A new hope

The Raptors won yesterday against the 76ers, staving off the sweep. (Sorry, Shaq.) Despite no team ever coming back from 3-0 down, I’ll keep the faith until the end. This team has earned it.

Meanwhile, my only excitement surrounding the Canadiens has been hoping they finish dead last so they have the best shot at the #1 draft pick.

Apart from the Raps overachievement, most of my excitement lately has been for the start of the Blue Jays season. They look awfully good this year, and they’ve been fun to watch.

And so it goes. One team playing well (and favoured to win it all); one occupying the middle, and one in dead last. Logically, it’s so rare that all your teams would be at the top at the same time. I guess the closest I ever got was 1993:

  • the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup
  • the Blue Jays won their second world series in a row
  • The Edmonton Eskimos (I used to watch way more CFL) won the Grey Cup
  • The New York Knicks (the team I considered my favourite, until the Raptors were created) lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Bulls

At the time I probably didn’t appreciate how rare all that combined success was.

So, go Jays. And c’mon, Shane Wright.

Meat. Sports. Good.

Last Saturday I went to my first hockey game since the pre-Omicron home opener. The game was, just like said opener, Leafs against Habs. I’d managed to get my hands on some tickets, so I brought a former colleague who’s a big Leafs fan. We had dinner before at the Hot Stove Club, where we indulged in huge steaks and a 2001 Rioja, which might have been a tiny bit past its peak (no tannin or acid left, just fruit — dried fruit, given the age — and relatively subtle oak, but it hadn’t tipped over into a vegetal note. In retrospect I might have ordered a more delicate cut than my ribeye to match it properly, but we’re niggling now. It was a lovely meal, and chance to catch up. I also got to see Auston Matthews hit fifty goals in his last fifty games, even if it did come at the expense of my team. Nonetheless, a good night all around.

I wanna be your double-axle

I don’t care at all for figure skating, but as of yesterday I have a favourite figure skater: the Russian athlete who skated to “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges, won the silver medal, and then seemingly quit.

Seventeen-year-old Russian figure skating prodigy Alexandra Trusova earned a silver medal after skating to the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing yesterday. She won the free skate with an impressive routine that saw her attempting five quadruple jumps, but ultimately came in second to her teammate Anna Shcherbakova, who scored better in the short program on Tuesday.

Trusova was not happy with silver, Reuters reports, breaking down in tears before the podium ceremony for the women’s single event. “Everyone has a gold medal, everyone, but not me. I hate skating. I hate it,” she was heard saying. “I hate this sport. I will never skate again. Never.”

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

It was one of the moms from Bend It Like Beckham

It’s been a busy ten days. Last week I got to go to the Leafs home opener against the Canadiens. It was my first sporting event in a crowd since…I have no idea when. The Canadiens lost — they’ve only lost so far this season — and after the game I saw a drunk Leafs fan get hit by a car. So there was that.

Earlier this week Lindsay’s mom was in town. On Tuesday we had a tremendous birthday dinner at Ascari Enoteca:

  • cocktails
  • bread
  • olive oil poached tuna w/ apple, fennel, cashew, and chili emulsion
  • Wisconsin burrata w/ heirloom tomatoes, romesco, pine nuts, and focaccia crisps
  • arancini w/ nduja sugo, basil, and grana padano
  • glasses of La Rondinina Lambrusco
  • linguine w/ octopus, nduja, tomatoes, red pepper, and caper bread crumbs
  • spaghetti alla carbonara w/ house made guanciale, grana padano, pecorino, egg yolk, and black pepper
  • ricotta gnocchi w/ hen of the woods mushrooms, sunchoke, chives
  • bottle of 2017 Palmento Costanzo ‘Mofete’

On Wednesday we went to see Blindness, my first play, or something resembling it, since…I really have no idea when. It was a very intense sound & light experience, to the point where I was worried I might pass out or be sick. But still really interesting and good.

It no longer feels like 1993

I know I’m a few days late on this, but…the Canadiens’ Cinderella run ended Wednesday. They defeated three teams against whom they were thought to have no chance, but then ran into the defending champion Tampa Bay. The Lightning were seemingly better in all aspects than the Canadiens (not to mention $18 million better than the salary cap) and took the series in five games. What a run though.

