Growing up with a passion and a love for two teams is harder than just one! My father grew up in Montreal in the era when the Canadiens were known as the flying frenchmen and were basically unbeatable. I was born in 1978, and hockey came into my life I would say right around 1982 when I was old enough to talk and enjoy what was being shown to me. This was the time that my beloved Philadelphia Flyers were known as the Broad Street Bullies. To me, this was a gift as I got to witness some of the greatest hockey being played at two different levels. The crisp, clean, glorifying skating and passing of the Montreal Canadiens, and the brunt brutal punishment that the Flyers would put out. It was love at first sight towards both styles. Yet, I was also torn. I couldn't figure out who I liked more. The punishment and strong presence of the Flyers or the swift skating and puck control of Montreal. As time went on, and the Patrick Roy era begin, I fell more in love with Les Habitants and the beautiful crest and colors of the Habs sweaters. That was of course, until Ron Hextall's legace began. Yet again torn, but a bit more bias for the Flyers. The sweet play of Lord Patrick and the insane tactics of Mr. Hextall had me bouncing around like a ping pong ball. It was harder and harder each year to determine who I could say was my heart and my team, but the Flyers were always leading the charge. The intensity that they put on the ice game in and game out was too much for me to hold back from. The way Hextall was always so hyper and so in tune with the game. His pre-game scenarios and the things he would do had me glued. Patrick (Roy) was so calm and so one with himself and the game, that it was more like he was a robot between the pipes (but this was also very incredible to me, as he would make saves that were unreal). Hextall would have some eye popping, unorthodox saves and he would make you sit on the edge of your seat time and time again. When he scored (and I mean actually shoot and score) against Boston in 1987 it was offical - and idol was formed.
In 1989, the Philadelphia Flyers met the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs. Game 6 of the Conference Finals was pretty much in the books for Montreal but one man, Senior Hextall, was able to take out his frustration and get some revenge on Mr. Chelios. If you recall the prior game, Chris Chelios turned Brian Propps head into an egg about to be scrambled. This is when my love for the Orange and Black started to one up the love and appreciation I had for the Habs.
Today, it's right back to square one. I will always, in my heart, bleed Orange and Black, but because of the history and love I've had for the Habs all along - it's a close race.
In 2001, one of my favorite players in the game already had received some really bad news. Saku Koivu was diagnosed with his illness of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It was a tough time as a fan of hockey, and as a fan of Koivu to learn of this news. However, courage and strentgh had taken over and later, not only did Saku beat the cancer, but he made his return to hockey in the same season. A hero was born. My tears could not be contained, and my heart had found a special place to put Saku into and hold there forever. No words can describe the feeling of joy that had taken over me when he stepped onto the ice for the first time that season. I was at home watching the game, and it felt like I was there with the fans giving that 10 minute standing ovation.
I've been to regluar season games when both teams come to the tri-state area, and I've also travelled to both Philadelphia and Montreal. I've been to playoff games at the Spectrum, the Montreal Forum, and the WAC. If I could, I'd purchase 11 game plans for both teams for select games throughout the season (but I'm pretty broke at the moment). This is why I love the NHL Center Ice package. I pretty much get 99% of both teams games and enjoy every single penny I spend on this package.
Thus, we have a love for two teams. The only time I have any kind of problem with this is when the two teams play eachother. Who to root for and cheer for? Who to get angry at or congradulate? It's a tough task sometimes, but a lot of fun the rest of the season. I get to (and not to put such a strong word on it but) hate more then just two or three teams and it makes the season a lot more interesting for me. I also get to love a few players (not only just 3 or 4 - as I do branch out an appreciation for players (i.e. Phil Kessel, Miikka Kiprusoff, etc) all around the NHL) as well.
So, try living like I do come hockey season. Try having to put up with bashers for not just one, but two teams. Try dealing with the heartache and headaches two-fold. It's something I will never give up. My heart belongs to hockey - especially the Habs and the Flyers.
Let's Go Flyers!!!!!
Go Habs Go!