View Single Post
Old
03-21-2013, 07:43 AM
  #78
StanAjax
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Nantes
Country: France
Posts: 1,631
vCash: 500
It all started thanks to Eurosport, a sign written in French in a Finnish crowd and, a year later, a 56k dial-up modem...

Being raised in Nantes, western France, everything pointed at me becoming a soccer fan, which I became, going to the stadium with my grand-father, father and brother...

Ice hockey was just an Olympic sport like many that I could follow when it was shown on TV, i.e., only during the Olympics. I remember rooting for France in Albertville, when they reached the quarter-finals, though, at 10, I was only starting to get interested in sports, including soccer. Two years later, I was more involved in the Lillehammer Olympics, and I rooted for Sweden and Finland, mainly because of their goalies, Tommy Salo and Järmo Mÿllÿs (like many kids, I first had a soft spot for goalies).

Shortly after, we subscribed to cable TV and Eurosport started to broadcast the world championships. When they were on, we used to play hockey in the living room with my brother. Our sticks were field hockey sticks and the puck was made of jam jar lids covered with foam (of different colours, representing the biggest hockey countries, yellow and blue for Sweden, blue and white for Finland, red and white for Canada...). And the front door was the goal. You guess we made our mom crazy at that time...

In 1997, the World Championships were held in Finland. Mid-way through the tournament, a little Finn joined his national team, and was being presented as the Messiah that would help his country win the title again. Saku Koivu was indeed very good, though it was not enough to prevent Sweden from avenging the 1995 humiliation... Still, it was too late. The French commentators sold me on Koivu and Finland, talking about the "Tupu, Hupu ja Lupu" line (Peltonen-Koivu-Lehtinen, nicknamed Huey, Dewey and Louie in 95) that amazed the world 2 years before. And the last strike was that sign held by a Finnish fan in the crowd "Saku Koivu Le Magnifique". The commentators explained that it was because he played for the Montréal Canadiens, and that it was a reference to one of the greatest hockey players ever, Mario Lemieux.

A year later, 56k dial-up modems and Internet came to town. That would mean further yelling from my mother when the phone bills were arriving (local calls were not free in France back then, and, well, it would take hours to browse the net looking for NHL news...). Ice hockey and NHL quickly became my main browsing topic, and I started to look at the Habs results (as it was Koivu's team !) through the NHL and the RDS websites. I still remember reading Benoît Brunet put the last nail in the Penguins' coffin that spring before going to school. And the playoffs quickly coming to an end afterwards when Hasek wouldn't let a goal in...

While playing a lot with the EA NHL games, my fandom grew with my internet connection. When ADSL and radio broadcast arrived, I started to listen to the games live during nights. CKAC and Dany Dubé became the voice from the other side of the pond... In April 2002, I cried like a child, alone in the dark, while Saku received his well deserved standing ovation when returning from cancer.

From then, there were ups and downs in the way I would (could) follow the games while going to university / working / having a family life. But I'm still there and will forever be there in the Habs empire...

I had the chance to come to Canada in 2006 for an internship. It was not in Québec, unfortunately, but I met some cool Leaf fans (yes, there are some !) in Waterloo, Ontario. I came to the Bell Centre for a game against the Devils (bad choice...), in which the Habs lost 3-2 after a late rally. Still, it was such a great experience to see Koivu, Huet, Brodeur... live.

I was mad at Gainey when he let Koivu go, but the 2010 playoffs made it less painful...

StanAjax is offline   Reply With Quote