Cheating on my hometown hockey team

See how a hockey fan from Montreal, Canada, switched his Habs jersey, for a another team’s one! Was it treachery, you decide.

Hockey has always been a big part of my life.  Some of my best memories as a kid are of playing hockey in the streets in the summer and playing on the outdoor rinks with my friends in the winter.

I’m a Canadian who has lived in Montreal, Quebec his whole life.  It should be no surprise that I have always been a huge fan of the Montreal Canadiens.  If you don’t follow hockey, they’re the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys of hockey.  But don’t tell that to our neighbours down the 401 in Toronto!

wediditourway in front of the Hockey Hall of Fame
Carine and I in front of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto

Pro sports is a weird thing.  Grown men and women cheer on athletes they’ve never met, mostly rooting for teams in the cities they grew up in.  But these teams make changes every year.  Favourite players get traded all the time.  More than anything else, we cheer for the logo on the front of the jerseys.

Don’t get me wrong, I love professional sports, hockey most of all.  It’s a great way to bring friends together, a topic of conversation with work colleagues, something that unites complete strangers.  Few things get me glued to the TV like the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Alex Galchenyuk and I at the Habs blood drive
Alex Galchenyuk and I at the Montreal Canadiens annual blood drive

But recently my beloved Montreal Canadiens have been a frustrating team to follow, to say the least.  That’s when I started asking myself, why do I even like them?  Do I love all the players on the team?  Do I love the way the management operates?  Do I love the way the team presents their product to us fans?

Here is the uncommon story of a guy who grew up loving the most storied franchise in all of hockey, The Montreal Canadiens, and one day, after 35 years, decided that he would switch allegiances!  Blasphemy, treachery, or just a logical choice?

The early years

My first memory of the Montreal Canadiens, affectionately called the Habs, dates back to the first time I went to watch them in person.  My brother Craig brought me, at the age of 9, to the most famous arena in the world, the Montreal Forum.

The Montreal Forum
The Montreal Forum (photo credit: Archives de la Ville de Montréal)

They were playing the Hartford Whalers, a team that has since been relocated to Carolina.  I don’t remember who won, but I remember was I had a great time cheering on my team.  That’s when my love for them started to bloom.

The Stanley Cup

My next memories of the Habs are my best ones.

In the spring of 1993, the Montreal Canadiens weren’t a great team.  They had some good players, Patrick Roy, Vincent Damphousse, Brian Bellows and Guy Carbonneau to name a few.  Roy was an all-star, of that there is no doubt.  Many think that he is the best goalie to have ever played the game.  The rest of the team didn’t have any superstars, just a bunch of hard-working players who came together and gelled at the right time.

So it was during the playoff run that my real vivid memories of the Montreal Canadiens were made.

Guy Carbonneau accepting the Stanley Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
Guy Carbonneau accepting the Stanley Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (photo credit: Hockey Gods)

Many pundits say that the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in all pro sports.  The reason for that is because if you are one of 16 teams that make the playoffs, you have a serious chance to win it all.  In other sports, there are only a handful of teams that have a realistic chance of winning a championship.  Look at the NBA, who have had the same two teams reach the finals for the past 4 consecutive years.

The Habs started off the first round of the playoffs playing their bitterest of rivals, the Quebec Nordiques.  They fell short in games 1 and 2 of the seven game series, leaving Montrealers reeling.  Teams that lose the first two games, are usually toast, but not this group.  Montreal went on to win 16 out of the next 18 games, beating the Nordiques, the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Islanders and finally the Los Angeles Kings on route to the team’s record 24th Stanley Cup Championship.

Patrick Roy hoisting Lord Stanley
Patrick Roy hoisting Lord Stanley (photo credit: five thirty eight)

They also did it in breathtaking way, winning a record 10 straight overtime games, a record that stands to this day and will likely never be replicated.

As a 10-year-old boy, I stayed up many nights, well past my bedtime, to watch them capture this title.  I watched every single game of the playoffs that year.

I will never forget the final seconds of the game, when famous hockey announcer Bob Cole said “a 24th Stanley Cup banner will hang from the rafters of the famous Forum in Montreal, the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup!”

It was my brightest memory.  There have been other good ones, but none that top this one, as the Montreal Canadiens are still sitting on Stanley Cup number 24.

Who knows when they will hoist number 25?

