Sunday, 29 July 2012

HABS-TOWN: "Fans are full of passion and attitude"

After some discussion, I got the founder and President of one of the fastest growing sports apparel brands out there currently - True Rivalry - to open up to us about his fandom.

Jason Portnoy was born and raised in Montreal. I've always known him as being a basketball guy, but Montreal being a Habs-Town, Jason is of course a hockey guy too. In the many editions of "HABS-TOWN" thus far we've had many people tell us how unavoidable it is being a fan of the Montreal Canadiens in this town, and for Jason the story is no different.

During the Canadiens road to the Eastern Conference final in 2010, many fans starting sporting a Jaroslav Halak stop-sign T-shirt, leave it to your imagination where those came from.

Jason keeps things simple. When it comes to the Habs, he doesn't just wear his heart on his sleeve - he emblazons it across his chest for all to see making him yet another unique face in HABS-TOWN.

What got you into hockey, more specifically the Habs?
Growing up, after school or in the summer the kids on my street all used to play hockey until it was dark out. Being from Montreal it wasn't even a question as to what team to cheer for.

Do you remember your first Habs game?
My father took me to my first game and honestly, I was so young I don't really remember too much about it except going up the hockey stick shaped escalators of the Forum and being amazed how many people there were.

Do you have a favorite Habs player ever? if so, whom, and why?
Patrick Roy. I wanted to be a goalie just like him. There's something about positions in sports where you can either be the hero or the goat of a game on any given night. He owned that responsibility and is, in my opinion, the best goalie ever. I remember getting my first pack of O-Pee-Chee hockey cards and getting his rookie card. 

Where do you like to watch games?
I actually go to a lot of games but when I'm not in attendance I enjoy watching with my friends or my father.

Do you have any pre-game rituals or in game superstitions?
Most people I know show up right before the game starts but not me. I like being at the game early to see the player warmups and video introduction. 

What's the best game you ever went to? what do you remember about it?
I've been to crazy playoff games but the best game I was ever at was the 5-0 comeback against the Rangers. I remember the bad penalties and the game had to be stopped because the ice was being littered with cups and the banner giveaway and the constant booing. I remember Kovalev falling backwards as he scored the tying goal. From that moment until the win I've never heard a stadium that loud.

We've seen a bunch of local celebs sporting True Rivalry gear, are any of them Habs?
We have a bunch of athletes and celebs rocking the TR. We are in talks now with a couple of Habs players and hopefully be able to have them wear it this season.

Do you feel you have more freedom to be creative with your designs by not going the traditional "licensed image" route?
Definitely. Because we are unlicensed we can write the stuff and make designs that the big named brands can't get away with. Fans are full of passion and attitude so True Rivalry tries to showcase that in a way that just can't be done with a standard logo tee.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories that are somehow related to the Habs?
I went to the Bell Centre one day to go see one of the players. When I walked out I got hounded by a group of kids waiting for Habs players to walk out and they were all asking me for my autograph. 

What do you think of the hiring of Marc Bergevin and his moves so far?
So far so good… but I mean it's hard to do worse than Gauthier. It's a tough job and a lot of pressure especially since you have to make business decisions in a city dominated by emotional fans.

With Free agency continuing, what do you think are the Habs biggest needs? Anyone specific you'd target to fill those needs?
I think the team is a lot tougher now but they're still missing a big forward. As for what I think the next moves are, I hear rumors of Shane Doan. I think that would be a good fit.

For more from Jason Portnoy follow him on Twitter: @JasonPortnoy
and Check out True Rivalry

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