Canadian Takeover: Part II
April 11, 2011
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While most people were sitting on their couch at home, maybe at a bar watching the insane finish of the Masters or a little afternoon baseball, I was being Canadian by attending the regular season ending, meaningless Devils-Bruins game. Much like Joe wrote in, One Night in New Jersey some crazy funky Canadianish stuff happened at this game. And it was cool as hell.
As my uncle and I walked into the bar outside of the Prudential Center we saw a wave of buses roll up. Hundreds of people in Quebec Nordiques jerseys and t-shirts drunkenly stumbled out of the buses like a bunch of high schoolers getting ready to see their school play in the state hockey championship. They were screaming, acting as if they had tickets to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, not game 82 of a wasted Devils season. I asked one of them what the hell was going on and he responded “We are the Nordiques Nation, we love hockey and want our team back”. For those young guns out there as well as people who don’t know much about hockey, the Quebec Nordiques are now the Colorado Avalanche. Following the lockout shortened season of 1995 the Nordqiues were forced to relocate to Denver due to financial difficulties. Quebec City was obviously heart-broken that their beloved franchise was bolting for the states.
It’s been 16 years since the Nordiques relocated and as I saw at the game, the fans have clearly not forgotten about them. Roughly 2,000 Nordiques fans packed into the Rock to cheer on the Devils and profess their love for the game of puck. Right from the opening face-off you could feel the energy that these fans were bringing. I’ve been to many Devils games and most of them sound as if they are being played in a library. Yesterday afternoon was different. They immediately starting chanting. I couldn’t exactly make out what they were saying and some of them were in French, but it sounded cool and was directed towards supporting the Devils. The chants, cheers and screaming made the building feel electric. The Devils scored 1 minute and 47 seconds into the game and it felt like the roof was going to come off. They made the feeling of meaningless game disappear and replaced with a playoff type atmosphere. Something which the Devils won’t be seeing for the first time since the 1995-96 season. Yup, I’m salty about it. As the first period continued the clock ticked down to 16:15 and the Nordiques Nation started chanting the numbers out in French. Then at 16:00, they all stood and starting screaming at the top of their lungs. This lasted for about a minute then they started a let’s go devils chant. Confused I did some research and realized they were commemorating the number of years (16) since the Nordiques left Quebec. They did this each period including the 3rd when the Devils scored at exactly 16:00 on a breakaway. Freaky. Around the 3 minute mark of the third period the Nordiques Nation got up out of their upper level seats and disappeared. Then as there was stoppage of play and they all poured down into the lower level walking up to the glass screaming and cheering for the last two minutes of the game. It was a pretty cool seeing the sea of blue take over.
All in all it was a sweet day. I got to see true fan hood. So many people claim they are “die-hard” fans and most of them don’t know the first thing about their team, but these people were without question die-hard fans even after 16 years without their team. I couldn’t imagine if the ownership sold the Phillies and moved them to another country, but everyday these people have to live with the fact that their team was taken from them. The thousands of people that attended the game yesterday shows how much they care about hockey and more importantly that the NHL made a mistake by not backing up the Nordiques and keeping them in Quebec City. Who knows if the NHL will bring the Nordiques back, but I hope they do. People in Atlanta don’t care about hockey. People in Florida have better things to do then watch the Panthers. The people of Quebec deserve a team and hopefully the NHL will do the right thing.