Globe Editorial: Why the Montreal Canadiens are now Team Canada

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Montreal Canadiens fans celebrate on St Catherine Street after the Montreal Canadiens beat the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Playoff semifinals in Montreal.

Peter McCabe / The Canadian Press

It is Canada’s most famous franchise, chasing the world’s most recognized sports trophy and playing Canada’s national game.

And because this country is still a bit of a mystery to itself, many people, including more than a few sports journalists, don’t know how to pronounce their name.

It’s the Montreal Canadiens. Pronounce “Canadians”, at least in English. Not Canaydee-enz. Canadians.

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It is not known which language “Canaydee-enz” is supposed to be impersonating, but it is not French. In French, they are Canadians. Or, more often, simply the Canadian. A team in the singular, because the symbol CH means the Canadian Hockey Club. the Canadian Hockey Club. Pronounced in French as Cah-nah-diyen.

They’ve been around since 1909, winning 24 Stanley Cups, while being part of the national psyche. The game has changed over the years, as has the country, and the place of Quebec and Montreal in both. Following the Canadiens is to have glimpses of it all.

The gods of the former Forum des Canadiens, Rocket included, have found the young people at the Bell Center

The team is obsessively obsessed with Quebec, yet its history, like that of its city, does not square with the vision of the province’s Bill 96. All of these legendary squads from decades past were symphonies performed where the two solitudes met. For 70 years it was the legendary Forum – at the intersection of a street with an English name and another with the name of a French saint.

The list of team champions is, like the country, a story that can only be told in two languages: Aurèle Joliat and Howie Morenz. Maurice Richard and Toe Blake. Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden.

And as it was at the old Forum, so it is at the Bell Center. The organist plays The Canadians are here! and hava Nagila. The words on the walls of the players’ dressing rooms are from In the Fields of Flanders. The announcements are in both official languages. And when fans were finally allowed to return on May 29, they greeted each other with a cappella. Canada – the bilingual version that Canadians have always used.

In a city where bagels are a heritage older than poutine, the local team is an amalgam of languages ​​and origins, from coast to coast and far beyond.

This year, for the first and possibly the last time, the National Hockey League was forced by pandemic circumstances to create a Canadian division. The Canadians and their former rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs – whose colors the humiliated protagonist Roch Carrier The hockey jersey was once forced to wear – faced in the playoffs for the first time since 1979.

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In that earlier era, NHL squads were all Canadian shows. The Leafs and the Canadiens of 42 years ago each had only one non-Canadian player. It was – literally, figuratively, statistically – our game.

As the world embraced our game, that changed. Less than half of today’s NHL players are Canadian. The Habs are heading to the final for the first time in 28 years thanks to an overtime goal from one of their three Finnish skaters. Their electrifying recruit is a sniper from Wisconsin.

But the team is still largely Canadian. This includes an imposing captain from Sicamous, British Columbia; a line of aging mulchers featuring a former NHL scoring champion from Peterborough, Ont., and the son of turf growers from Thunder Bay; and the team’s top scorer in the playoffs, Scarborough, Ont.

And in this unlikely race – the Habs barely managed to take last place in the round of 16 – their two best players were striker Nick Suzuki and goalkeeper Carey Price.

Mr. Suzuki, the team’s second-leading scorer in the playoffs, and whose vision continues to set goals, is a fifth-generation Japanese Canadian.

Mr. Price, a force of supernatural calm, grew up in Little Lake Anahim, British Columbia. Her father regularly had to take her in a small four-seater plane to games in Williams Lake, more than 300 kilometers away.

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At the end of the final game against the Vegas Golden Knights, which sent the Canadiens to the final, Mr. Price greeted his family from the stands. And then, in a television interview, modest and grounded as always, the best goalkeeper in the world took the attention away from himself and said how proud he was of his mother, who had just been re-elected boss. of the Ulkatcho First Nation.

Hockey changes and remains hockey. Canada is changing and remains Canada. Come on Habs Come on.

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