Five years ago today, on Tuesday, March 13th, 2007, I walked into the Bell Centre wearing a Canadiens T-shirt. For the first time.
My friend Caroline offered me her extra ticket to a Habs-Islanders game. We sat in the Club Desjardins section, thanks to her dad's corporate season tickets. I bought my Koivu shirt that day. Koivu was awarded the Molson Cup for the previous month. The Habs won.
I still don't think I know everything about hockey, but I definitely know more than I did before that game. Back then, Czechtacular and I were just friends-in-law: our mutual friends joked to me that she could teach me everything I needed to know about the Habs before I went to the game. I took them seriously. My Facebook message to her was answered with a series of messages that, when printed out, took up three pages. She answered everything from "Does Guy Carbonneau hate Russians?" to "Are there midfielders in hockey?" to "I know some of the guys' jersey numbers but who are the rest of them?"
Yeah. I wasn't kidding with this Rookie thing.
Here are a few excerpts from the cheat sheet that Czechtacular wrote up for me five long years ago:
#8, Michael Komisarek [...] basically he just freaking ROCKS.
#20, Mike Johnson, right wing.
#26, Josh Gorges, defense. We just got him at the trade deadline in exchange for Craig Rivet so I don't know too much about him. He's just "the new guy."
#30, David Aebischer, goalie. [...] He tends to flop all around his crease... (I had no idea what any of those words meant.)
#32, Mark Streit, defense/winger. He's come into his own this year.
#35, Tomas Plekanec, centre. Uhm this paragraph may be long because he's my favourite player. (She wasn't joking, either. It's a hell of a paragraph. I learned so much about Tomas Plekanec that day.)
I read and re-read those pages throughout the day, and took them with me to the game. A lot has change in the last five years: New guy Josh Gorges is now one of the most important players on the team. Captain and Molson Cup winner Saku Koivu just played his 1000th NHL game. I've learned more than a few things about hockey. The team, the fans who have so graciously taught me everything I know about the game, and I have grown and changed a lot in these five years.
In an interesting twist of fate, I get to walk into the Bell Centre again tonight. Thank you, Black Keys, for scheduling a concert on Tuesday, March 13th. It'll feel like coming home.