The dark years

After winning the Stanley Cup, the Habs weren’t very good, for a long time.  As a fan, I would still watch games, but sporadically.

One memory that stuck, is the trading of my favourite Hab of all time, Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy.  This was a prime example of the Canadiens management wrenching the hearts of their fans.  In a game against the Detroit Red Wings in 1995, then Habs coach Mario Tremblay (a former Habs star of the 1970’s and 80’s) decided to leave his star goalie in the game after he had allowed 9 goals.  Something that never happens, and has always been considered a spiteful act on the coach’s part.

Mario Tremblay staring down Patrick Roy
Mario Tremblay staring down Patrick Roy after allowing 9 goals vs the Detroit Red Wings

After the game, Roy said it was his last game in Montreal.  Four days later, he was traded in on of the most lopsided trades ever.

The Habs never recovered from trading Roy, missing the playoffs in 5 the following 10 seasons.  Considering they had only missed the playoffs once since 1970, Habs fans were furious at the lack of success.

Patrick Roy mock cheers vs Detroit Red Wings
At 7-1 Red Wings, after an easy save from the red line, Patrick Roy mocks the booing crowd at the Forum (photo credit: complete hockey news)

Saying goodbye to the Forum

In 1996, the business side of hockey reared it’s ugly head once again.  The Canadiens moved from the Forum to the newly built Molson Centre.  It’s said that the old Forum had ghosts, which helped them win their 24 Stanley Cups.

During this time I was playing ice hockey myself, and luckily my local team was selected to be a part of the parade that marked the official move.  Thirteen years old at the time, being surrounded by my favourite teams’ legends of the past is something I will never forget.

Beliveau and Richard say farewell to the Montreal Forum
Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard say farewell to the Montreal Forum (photo credit: the Canadian Press)

Legends like “le gros Bill” Jean Beliveau, Maurice “the Rocket” Richard, Guy “the Flower” Lafleur were all there, along with current players.  I got to meet them all, and even had them sign the sweatshirt that we got to wear during the parade.  This sweater could be worth a pretty penny today, if my mother hadn’t washed it a few times.

Since the move, people say the Habs are cursed, the ghosts of the Forum having abandoned them.  This is obviously a superstition, but maybe there may be something to it, considering their lack of success.

The rebirth of my passion for the Habs

The dark years of the Montreal Canadiens finally came to an end in 2003 when got rid of the management team that ruined them and introduced Stanley Cup winner and former Hab, Bob Gainey, as the general manager.

Gainey, along with new coach, Guy Carbonneau, revitalized a franchise that was in desperate need.

Coach Guy Carbonneau
Coach Carbonneau firing up the troops (photo credit: The Star)

With this new management, the Habs started to win more games, they started to be fun to watch.  Unlike the stretch of 10 years that saw them miss the playoffs as often as they made them, they now started being a regular in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

This success, and exciting brand of hockey sucked me in.  82 nights a year, I was there watching their games.  The next day, that was all that was talked about with my coworkers.

Did you see the Habs win last night?

How about Carey Price?  Did you see that sick save he made in the 3rd?

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Superstar Carey Price (photo credit: CBS Sports)

Alright, Habs are playing Boston in the first round of the playoffs, we got this!

It was exciting.  The camaraderie that comes with watching your team play is one of the best things about following pro sports.

Another blockbuster trade

In 2016, the Habs started off the season on fire, winning their first 9 games in a row. Things were going well, with the team heading into December sitting atop of the league standings.

Then the wheels fell off, in large part due to injuries to their best players, Carey Price, PK Subban and Brandon Gallagher. From December on, the Habs fell from their lofty perch all the way to the outside looking in on the playoff picture.

PK subban celebrating a goal
PK Subban’s signature goal celebration (photo credit: The National)

Most fans chalked up the off season for the Habs as bad luck and a string of injuries. We will get them next year!

Then, one sunny June day, while visiting San Fransisco with my wife, I was scrolling through Twitter as usual, when I saw it.

PK Subban traded to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Shea Webber.

This trade wasn’t a horrible one.  Shea Webber was a perennial Norris trophy candidate. Sure, he was older, and more of a stay-at-home defenceman, but it was hard to see why this trade was made.  The brass said they needed new leadership.

