Cap-Pelé — For Joseph Gaudet and Donat Leblanc, spring is a time not only for renewal and rebirth, but for the boisterous and fanatical celebration of their favourite sports team’s success. Both men are dyed-in-the-wool-sweater Montreal Canadiens, or “Habs” fans who enjoy watching their team’s perennial successes on CBC, and more importantly, watching the celebrations on the streets of Montreal.
This year, the duo had planned a special trip to Montreal to be on hand to witness and participate in what was sure to be another momentous Stanley Cup playoff celebration.
They departed Cap-Pelé before daybreak on Tuesday in order to be in Montreal for game time; however, things did not go as planned. The Montreal Canadiens lost in the semi-finals — in Tampa, no less — leaving the men stranded in Montreal, all dressed up with nowhere to go. The crowds, usually whipped into a pro-Québec frenzy, all but fizzled in the cool evening, leaving the men’s dreams of joining the hordes streaming through the streets in celebration melting like so much Zamboni slush. Major news outlets showed subdued fans quietly dispersing, order restored and chaos abated.
Gaudet, when reached by phone during the 15-hour drive back to New Brunswick, could barely contain his emotions. “There were no dumpster fires, no riot cops, no screaming and shouting, not even any looting of the SAQ stores. I didn’t see a single happy Habs fan on Tuesday night.” His friend echoed those sentiments, saying that he had “practised tipping police cars over for months,” and feels “cheated that the street celebrations never happened and [he] got screwed out of a rite of spring.”
Lise LeBrun, a Montreal native, was witness to the lack of public enthusiasm from her apartment on Rue Peel. During a normal playoff run, LeBrun can regularly smell the tear gas and hear the cars exploding. But this year, silence reigns in the home of les Habitants.