Thursday, April 17, 2008

Canadian Espionage: Pirates and the Play-offs

The authorities couldn’t deter me from completing my mission: survey New Brunswickians about their hockey allegiances. The federal agencies tracking my whereabouts did manage to dupe the AMHL Photographer and me into boarding a barge bound from Grand Manan to the mainland. But the four-hour ride across the Passamaquoddy Bay—a trip the regular ferry completed in less than two hours—and the barge pirates did not prevent me from delivering the results of the informal poll of eleven random Canadians, from St. Andrews to St. John.

-Canadiens’ fans: 5
-Bruins’ fans: 2
-Other: 4

These numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“Habs in four,” said one male when asked what team he wanted to win the quarterfinal match-up pitting the Montreal Canadiens against my beloved Bruins.

He and his friend, interviewed at a SportChek in St. John, may as well have had their faces painted in les couleurs de les habitants.

Other “fans” of les bleu, blanc et rouge weren’t so enthusiastic. “H-h-habs,” admitted one denizen at the Red Herring Pub in St. Andrews. He was barely able name the enemy of Leafs Nation. Even though the hospitable patron said he has “a soft spot for the Bruins,” his loyalties lay with Canadian teams. “Go Calgary!” he added.

Mr. Hospitality was not alone in begrudgingly embracing the Canadiens. Back at the SportChek, a man about my age was decked out in an Orange and Black sweater. A Flyers’ fan since the 70s, he said he’d root for the Canadiens, but only if they were the only Canadian team left in the play-offs and only if they weren’t facing the Broad Street Bullies.

“I like the Oilers,” someone said at the Canadian Tire (where I bought a Sher-Wood PMP 7000 with a 5.5 lie for $14.99). She didn’t care much for the Habs or the Bruins. The fellow behind me in the checkout line wasn’t too thrilled to talk to the guy taking notes and declined to comment.

But most were eager to voice their opinions, including Norm, god love him, at the Red Herring. Norm, who owns the Great Canadian Dollar Store franchise in St. Andrews, was not wearing the Black and Gold but immediately piped up when he learned there were Bruins’ fans in the house. A fan since the glory days of Orr, Norm talked hockey with my wife and me well into the night as the Senators succumbed to the Penguins on Hockey Night in New Brunswick.
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