by Bonnie Wurst – Montreal Times
Montreal’s mojo has returned! The Habs re-instilled our sense of pride and Ginette Reno brought us all together in a great, big Bell Center hug. They made us feel like the winners we know we are and turned a city that was in the deepest of doldrums into a City of Love, une vraie Ville de l’Amour!
Okay, so we lost the Rangers series and golf is back on the agenda. It’s clear that Lord Stanley is not yet ready to return to his (real) home in Montreal – but what we did do was take the gas out of Boston’s beans! We kicked that can. Is more really needed? The rivalry between Montreal and Boston goes back well over half a century and is considered one of the greatest rivalries in sports. And we just won the last battle.
FLASHBACK April 8th 1952… it’s the 3rd period in the deciding game of the Semi-Finals against Boston. The score is tied. Maurice (the Rocket) Richard jumps back on to the ice – after being taken out of the game with a concussion he received in the 2nd period. But that didn’t stop him. Blood was dripping down his face, seeping through his bandages from the injury. When he looked up at the clock, the Rocket went into overdrive, scoring what would be the winning goal. Montreal ended up winning the game 3-2 and taking the series. Boston’s beans had been baked – and the rivalry between the teams has been simmering on medium-low ever since.
This year it boiled over. The Habs, feeling very Bleu-Blanc-Rouge after a four game sweep against Tampa Bay, were ready to take on Boston with the same broom, but there would be no clean sweep of Bean Town. Boston took a 3-1 series lead and felt they had it in the bag, smug in anticipation of eliminating their arch-rivals. But they underestimated the power of the Habs’ fans and the Lady Ginette Reno. They ended up with a hole in their bag.
Montrealers had been down in the dumps – suffering through scandals and political corruption of mass destruction, on both the provincial and municipal levels. The Liberal government was toppled, leaving the door open to eighteen months of a PQ minority government, intent on doing everything but getting nothing done. Our economy and international reputation were floundering.
During that time, the Mayor of Montreal had to resign because of all the scandals going on right here. Wait, make that two mayors – and one of them was arrested. Emergency construction projects abounded. Bridges and roads were falling apart.
And just as we were adapting to living in chaos, came the province’s Charter of Values, followed by a provincial election campaign that morphed into a Quasi-Referendum on Sovereignty, resurrecting the notion of Two Solitudes. The first public opinion polls showed a divide amongst the people not seen in years. It was English against Français. Propaganda and manipulation were used to create the illusion that serious problems existed, inciting hatred and pitting neighbours against each other. Quebec’s unique and rich culture was grossly misrepresented.
It was extremely disheartening for the majority of the population, especially Montrealers. But there was a silver lining to the cloud, when the sun came out we were able to see that those who were supposedly divided, had actually united in solidarity. In the end it was clear most of the problems cited, never even existed. Tout le monde était prêt à embrasser la langue de Molière – in Québécois style of course. The reality of our many diverse cultures being woven into the fabric of this province became apparent. People were willing to embrace the notion that we could raise the Fleurs de Lys flag as one.
But the wounds were deep and healing would have to take place. We were in a fragile state, in some ways like the simmering rivalry between the Habs and Bruins.
Then the ice was lit up in flames at the Bell Center, literally. Ole-Ole, Ole… OLE!
An angel appeared, wearing Habs colors and began singing Canada’s national anthem. Her name, Ginette Reno – a multi-award winning, international star and beloved Quebec icon. Born in Montreal, she sings in both official languages and is a true Quebecoise at heart. From the very first note she sang, the ‘Ginette Reno Effect’ rippled outwards and the healing began. Over twenty thousand people stood and sang along at every home game afterwards – in both English et en Français. It became one language and tears filled many an eye.
The Habs went on to sweep Tampa Bay. Strangers were hugging on the streets. Women wearing hijabs were waving Hab flags, sporting Carey Price and PK Subban shirts. It was magic. The city awakened! Then came the Boston series. The Lady Reno summoned the spirit of the Rocket and, well, Ole-Ole, Ole… OLE!!!
It made losing to the Rangers easier to accept. Because… WE WHOOPED THE BRUINS and were back in love with our city. I will end my article with the Lord Stanley Cup half FULL and a vision of the ‘Ginette Reno Effect’ continuing to ripple through our hearts. Merci Ginette and thank you Habs for re-igniting the flame!
Bonnie Wurst is a freelance journalist, a weekly columnist and feature writer for the Montreal Times, a novelist, ghost writer (not the scary kind) and humorist. Her book “Damaged Goods Re-Stitched” can be found on Amazon.com. For ‘HUMOR SOUP FOR THE SOUL’ speaking engagements & workshops, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org