Wednesday, 27 June 2012

HABS-TOWN: "I could never hone in on one player to admire for his skill"

I've known Johanna Miller for a few years now. She's a wife, a mom, an athlete and a tweep. I've seen her play softball, and we've actually been on the ice together in a couple of hockey games - so believe me when I tell you - she can play with the boys.

Johanna's career for the last Six and a half years has her working for a well-known hockey manufacturer - the last three of which have been spent working in the marketing department. Her job requires her to be on top of what their endorse e players are doing throughout the season, be it minor and major accomplishments. 

On top of that, the majority of her colleagues are, of course,  Habs fans and are all very devoted to hockey and talking shop the morning after the game.  

For someone who didn't grow up as a spectator of any sport, let alone hockey, I sometimes find myself in the midst of and overdose of hockey before the season even begins. To feel like I'm still in the boys' club I make sure to watch the highlights on TSN before heading off to work, also thanks to my husband I have the basic awareness of what's going on in the league.

The last two seasons have been too much for me, I've been feeling saturated in hockeyville and needed to get away from it all. I will admit, proudly even, that I haven't watched a full Habs game since 2010. In addition, being on maternity leave for the last year has helped me to check-out even more. Do I miss the Habs and hockey in general? Of course I do. But even more so, I miss what the Habs are and what they represent to me as a Montrealer. Thanks to the accessibility of information, the media has helped the special breed of Montreal super fans along in ruining it all for the regular fan who just wants to enjoy a game with a beer in a pub among friends.

Johanna brings us our second look at HABS-TOWN from a female perspective. As some one who works in the sports industry, plays sports herself, and admittedly didn't grow up a sports fan, let alone a hockey one, this should make for a great read - and should show yet again why no matter who you are, what you do or where you come from - this town always comes back to the Habs.

What got you into hockey, more specifically the Habs?
I didn't grow up around hockey at all. Being an only child and having a father who was, and still is, a fan of professional wrestling and the PGA, I had a pretty lackluster fan experience growing up. It did get me in to the Forum once in my life to see Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper duke it out, folding chairs, flying elbows and all.

Sure, like every kid in Montreal, we had a couple of hockey sticks in the garage left over from my dad's shinny days but I had no kids on my street to play hockey with. As a kid, this left me with a longing to feel a part of something, what yet, I didn't quite know, but hockey was always a big question mark for me. Sure I learned how to skate early on and even figure skated for a while but the two never met with a stick until I became an adult. This also means that I completely missed the Habs winning the Cup in the early nineties! I honestly had NO idea it was even happening and to this day I wish I wasn't so out of touch.
Finally in my early Twenties I had the chance opportunity to play ice hockey in full equipment (borrowed) for the first time with some friends. Why? Because I'm a gamer and I've always been the girl running around competing with the boys. That was all it took, I was hooked from that moment on. I signed up for adult instruction at the 3-on-3 rink in Kirkland and have moved up to now playing in a co-ed beer league. Once I picked up the playing bug it was only natural to kick off watching the Habs.
Simultaneously, my girlfriends were also getting into the Habs which made becoming a fan much easier.

Do you remember your first Habs game? when was it? who took you? What do you remember about it....
I was about 20 when I went to my first Habs game. I won the tickets in a draw at my part-time job and took a work friend with me. The seats were in prime red location; center ice, about half way up the section. I remember sitting in my seat and thinking how amazing it was to finally be at a game, albeit at the Bell Centre, it was so new and big and bright. I couldn't tell you who the Habs played that night but they did win. The feeling of being there brought tv to life for me for the first time. Most people make that connection as kids yet here I was, an adult, making that link and truly appreciating where I was in that moment.

Do you have a favorite Habs player ever? if so, whom, and why?
I could never hone in on one player to admire for his skill. As it was when I started watching I didn't quite have my head wrapped around all the rules of the game. Adding the more complex layer of understanding plays as they are unfolding has only really come to me once I started playing 5-on-5, just a few years back. I guess if I have to qualify a player as favourite I would say that they would have to be good enough, both in talent and personality, to wear their name on your back even after they've left the team (sound advice I picked up from my husband). I've purchase two name and number t-shirts in my life, one is Koivu because he wasn't just a captain on the ice, he was a true citizen of the team and the city. The other name I've worn is Price, yes he's had his ups and downs but I believe that we have the Montreal media and the Habs' super fans to thank for getting into his head. He's got talent with a lot of time to prove it to all the haters.

Where do you like to watch games?
Once upon a time watching the Habs game at the downtown Old Orchard, organized by my girlfriends, was something we'd look forward to for most home games. We'd get a table just as the fans who were attending the game would filter out of the pub, leaving prime seating in front of the big screen. Life changes, work gets busy, boyfriends come and go and we have a baby...its not as easy to meet up for a game, even if I had the desire to watch the Habs.
Watching the game at home with my husband is much more my speed. We can watch on the couch, beer in hand and cheap food on our plates not to mention, in our sweat pants.

Do you prefer to watch with guys? with girls? why?
I don't have a preference. My girlfriends are truly a rare breed. They don't watch the Habs because they think some of the players are hot. They watch with intensity and spirit for the game, cheering when the moment is right and booing when the refs make a terrible call. Watching the game with guys is a little less pitchy and filled with many more profanities.

Do you have any pre-game rituals or in game superstitions?
My ritual is to never do the same thing.
What's the best game you ever went to? what do you remember about it?
I would have to say my first game was the best purely for the experience. I don't remember the details of the other games I've been to.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories that are somehow related to the Habs?
In the first round of the 2010 playoff the Habs eliminated the reigning 2009 Stanley Cup Champions the Pittsburgh Penguins. During the playoff run we had a day at the office where we held a contest for the best decorated hockey desk. The winner received a pair of Habs playoff tickets. Because the run was so great many colleagues kept most of their decorative efforts on display.
At the very end of the season we started our run of photo shoot with some endorse-es. As part of their visit with us they would spend time with the product development team. I was walking through the office with one such endorse e from the Pittsburgh Penguins when, from behind me, I felt him stop and linger. I turned around to see him taking down some Habs paraphernalia and muttering something about being sent to the golf course prematurely. 

For more from Johanna Miller, check her out on Twitter: @johmiller

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