The Habs, the Sens, and a House Divided

2 Apr

In a few days, it could be a moot point. But as I write, there is trouble brewing on the home front. Discontent around the Dining Room Table. My house is a house divided. And a house divided against itself… well, you get the picture.

It’s a potential problem without precedent, and nothing I can do will offset it. You know what I’m talking about, right?

Exactly: The distinct possibility that the Ottawa Senators will face the Montreal Canadiens in the upcoming NHL playoffs.

Maybe you face the same problem in your own home. Maybe I’m not alone.

It’s true that here in Ottawa, many of us live in blended families: The kids born here, the parents immigrants from… well… other NHL cities.

And Ottawa itself was very recently a blended city. I’ve lived here long enough to remember a time when there was no hometown NHL team at all – when Scotiabank Place wasn’t even the Palladium yet, much less the Corel Centre.

Back then, this town found itself in the same kind of no-man’s land you still see in places like Connecticut, whose citizens are caught halfway between Red Sox Nation and the Evil Yankee Empire.

In the pre-Sens era, Ottawans were cleanly divided between Habs fans (i.e. Those Who Made The Right Choice) and Leafs fans (i.e. Those Who Made The Wrong Choice). You knew whose side you were on and you were comfortable about it (and, in the case of Leafs fans, sadly misguided).

The arrival of NHL hockey here muddied the water. Or the ice.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very fond of the Ottawa Senators. Have been since day one. Except, of course, when they play the Habs.

Likewise, my young Ottawa-bred offspring will cheer on les Canadiens with gusto. As long as they aren’t playing the Sens.

But the regular season is one thing. A game here, a game there. We can agree to disagree for a night, and everything is okay the next morning.

The playoffs, though?

The playoffs are another matter entirely. How can you agree to disagree during the playoffs? Can’t be done. The playoffs are a winner-take-all, loser-hits-the-golf-course enterprise.

So, it has been a small blessing – a serendipitous boost to family harmony – that the two teams have never before faced each other in a single playoff game.

At first, the Sens never made the playoffs. Then, when the Sens started making the playoffs, the Canadiens started to regularly miss post-season play.

In those rare seasons when both teams got in, potential Ottawa-Montreal encounters were derailed by the Habs’ tendency to lose in the early rounds and the Sens’ tendency to find themselves on the receiving end of humiliating post-season upsets at the hands of the Maple Leafs.

Last season, of course, both the Habs and Leafs sat out the playoffs, and the Sens made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals before being humiliated by the Anaheim Ducks.

But as I write, with mere days left to play in the regular season, the nightmare scenario haunts us again. The Habs… Habllelujah… have clinched their first division title in 16 years and are flirting with first place in the Eastern Conference.

Did I remember to say Habllelujah?

For their part, the Sens – who had the best start to a season in NHL history – have collapsed dramatically, and are flirting with missing the playoffs entirely. If they pull it together in their remaining two games, there’s a good chance of them earning the seventh or eighth playoff spot in the conference.

With the Habs looking to grab first or second place, the two teams could face each other in the first round of the playoffs.

The result? Friction in the Family Room.

And the adults in our family room – both of us faithful to Bleu, Blanc, Rouge – are outnumbered by Ottawa-born ankle-biters.

Well, maybe not.

The eleven-year-old and the seven-year-old are lost causes, sleeping – as they do – with posters of Alfredsson and Spartacat hovering above their heads.

But the four-year-old has hit a very important milestone in her cognitive development. She has discovered the key to bugging the hell out of her older brothers:

Cheer AGAINST the Senators.

She even wore a Canadiens sweater to her Ottawa preschool the morning after les Glorieux pounded the Sens in a recent game. And she will happily comply when I tell her to cheer “go, Habs, go!”.

Actually, she will happily comply when anyone tells her to cheer anything, as long as it results in hers being the loudest voice in the room.
Unfortunately, when she really wants to torture her brothers, she will push the boundaries and cheer “go, Leafs, go!”

I’ve done what most parenting experts would recommend and told her that kind of language is not allowed under my roof.

Her brothers tell her it is possible to be arrested for cheering for Toronto.

This will all come to a head in a few days. After this crucial final week of the regular season, all of the potential playoff permutations will be sorted out. We will soon be seated together as a family watching second-season hockey.

And if the Sens are playing the Habs in the first round?

Tension by the TV Set.

UPDATE: The regular season is now over, and we narrowly avoided a first-round matchup of the Sens and Habs. But we’re not out of the woods yet: If both teams win their first round series, they will automatically face each other in the next round. Uh-oh…

UPDATE # 2 (April 16): A note of thanks to the Ottawa Senators for so quickly and decisively ending all worries about my house dividing against itself. Safe for another year. Go Habs Go.


3 Responses to “The Habs, the Sens, and a House Divided”

  1. Navin Vaswani April 3, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    Excellent post Alan, and this is coming from someone who made the “wrong choice.” I’m hoping, much to the chagrin of your kids, that the Leafs can deal the Sens’ playoff chances a near-fatal blow.

    But a Montreal-Ottawa matchup, which would cause havoc in your home life, is something I can’t help but get tickled about. Both teams are so fast. Kovalev vs. Alffy. Price vs. Gerber. It would be intriguing as hell.

    Anyway, see you on the golf course!

    And forget about 45 minutes, I think we could do a 3-day series on this!

  2. Ed Levinson April 6, 2008 at 5:21 pm #

    Hey There Echenberg

    The quote specifies that the house needed to be divided “against itself” not just that he be divided. I propose that you immediately institute the appropriate modification of “the Golden rule” — he who has the gold makes the rule

    Thus I suggest you immediately establish as a principal, that “Les Glorieux” must win by a combination of divine right, superior ability, and besides it’s about time. At the same time as this principle is bruited about in your home, you must praise the dissenters and heretics for their independent in their totally misgotten position. Thus you have instructed her children in the quintessential Canadian position –cover your ass. Whatever the outcome he will have an invulnerable position of pious probity.

  3. Downswing June 19, 2008 at 12:04 pm #

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Downswing!!!

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