Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Why does an Aussie support the Montreal Canadiens?

It’s playoff time in the National Hockey League at the moment, and with two Canadian teams through to the final eight, the country is hooked on the action of the Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens. Like I mentioned in a blog in January, Canada is all about hockey.

Living in Vancouver, you cant help but be swept up in Canuck fever – but that’s not where my loyalties lie.

Being a Canadiens fan myself, I loved every moment of the dramatic series comeback from 3-1 down against the heavily favoured Washington Capitals, and I’m right behind them in their next quest – knocking off the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. While I’ve only been a “Habs” fan since the beginning of this season, I’m already a 100% committed fan, and have been rushing home from work to watch as much of the action as possible.

The question I keep getting asked though – why do I support Montreal? Of all the NHL teams they’re geographically (I believe) the furthest from my home town of Melbourne, as well as being the only one of the leagues teams based in an area that doesn’t speak English as a first language.

While we’re at it – why do I support any of the sports teams that I do?

Being a fan of sports and leagues all over the world, I have favourite teams, countries and sometimes just players, but what makes me support these teams?

Its generally easy to understand why you support your favourite teams in leagues that compete in your own country – its generally got a lot to do with geography. In sports back home that generally have a “one team per town” set up, I follow my local sides – The Melbourne Victory (A-League, soccer), Victorian Bushrangers (Cricket) and soon to be Melbourne Rebels (Super Rugby).

In other sports – like the Australia’s biggest, Aussie rules football – there are many teams in Melbourne, and peoples reasons for choosing them vary. Reasons include following the same team as their parents or friends, or a team that’s made a school visit or sometimes – as you generally “pick” a team when you’re very young and impressionable – people pick a team because they like the colours. Even if, like myself, the reason for choosing the team is no longer relevant, once you pick your team – you support it for life.

All of these decisions were no brainers. I didn’t really have to make a conscious decision to follow them. My first conscious decision to follow a team was in Australian basketball, in 1990, at the age of 10. There were still four NBL teams in Melbourne at that stage, and I distinctly remember contemplating becoming a fan of the Southern Melbourne Saints (as the “Saints” is also the name of the NBL team I follow) however I eventually chose the Melbourne Tigers, as they had Australia’s superstar player, Andrew Gaze.

It was a good decision. The Saints merged with one of the other Melbourne teams a year later, and then with the other Melbourne team in the late 90’s and then in 2002 ceased to be. In contrast the Melbourne Tigers have gone on to win four championships in that time. Win.

Choosing teams to follow internationally is a different matter, however. There’s no geographic reason to follow a team, and for many sports, you may not have friends or family who follow team. There are many though, who’s parents are born in Europe who follow their favourite European Football sides as a way of maintaining their connection with their old country. I didn’t have that.

The other factor is, growing up, I didn’t care about sports in other countries. I was only into Aussie football, cricket, and basketball. It was only when I entered my teens in the early 90s that I started to take note of sports outside of my own shores.

The NBA was really the first international sporting league I followed. What basketball fan couldn’t get hooked watching the likes of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls? It took me a while to decide on a team to follow, however. I didn’t just want to jump on the same bandwagon that my friends did. In the early 90’s everyone was either a Bulls (Jordan), Lakers (Magic Johnson), Celtics (Larry Bird), Hornets (Zo) or Magic (Shaq) fan. Instead, I simply became a fan of the league.

It was only when expansion happened in the mid 90’s – and two Canadian teams were added – that I picked a side of my own. I was attempting to make the decision between the two new sides when the Toronto Raptors drafted Damon Stoudamire – a player I admired in college – as their first ever player, that I decided they would be my team.

While its been a rocky road, with little on court success, I’m still passionate about the Raptors, and fulfilled a 15 year old wish in November, when I went to their home opener in the 2009-2010 season – and would go on to attend two more Raptor games for the season. Now, like any Raptor fan – I just hope that Chris Bosh stays!

In all sports I heavily follow any team that features Australian players – this applies more so on a college level. Sometimes though, following a team with some Australians, can actually lead me to becoming a fan of the team for life.

In English football (soccer), while I was living in the UK in 2006, I was following Middlesbrough FC and their fateful run to the 2006 UEFA Cup Final. The team featured two of Australia’s best players – striker Mark Viduka and keeper Mark Schwarzer – and in the second leg of both the quarter final and semi final, the team needed to score four goals after being down 3-0 on aggregate, and both times they did it. Its hard not to have a soft spot for a team after watching them pull of this amazing feat twice.

Other teams I follow, are for pretty minor reasons. With European Rugby, its Munster, because I lived in the province for half a year. For NFL it’s the New York Giants – purely because I decided, that I loved New York City so much, and wanted a team based in New York to support. With Major League Baseball? The Chicago Cubs, largely because of the history of Wrigley Field, and the team itself.

All of this brings me back to the Montreal Canadiens. Why them?

It’s probably a combination of reasons. Some of the first Canadians I ever met and became friends with, were from Montreal. I also decided I wanted to support a team from a “traditional” hockey area, rather than one of the teams that has been planted in the south of the US, like Nashville, Tampa or Phoenix. Finally, I decided, hockey is Canada’s game, so it had to be a Canadian team. All of this led me to the Canadiens.
If I wasn’t sure at all, heading to Montreal in October, and watching the games in pubs with my friends – followed by going to see a live game – sealed it.

While I haven’t been a fan of the Habs for as long as a lot of other people – last year they celebrated their 100th anniversary – I’m now a committed fan of the team, and will be glued to my TV for the rest of the playoffs, and hoping for the off chance that both Canadian teams can make it through to the Stanley Cup Finals, so I can see them live one more team this season.

Why do I follow the Montreal Canaidens? Because they’re my team!


  1. Damn no mention of the Suns 90's or Glen Rice ;)
    Good read though and I think we need a follow up with more on your chosen AFL side considering the amount of choices Melbournites have.

  2. I didnt know any Suns fans when I was a kid - you werent even one were ya?

    And, I follow the Saints in AFL coz of someone who was an influence at the time, but isnt anymore. Which only goes to show that it doesnt matter WHY you follow the team ya do.