PK Subban Montreal Children's hospital donation
PK Subban pledges $10 million to the Montreal Children’s hospital (photo credit: Sportsnet.ca)

PK was probably the player that fans loved the most.  He was charismatic and spoke his mind.  He was ultra-skilled, and was one of the few players on the team who elevated his game when it counted most in the playoffs.  Add to that the generous $10 million dollar pledge to the Montreal Children’s hospital he made less than a year earlier.

It was a tough pill to swallow for a lot of fans.

Current state of the Habs

It’s been a yoyo with the Habs the past few years.  One year, they show promise of winning it all, the next, they miss the playoffs.

They have become a team that has moved away from skill and toward character.  While the later is important, without players able to put the puck in the net, not only have they lacked success, but they just aren’t much fun to watch on most nights.

They even traded away their leading goal scorer and captain, Max Pacioretty, to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Road hockey

After leaving Montreal last September, one of the things I knew I would miss was watching hockey.  It didn’t take long before I figured out a way to watch them, though. Waking up at 6AM to watch the games became a regular event for me.

Watching the Habs by the pool in Australia
Watching the Habs by the pool in Australia

But again, they just sucked… why was I waking up so early, to watch them score 1 or 2 goals, or none, and lose game after game?

So what did I do?  The unthinkable.  I said screw this, screw the Habs and their management, I’m going to pick a good, fun team to watch.

So who would I root for now?

Welcome to the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights!

Golden Knights fans cheering
Now these fans have something to cheer for! (photo credit: USA Today)

Why not?  It was their first season in the league.  They had some players I liked, and they were proving all the analysts wrong.

Being an expansion team in the NHL normally comes with years of losing, before success can be had.  That’s why every sports writer and their mothers thought that Vegas would miss the playoffs in the 2017-2018 season.  Seriously, show me one who predicted they would make the playoffs, and I will eat my words.

Well guess what?  Vegas turned out to be one of the best sports stories of the year.

Las Vegas Golden Knights Vegas Strong
Vegas Strong: Remembering those lost (photo credit: NBCDFW)

It started off with the tragic shooting that took place in Vegas on October 1st 2017, 5 days before the start of their inaugural season.  To say that it brought the team closer together would be an understatement.

I remember as a hockey fan, right from the get-go, having an interest in the Golden Knights.  It was so entertaining, from the expansion draft, to watching them start the season with 9 wins in their first 10 games, to their high tempo, high scoring brand of hockey.

The face of the franchise was undoubtably Marc-André Fleury, nicknamed the Flower. He was a 3-time Stanley Cup champ with the Pittsburg Penguins, and was now the starting goaltender for Vegas.  He was also French Canadian.

Marc Andre Fleury pre game stretch
Marc-André Fleury doing a little pre-game stretching (photo credit: NHL.com)

I remember reading an article on my favourite sports website, the Players Tribune, written by another French Canadian member of the Golden Knights, David Perron, called: Vegas? VEGAS!  If you haven’t read it, do yourself the favour and do so now.

I’d had enough of the Habs, and I was now rooting for the Golden Knights.  They played fast, had a high octane offence, and won games, what more can you ask for?  Add to that the in-game theatrics and their social media presence, I was sold!

Vegas Golden Knights pre game intro
A little pre-game pump up (photo credit: Sin City VIP)

They finished the regular season in 1st place in their division, and were set to face off against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs.  Just making the playoffs for an expansion team was an amazing feat, let alone winning their division.

Their season was expected to end in April, after the 82nd game of the regular season.  In reality, it ended two months later, on June 7th, a mere 3 wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.

Vegas Golden Knights Stanley cup finals puck
2018 Stanley Cup Finals (photo credit: Amazon.com)

I haven’t watched as many playoff games as I did during the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs.

A Golden Knights fan is born

So back to why we follow our hometown team.  It is a romantic idea to root for a team from your city, but if the point of watching sports is to have fun, why not root for a team you enjoy watching?

That’s why, at least for now, I am going to watch my former captain and cheer him on with our new team.

max pacioretty new member of the vegas golden knioghts
The newest member of the Golden Knights, former Canadians captain, Max Paccioretty (photo credit: TSN.ca)

Go Vegas Go!


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Why eating bugs is the future of food

Whenever people talk about going to Cambodia, one of the first things they bring up, other than the Angkor Wat Temples, is that you can eat bugs there.  If you know me at all, you know that I’m one curious foodie.  I will eat things that are questionably edible, because, well, what if they’re delicious!?  So when we got to Siem Reap, I knew I wanted to eat bugs.  This may sound strange to some, but to me, it’s not.

