O Captain! My Captain!

WeberCaptain

Unlike the character in the legendary poem by Walt Whitman back in 1865, the Montreal Canadiens’ newly appointed captain, while on the injured list until November, is very much well and alive. General Manager Marc Bergevin, head coach Claude Julien, the players in the dressing room and hockey fans around the NHL all know that Shea Weber was the ultimate choice to become the team’s 30th player to wear the “C” on their jersey.

But before we get into that, I unfortunately have to get something off my chest immediately before chanting the praize of the man, the hockey player who is known everywhere in the NHL as a rock, Man Mountain as declared by Team Canada and Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock. It’s something troubling, somber, sad but also frustrating. It’s about those who don’t have the mental capacity to understand that it’s not Weber’s fault if their golden boy, whom I won’t even bother to name, was traded from Montreal.

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It’s comments like this one that make me sick to my stomach. It’s comments like this one that fans around the NHL are laughing at. Don’t recognise that the player that you love had major issues. Hate the trade all you want, but give your head a shake if you start hating on an amazing player, individual and leader like Weber because of it. To be truthful, behaviour like this makes you look like idiots, and I hope I’m wrong.

What this nomination means

“I prefer to sail in a bad ship with a good captain rather than sail in good ship with a bad captain.” ~Mehmet Murat ildan

Many had jumped to the conclusion that departing captain Max Pacioretty wasn’t cut for the job. Some went as far as accusing him of being a bad captain, a bad leader. Seeing how he appeared to abandon ship last season with a less than stellar effort, perhaps the captain abandoned ship when things got rough last year and that won’t happen with the new guy. Fans will need to point the finger elsewhere than “bad leader” when describing the current captain if things don’t go the way they should.

“A brave captain is as a root, out of which, as branches, the courage of his soldiers doth spring.” ~ Philip Sidney

Dad. Yes, dad. That’s the nickname players have for Weber in the dressing room. Someone whom they look on to lead the way, for advice, for leadership. A rock, full of experience and wisdom though having done it all, even at the international level. One thing is missing, something that drives him, winning a Stanley Cup and he will lead this crew in that direction. Whether he’s successful or not will depend on many factors but leadership won’t be an issue.

“In calm water, every ship has a good captain.” ~ Grover Cleveland

When things are going well, everyone is a leader. Everyone can smile and have fun. That’s usually when you hear stories about a tight dressing room. But when things get rough, when injuries happen, players underperform, when losses pile up, that’s when you see leadership. It may not always result in more wins, but it does have its impact on team morale and keeping a team focused on the ultimate goal… for when results and fate start smiling at you again.

“When the storm brews and the waves swell, only an experienced captain can control the ship and save it.” ~ Mata Amritanandamayi

Weber has the experience. In junior with the Kelowna Rockets, in the NHL with the Nashville Predators, where he wore the “C” for six seasons, at the international level as an alternate-captain for Team Canada. Not that one needs hardware to have leadership, but the NHL recognised his by awarding Weber with the Mark Messier leadership award in 2016, for his on and off-ice qualities as a leader.

“When you are captain, you are never speaking for yourself.” ~ Brian O’Driscoll

The media. Oh boy, the media in Montreal. When Andrei Markov was offered the captaincy a few years ago, he declined it because he didn’t want to have to deal with that aspect of the job. That’s saying much about the wolfpack mentality of some, but they will never admit to their wrong doing, we know that. They’ll play the ‘poor me’ or be sarcastic about it instead. Weber knows what he’s getting into and he accepted the title. Fans who are afraid that he could crumble under mediatic pressure don’t know him at all. As a matter of fact, there are media members right now who aren’t happy to see him there… because like Bergevin, he won’t be bullied by by them and they know it. The reporters, the old school ones, are happy because they have a man of integrity to interview.

“The captain of a ship can run a great ship, but he can’t do anything about the tides.” ~ Matthew Norman

While there’s no shortage of quality leaders in this dressing room, the Canadiens also named the best two guys as alternates who exemplify hard work and relentlessness, two guys who were told they would never make it to the NHL, let alone have success. Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher will have Weber’s back and the captain will be able to lean on them. Bergevin has his captain. Julien has his captain, his leaders. Now it’s up to them to right the ship. It’s up to Bergevin to provide his coach with the crew to right the ship. It’s up to Julien and his assistants to find ways to make them produce to their potential. They may not control the tides, but they are dictating the route the ship is taking.

In conclusion, I admit that Shea Weber (and Jarome Iginla) have been some of my favourite players in the NHL but I did not realise how much I miss the new captain out there, how much the Habs miss him, until I watched this clip published by the team. If you haven’t watched it yet, have a look. Season starts this week and soon, the captain will step on board. Let’s enjoy the ride together. Go Habs Go!

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A Divisive Fan Base

BadvsGoodHabs

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!