so strongly about them, that they reach the point of no return. If things don’t go as they said, as they claim, they must do anything and everything in their power to try to save face. They will accuse others, they will deny, they will find every other excuses in the books in order to justify thinking what they’re thinking, for saying what they’re saying, to ‘prove’ their point.

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Remember the famous blue and black, or white and gold dress debate? And unless you lived under a rock for the past month or so, how can we forget the ‘Yanni’ or ‘Laurel’ phenomenon? Is it remotely possible that two people can see things differently, and is it so hard for us to not only recognize it, but to accept it as well?

The Canadiens’ fan base doesn’t need me to point out situations where this applies, right? The controversy about every and any coach not named Scotty Bowman has the fan base divided. Whether it be Jacques Martin, Randy Cunneyworth (remember the language debate even for an interim coach?), Michel Therrien and even Stanley Cup winner Claude Julien, fans are divided on their decision-making and ultimately, on their capability as coaches.

It’s no different when it comes to General Managers… Réjean Houle, André Savard, Bob Gainey, Pierre Gauthier, and now Marc Bergevin have all been through the ringers by some of the Habs’ fan base, while more (or less) respected by others.

Players such as Mike Ribeiro, Saku Koivu, José Théodore, Patrice Brisebois, Alex Kovalev, David Desharnais, and now captain Max Pacioretty and even Carey Price are making the rounds amongst some of the fan base. Need I mention that guy in Nashville?

Social Media contribution

Like there are not enough topics for Habs’ fans to be divided about, the arrival of Social Media (particularly Twitter) has created a monster. Worse is the fact that it’s being fed greatly by some media members, some who, in my humble opinion, don’t deserve the title of journalists, who use their platform to spew their views, often strong dislikes borderline hater, instead of reporting the news. You know who they are. They are more prominent in print media and radio shows, but you find a few on television as well.

Social Media

Fans read, listen those opinions and because it suits what they think, it becomes their reality. With social media, they now have a voice, an immediate medium to channel their beliefs and one person agrees with the other and it quickly creates a ‘side’ on a topic. Think about it… someone posts a strong opinion and has hundreds, if not thousands of people instantaneously knowing about it. How do you back out and save face now? Plus if others, media member(s) include, think the way I do, then it must be true. It must be factual, right? No, it’s not.

Now you have narcissistic and egocentric individuals joining the bandwagon on both sides of the debate(s) and the name calling starts. The ‘Subanista’ and the ‘Bergevin lovers’, the ‘Weber fans’ vs the ‘Subban fans’, the ‘negative fans’ or the ‘rose glasses fans’… It’s either black or white (no pun intended), no room for grey area. Because you speak in favour of someone, you are being catalogued as a ‘lover’.

A perfect example of that is the racism card used against those who speak up against P.K. Subban… in the accusers’ mind, it must be it, as how could someone not think like me? Yes, it has gotten to that point! If you speak against someone or a behaviour, you are then  catalogued as a ‘hater’. Either way, you have lost all credibility with the ‘other side’ because you disagree on a topic.

While I know that this plea will not have any influence on the issue, it is one that needs to be done regardless. To both sides, it’s time to grow up and stop acting like children. NHL players, coaches, general managers and even water-boys and particularly owners don’t owe us anything. Stop with the entitlement. You want something? Go get it or ask for it. You want respect? EARN IT. Earn it by your actions. Be the bigger person and don’t get dragged into this non-sense. Don’t feed on the media members preying on you to get readership, listenership or viewership. They know exactly what they’re doing, they got you exactly where they want you. You are their sheep when you play into their hand. Have a mind of your own but mostly, mostly, respect the fact that not everyone thinks the same way as you do… and that’s perfectly okay. It’s something that even I have to keep reminding myself of and that, on a daily basis. Go Habs Go! 

 

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Pacioretty: Much Ado About Nothing

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The fans of the Montreal Canadiens are often self-proclaimed as the best and most knowledgeable fans in hockey. Yet, time after time, we get proofs of the opposite. Whether it’s booing their own players or the constant need for criticism, too many act like they know nothing about the game or proper etiquette when it comes to being a supporter of a team, a fan. 

We had yet another example the other night when Max Pacioretty, the team captain, didn’t take his traditional tour on the ice after being named one of the night’s three stars. Fans and media members were all over him, some going as far as asking for him to be traded over this incident and that, without even knowing the story behind it! Well guess what? There was a reason and whether those people agree with it or not, it was a legitimate one, making those people look like fools… once again!

The Canadiens’ organisation explained that the person in charge of informing the Habs’ stars of the night didn’t see Pacioretty walk by and he was already in the dressing room when someone caught up to him. As he was the third star, that person told him to quickly go salute the fans before PA announcer Michel Lacroix announced the second star, which he did just in time. As a matter of fact, Pacioretty didn’t even hear Lacroix name him as the star, showing that he was still far from the ice when it was announced.

New scapegoat

Those following the Canadiens up close will know that Pacioretty is not having the start of the season we all want him to have. Against the Hurricanes, he scored his fifth goal of the season and for several games now, he is not getting many scoring chances. Some fans who happen to have a dislike for the guy are jumping all over that excuse to put him down, making him the team’s new scapegoat.

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Max Pacioretty

For years now we kept hearing that there was a disconnect between he and former Canadiens P.K. Subban. Many felt that Subban should have been named team captain at the time. More felt like the fan favourite defenseman should have been the team’s nominee for the King Clancy Award for his donation to the Montreal Childrens’ Hospital, but the players picked Pacioretty instead, There is definitely a jealousy and some finger pointing towards Patches, explaining why Subban is no longer in Montreal… at least by some. So every chance they will get to put him down, those people are going to do it. That third star non-story is yet another example.

Further, those people are reaching even further when looking for ways to criticise Pacioretty. They want him to become that physical force, hitting everything in sight. They want him to go to the defense of his teammates and drop the gloves. You know how ridiculous that sounds? Do you think for a minute that Koivu dropped the gloves? Carbonneau? Henri Richard? Cournoyer? Damphousse? Gionta? Thankfully, most Habs’ fans can read right through those people’s personal agenda and don’t pay attention to them, even if they like to think that most do.

The need for a centre

Goals’ scorers like Pacioretty need someone to set them up, to give them the puck when they’re in scoring position. David Desharnais, when on top of his game and in spite of his bad qualities, did just that and Pacioretty benefited from it. Alex Galchenyuk is a scorer first, play-maker second, but he has Alexander Radulov feeding him the puck. Plekanec is not a good passer and the Canadiens are lacking in that aspect.

While there is no doubt that Marc Bergevin is actively looking at improving his defensive core, he must try to find a play-making centre to put on a line with Pacioretty in order to maximise (no pun intended) one of the few natural goals’ scorers on his team.

If I’m Bergevin, I keep in touch with the Colorado Avalanche who happen to have a lot of depth at the centre position. Wouldn’t Matt Duchene look good centering Pacioretty?