Was I grossed out? Yeah, at first, I was, I won’t lie.  But if Michelin-star chef Alex Atala in Brazil serves bugs on his menu, they can’t be that bad!  Especially considering that bugs feed about 2 billion people a day in places like Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Sometimes, they are even considered delicacies.  One quarter of the world’s population can’t be that wrong!

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Picking the biggest, juiciest bugs for me in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Why would I do it?  Well that’s easy!  To me, bugs are the future of food.  We’ve grown our food industry totally out of proportion.  When the meat you eat is pumped with hormones, and the fish you catch comes from polluted waters, going vegetarian was an easy choice for me.  Don’t even get me started on the health benefits and environmentally-conscious reasons for going with a plant-based diet!  So if you want a good source of protein, that is tasty, and that leaves a minimal footprint on our planet, well, BUGS!

So one faithful night in Siem Reap, after a few drinks with friends (yes, liquid courage was required), we set out to find the best bugs the night market had to offer.  Luckily, we were intercepted by a friendly local who took us out to find the best vendor.  If you set out to try some insects, know that a lot of the vendors on Pub Street don’t always use fresh produce.  How long do you think they keep those bugs on sticks when they don’t get sold that night?  Well not this vendor!  She only uses the freshest stuff.  So much so, that another night, when looking for her again, she was nowhere to be found because her farmers had not been able to find any insects that day.  Now that’s integrity!

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Me and my favourite bug lady, right off Pub Street in Siem Reap

As you can see from her smile, she is something special!  Small but feisty, she knows her bugs!  Her crickets are farmed, grown to become food.  Her scorpions are sourced from the jungle, as are her grass snakes.  And her tarantulas, well, they are foraged up from 40cm deep underground.  She runs a tight ship.  She knows when her products are good to eat.  And if you trust her, like I did, you’ll let her pick the bug you’re going to eat.  Yes, she will pick the biggest tarantula, it will have a huge body and hairy legs, but it will be delicious!  She will even suggest eating one that has a large belly full of eggs, those are even tastier!

Like all things food, it’s all about the prep!  She will roast your meal right in front of you to make sure they have the perfect texture.  She doesn’t just serve her bugs plain, that would be boring.  Her crickets are marinated and cooked with lemongrass, chilli and lime juice.  Crunchy with just the right amount of kick!

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Hairy, crispy, delicious turantulas

How did I do it?  Well, the drinks helped the first night, I won’t lie!  But like with any weird meal, you have to get over your conceived notions about them before you take a bite.  I just stopped thinking of the bugs as being gross things.  I trusted this woman and her integrity when it comes to her products.  They are sourced properly, they are prepared with care and they are cooked well.  Can you say that about the food you eat every day?  So when crickets stopped being bugs, when tarantulas stopped being insanely scary-looking spiders, they just became food.  And like I said, I like food (ok, I LOVE food).

How was it?  Well, it was delicious!  So much so that I went back for seconds.  I could have eaten a full bag of crickets. That’s how good they were!

What did it taste like?  That is hard to say!  She said the scorpion tastes like chicken and the spiders like bacon, but I haven’t had either in so long, that it’s hard to say for me.  The spiders’ legs were crispy, like those little bits of fries that are at the bottom of your plate.  The body had a nice texture to it, crunchy on the outside because it was seared on the BBQ, but tender on the inside.  The crickets, my favourite, were like eating the half-popped kernels of popcorn.

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Yummy crickets with some BBQ sauce

Would I have them again back home?  Yes, yes and yes.  Bugs are extremely nutritious.  For example, crickets are a great source of lean protein, vitamins and minerals, containing about 65% protein, omega 3, fatty acids, calcium and vitamin B12.  Other insects can contain up to 80% protein, and have huge amounts of iron (sometimes, more than beef).  Obviously, I would have to find the fresh produce to make sure they are as delicious as hers, but yes, I would not hesitate making bugs a regular part of our meals.  There are even chip companies that make their products with crickets.  This is becoming more and more mainstream, as evidenced by big wig investor Marc Cuban putting his money behind this brand.

If I could, I would have stayed with my bug lady in Siem Reap and helped her sell more bugs.  It’s crazy how people who saw me eating them would stop and stare.  When they saw how much I enjoyed them, going for seconds and thirds, they also joined in.  And without fail, they would all say how delicious they thought these creepy crawly critters were.

