The Good (Hockey) Wife

The (Good) Hockey Wife

Every year my husband disappears. I know where his is, it’s true, but it’s just his body there sitting in front of the TV. His mind, his heart and his soul aren’t with us. They’re with his beloved Montreal Canadiens.

It’s a fall ritual of sorts: he orders the NHL package, pulls out his “lucky” Bob Gainey jersey, and makes his picks for his NHL fantasy league. He checks in with his childhood friends and plans which games he’ll attend when the Habs are in town (all of them). Then he retreats into a little corner of our house each night at 7pm, tunes into channel 720-something, and tunes out the rest of the world around him.

There’s 82 games in a season, and if the Habs make the playoffs (and we pray they do, for the sake of pleasantry around our house), there can be another 20 or 25. That’s 107 nights of hockey. 107 nights of rushed dinners. 107 nights of absent-minded conversations. 107 nights of watching TV and retiring to bed alone.

For those nights when my husband is separated from his Habs, we have emergency plans in place. Games are painstakingly recorded, and his phone—which he typically checks seven to eight times per second—is turned off, in case a fellow fan texts in real time about the unfolding action. Then he watches in fast-forward—no matter how late we return—slowing only for the goals. Each is celebrated with great fanfare, and punctuated with a comment like: “They always win when I’m not watching, I should go out more!” We don’t.

I wasn’t always so melancholy about his Habs addiction. During our first few years together, I even attended some games to show my support. But after pulling out my newspaper at one and falling asleep at another, he quickly determined that my companionship was not worth the price of my ticket. I didn’t get the invite for the road trip to Philly, where a Flyers fan spat on him for wearing a Habs jersey. Or the “day trip” to Pittsburgh, where his team’s loss came complete with a speeding ticket.

Don’t feel sorry for me—my husband and I have two-thirds of the year to bond…when he’s not tracking off-season trades and who the Habs will pick up in the draft. And I fully support his devotion to the single team Montrealers can take pride in. The Expos skipped town, and you can’t watch the Alouettes in the U.S. (file that under “Who Cares.”) Besides, hockey’s part of being Canadian, right? You have to admire that a single “Go Habs Go” can unify a people, no matter what language they speak, no matter where they are around the world. 

Now that the Islanders have landed in Brooklyn (and lucky us, just a few blocks away), our “visiting home games” have roughly doubled, so we’ll probably see him even less. Sure, we’ll miss him at bedtime, but I comfort myself knowing his absence teaches my daughters about passion and dedication...which certainly trumps nonsensical lessons about green eggs and ham.

Truthfully, there’s something strangely comforting about the ritual of hockey season. As my husband roots wholeheartedly for the Habs for yet another year, I’m reminded that despite the daily dramas, the little heartaches, the fears and the triumphs, life goes on. Because hockey season goes on. (And on. And on.) And just maybe this year, they’ll win. •