Like many people around the world, I am, always have been, and always will be a hockey fan. For many, this is not choice but rather a fate sealed long before they existed. Their parents, and parents’ parents, and parents’ parents’ parents would ensure that the culture of being a hockey fan was instilled upon their child from the moment they entered the world. I know that this was the case for me, and will also be the case for my children one day. I cannot speak for cultures around the world, but right here in Canada there is something special about not only being a hockey fan, but passing down the love of the game from generation to generation. As a fourth generation Montreal Canadiens fan myself, I had no other choice but to love the game, and for me, it has truly been recognized as our family’s ultimate heirloom.
Every year in late December, the Lavallée family assembles through the snowy weather from throughout Southern Ontario for a Christmas party. At one of these gatherings there are three things guaranteed. One, at some point hockey will be on the television. Two, several Montreal Canadiens items will be placed under the tree to be opened after dinner. Three, beer. I’m sure that many of you reading this now can tell a very similar story; hockey is not just a sport, it is a culture shared among all of us fans.
There are many ideals of the game which are passed down from parents to their son or daughter; a favourite team, a memory of a great hockey moment, an experience of meeting a player, the list goes on. As an example, one of my favourite hockey stories to tell is the time I found out that I might have been a bruins fan…stay with me here:
My French-Canadian grandfather was a very passionate Habs fan, so it’s no surprise to hear that my father and his siblings in turn, are also Habs Fans. There was however a brief period of time where my father was negatively influenced by a neighbour to cheer for the hated Boston Bruins; a period of time which could have shaped my entire outlook on the game of hockey. I cannot really blame him for this though. Growing up in St. Catharines, Ontario in the 70’s was a lot different than it is now. Back then, many professional hockey players dwelled in the Garden city, and it just so happened that Gerry Cheevers was one of them. This two-time Stanley Cup winning, Hall of Fame goalie was the neighbour of my father. I couldn’t imagine the influence a neighbourhood professional would have on my hockey ideals, so I cannot blame my father whatsoever for turning to the dark side for a short period of time. Luckily my grandfather was eventually able bring my dad back to reality, or I could very well be a Bruins fan today. Yikes.
This story is just one of many stories which has made me realize the true importance of passing down hockey ideals from one generation to another. Hockey has an unmeasurable importance to my family. It is something we talk about together, it is something we get upset about together, and it is something that we love together. Hockey unites us as a family, but the best part is… it doesn’t stop there. Hockey unites countless other families watching their team from the living room. Hockey unites thousands of people cheering for their team at an NHL arena. Hockey unites an entire nation as their hearts simultaneously skip a beat when their countrymen step on the ice during the Olympics. Hockey unites every single one of us hockey fans, wherever we are in the world. That is something special. This passion, this culture, and these ideals were all passed down from generation to generation, and for that reason I truly believe that the love of the game is the ultimate family heirloom.