So get over your fears, and those preconceived notions about bugs and let’s all eat them together!  Bon appétit!


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Why eating bugs is the future of food

Driving on the left

I love to drive.  Always have.  Always will.

I remember being very young and thinking to myself, I should be allowed to drive.  It looks so easy and like so much fun! As I was growing up, my dad used to let me steer from the passenger seat, even if my mom wasn’t thrilled at the prospect.

Later, I was upgraded from “steerer” to “shifter” in our old ’91 Hyundai Sonata!  That was a thrill, and surprisingly when I would shift into 2nd instead of 4th my dad wouldn’t get too upset with me.

Then, when I did my driving courses, my instructor would always tell me “slow down“… “ya ya, when I take the exam, I’ll slow down“, I’d tell him.  I passed my exam, easy-peasy, and bought myself a run down ’90 Chrysler LeBaron.  I was one of the first of my friends to get a car.  I was always the chauffeur, and I loved it.

I’ve always felt comfortable driving, and I would say I am a great driver.  Hopefully most people who have been in my car would agree! So when we first got to Australia, and the prospect of driving on the left-hand side of the road presented itself, I wasn’t fazed at all!

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Death’s Corner in Arthur’s Pass. Ya, no biggie!


Since our trip to Australia went from Cairns to Airlie Beach, and then to Brisbane, renting a car wasn’t really necessary.  Most of these places were easy to get around in by foot or public transportation.

Then, we got to the Sunshine Coast, more specifically to Buderim.  At first we took a bus to go into town and to the beaches of Maloolooba and Marouchydore.  But after a few days, we decided there was more to see, so we finally rented a car!

Coincidentally, it ended up being the same car we sold before leaving on this amazing trip, a Nissan Pulsar (the Australian version of the Versa).

I think a lot of people assume driving on the other side of the road is difficult because they think you’ll end up driving on the wrong side. But that only happened to me once, or maybe twice, but the real difficulty is simply staying in your lane!

Mistakenly driving on the wrong side can happen (usually when you’re on a small dirt road, or in a parking lot), but staying on the correct side is a lot easier than you would think, as you just follow traffic.  There are usually medians too, so physically getting onto the wrong side is harder than you would think.

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The epic 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, one of our best road trips

Staying in your lane though… that did take some getting used to.  I was always taught that when you are driving, you should hug the left side of your lane.  They say to do this because you are more likely to get hit from your right side than you are from your left side (when driving on the right side of the road). So that was the hardest impulse to break.  For the first day or two, Carine would keep getting nervous and telling me “stay in your lane!”

Being such a great driver, I would get so mad at myself.  Since you’re driving on the left, you now need to hug the right side of the lane.  Otherwise, you’ll be sitting half in your lane, and half in the lane to your left.

But after two days or so, I got the hang of it.  After a week, it no longer even felt like I was driving on the ‘wrong’ side anymore.

I drove a bit in the Sunshine Coast, and then did the Great Ocean road, from Melbourne to Portland and back (about 1,000kms) in a Wicked mini camper 2 sleeper.

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I’ve heard of sleeping in your car, but have you heard of sleeping on top of your car?

The next difficulty is where to look when you are crossing through an intersection.  Usually, you look left first expecting cars going from left to right.  But now the cars are coming from your right, so if you look the wrong way you could be in for a terrible surprise!  This did happen to me once while driving through New Zealand, and it was definitely the most terrifying ‘driving on the left’ experience we had, but we are still alive, again, thanks to my great driving skills!  Sarcasm?  Meh, you decide!

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A view we’re lucky to have seen in Wanaka, New Zealand

But the most exciting ‘driving on the left’ that I’ve done is, without doubt, the 4,500+ kms I did through New Zealand.   It was conquered with the help of 2 different camper vans and a trusty Nissan Pulsar for a few days.  We cruised through the South Island of New Zealand in a Spaceship Beta 2S and then drove a 4-berth motor-home we relocated for Imoova (a relocation service for campervans in New Zealand).

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Our little UFO
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The “Big Bertha”

So ask me, “Derek, should I drive in a country that drives on the opposite side that I am used to?”

The answer is easy!  Are you a good driver?  Yes?  Go for it!

No???  I think you answered your own question.  Do us all a favour, and take the bus!


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new experiences driving on the left