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Habs in Paris: The Great Canadian Pub

Wednesday, July 7, 2010



By now, you should be getting the idea: Habs fans are everywhere. This season we have been pleased to receive guest submissions from Canadiens' supporters living in Brazil, Australia and the Philippines.

Its a worldwide community of people who are passionate about the bleu, blanc et rouge and All Habs is proud to be at the center of it.

Last month, we began a series of Habs-friendly venues in locations around the globe. If you would like to contribute a review, or you would like to suggest a location for a future Habs Tweetup in your city, we would love to hear from you.

This time, we head to Paris. Thanks so much to Craig for the tour!


by Craig Ostrin, Special to All Habs

“OLÉ – OLÉ OLÉ OLÉ – OLÉ – OLÉ”

PARIS, FRANCE -- The chant was deafening as I watched our Habs leap from the bench to celebrate their dominant Game 7 victory on Pittsburgh ice. The video turned to the Bell Centre and the streets of Montreal, and for a moment, I felt like I was there.

But as we trickled outside into the streets of Paris, the dead silence was a sour reminder that I was several thousand kilometers from Sainte Catherine street.

Hockey was the last thing on my mind when I arrived in France in January. My semester studying abroad was just beginning, and I was focused on seeing Paris and making new friends. Well, it turned out that a number of these new friends were university students from Montreal as well, and before long, we’d found The Great Canadian (TGC) Pub.

At the TGC, hockey sticks served as door handles, and the walls were covered in memorabilia. But most importantly, they showed each and every Habs' game and stayed open till the very end. That was important when the average match started at 1 a.m. and finished around four, Paris time.

With a 10 a.m. class the next day, I showed up at the TGC at 1 a.m. Paris time for the first Habs' playoff game against the Washington Capitals. After barely squeaking into the playoffs—with an embarrassing overtime loss against the Maple Leafs, no less, my expectations were low, but my friend Ben's relentless optimism was contagious.

Ben was born in France, but he had lived in Montreal for over a decade. We met in Paris through a mutual friend from Toronto (don't worry, she didn't root for the Leafs - I asked). At first, Ben was the guy who forced me to speak French and see French movies. It was probably a good thing, but after a full day of interacting in another language, all I wanted to do was relax in my native English when I was with friends.

But, over the course of the semester and the Canadiens' season, Ben quickly became one of my best friends. And so, the morning after the Habs went up 1-0 against the Caps, I penned an email to my professor, explaining that I'd missed his 10 a.m. class on the American Revolution because I'd been awake all night celebrating a similar revolution—a revolution on ice.

“Like the meetings of our predecessors, slogans were chanted, beer was drunk, and we all went home invigorated for the future. Our upstart rebels, the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, had defeated the imperialist scum, the top-ranked Washington Capitals, in the first game of their playoff series.”

Fortunately, my professor found the letter hilarious, and for the rest of the playoffs, nothing could stand between me and my beloved Habs. Not illness, early-morning classes, research papers due the next day—none of it mattered come game time.

Even on vacation, the night of my twenty-first birthday, I knew my priorities. It was Game 7 against the Caps, and boy did the Habs deliver one hell of a birthday gift.

I guess that's why the end was such a shock. The night the dream ended, I remember stumbling out of the pub as if in a daze.

Ben said it best: “I don’t get it. We were here every night.” I knew what he meant. The Habs let us down. We believed, and we did our part. Why couldn’t they do theirs?

The shock has worn off, leaving disappointment at what could have been. But the Habs' defeat doesn't take away from the memories they gave me or the friends I made along the way.

I will never forget standing on a chair at the end of the Penguins series, singing OLÉ at the top of my lungs with Ben and 40 wonderful strangers, as if by the sheer power of our voices, we'd created a bubble of Montreal in Paris.


Related article: Habs-friendly Venues: Blue Moon Cafe in NYC

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