Practically a ‘Religion on Ice’

Cher Yukon,

Comment ça va? Despite the fact that Québec cities and towns are adorned with churches and cathedrals, Québec is known to be one of the least religious of all of Canada’s provinces.

Montréal itself has many churches that are no longer active or are now being converted to community centres or places for cultural gatherings.

There is one religion, though, that stands true for just about every Montréaler. There is even a course in religious studies at Université de Montréal that has been specifically set up for the study of how Montréalers consider this one subject a religion.

This subject is – yes, you guessed it – hockey. And, more specifically, the Montréal Canadiens. I can understand this. I am not a hockey person, but I can certainly see how this is so.

When I was growing up here, I went to school with Doug Harvey’s children and I do believe Ken Dryden went to my high school. I thought nothing of it. I did go to one hockey game, though, at the old forum.

It was back in the days when the Vancouver Canucks were a brand-new team in the NHL.

The energy in the arena was unbelievable. I guess I even got caught up in it. Now the forum is a huge Cineplex and games are played at the Bell Centre.

During the holidays, Corey (my daughter) and Grant went to a Canadiens vs Florida Panthers game. The place was packed. People from all backgrounds and ages were there.

There were many families with season passes. I can’t help but wonder what sacrifices these families had to make in order to get these passes (give up the old family van for tickets? … I don’t know).

Canadiens hockey sweaters and hockey paraphernalia can be bought just about everywhere. Even the neighbourhood dépanneur (convenience store) has T–shirts on display.

Canadiens flags fly proudly from passing cars. I know Whitehorse has hockey fanatics and I have, in the past, seen Flames or Oilers flags flying from vehicles.

Since Whitehorse is such a melting pot of Outsiders, I wonder how many Habs fans there are …

Here, hockey is more than just a weekend sport. It is more than casual conversation. It is a way of life.

On Montréal’s CTV News, the question was asked, “Do the Habs have a place in the classrooms?”

All of the people interviewed said, “Yes.”

I guess Québec’s and, in particular, Montréal’s passion can be summed up in the famous story, The Hockey Sweater, written by Roch Carrier. It was originally published as Une abominable feuille d’érable sur la glace (An Abominable Maple Leaf on the Ice).

The story is about a young boy, Carrier, who has to wear a Maple Leafs sweater instead of a Canadiens and, because the team captain refuses to let him play, he angrily breaks his hockey stick and is sent to church to pray. Here, he prays for God to send moths to eat the Maple Leafs sweater.

Carrier wrote: “We lived in three places – the school, the church, and the skating rink – but our real life was on the skating rink.”

I guess this love of hockey has been passed down generation after generation.

(It is, by the way, the 100th anniversary of the Habs, this year.)

All this being said, I think the Montréal Canadiens fans did get down on their knees, too, to pray for their team to finally get out of the losing slump they were in. What was it? seven losses in a row …

Time now to say “Go Habs, go!”

Your friend,


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