I’m already excited for next season.

It’s still feeling like 1993

Two weeks ago I wrote about how the Montreal Canadiens’ Stanley Cup playoff run through two rounds was feeling a lot like 1993, their last cup win. But heading into the third round, their chances didn’t look great.

In the next round they’ll face Las Vegas, a team which doesn’t bear much resemblance to their 1993 opponent — a New York Islanders team fresh off a shocking upset of the defending two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. But what is familiar is that no one gives Montreal a chance of winning this series. Just like they had no chance against Toronto, and not much of one against Winnipeg.

But then, on Thursday night, the Habs scored in overtime of game six to punch their ticket to the finals. They’ll face the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team who only joined in the league in the 1992-93 season, but which has won twice since then — including last year. The Lightning are loaded with superstars, and heavily favoured.

Just how Montreal likes it.

It’s beginning to feel like 1993

I’ve always been a hockey fan, and specifically a Montreal Canadiens fan, but I was never quite so obsessed as in the early 90s. In 1993 Montreal won the Stanley Cup, their last, and the last for any Canadian team. I remember every game. I could name the entire lineup, forward lines and D pairings included. And while they’ve only won two rounds, the Canadiens’ run in this year’s playoffs is starting to show some parallels.

In round 1 they were underdogs against a top-flight team, Toronto. In 1993, that team was Quebec. Quebec was up two games in the series before Montreal won 4 straight to move on.

Last week, in the second round, they swept Winnipeg, a bit of a surprise opponent after shocking the favoured Oilers. In 1993 they swept Buffalo in the second round, the Sabres having shocked the mighty Bruins in the opening series.

Montreal is riding a hot, seemingly unflappable goalie in Carey Price, much as Patrick Roy was after shaky games in the first series. Philip Danault is doing his best Guy Carbonneau impression, all but dismantling the other team’s top lines. The current team lacks offensive stars the likes of Muller, Damphousse, Bellows, and LeClair, but is rolling four lines.

The similarities get fuzzy now though. In the next round they’ll face Las Vegas, a team which doesn’t bear much resemblance to their 1993 opponent — a New York Islanders team fresh off a shocking upset of the defending two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. But what is familiar is that no one gives Montreal a chance of winning this series. Just like they had no chance against Toronto, and not much of one against Winnipeg.

Frankly, this is all gravy for me. I never expected them to make it out of the first round. Beating Toronto in their first series since 1979, coming back from 3-1 down and sending Leafs fans ever deeper than usual into their annual pit of despair…that’s all I needed.

Fans

The Canadiens won in overtime again tonight, sending their playoff series with the Leafs to a game 7. I’m not sure my heart can take it.

Apart from the OT goal, maybe the best thing about the game was that there were real live fans in the stands, for the first time since March of last year. Not just in Montreal, but in any Canadian city.

Sure, only 1/8 of the seats were full, but still…it was such a treat to see. It almost makes me remember the before times.

Thanks Raptors

After a brutal 7-game series against Boston (who kind of had the Raps’ number all season, including in the bubble) the Raptors are out of the playoffs in the second round. They could have — should have, maybe, with 18 turnovers — won game 7, but overall the team vastly outperformed in a season where everyone wrote them off. They weren’t supposed to be this good without Kawhi Leonard. They played themselves into a 2-seed and looked poised to run deep. Despite being blown out in a couple of games the Raps had some magical moments in the series, like OG’s buzzer beating 3, and Kyle’s turnaround jumper to seal game six, so it felt like there was some still some magic. But game seven was a disaster.

Had even three of the five starters played well last night they would have gone on to play Miami in the next round. Despite Miami’s dispatch of Milwaukee, I would have like Toronto’s chances to reach the finals…and then who knows?

Anyway, it was a longer and more enjoyable season than most, including myself, would have guessed. And the fact that we had basketball at all was a gift. Thanks fellas. Can’t wait for next season.

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

Unexpected sprots [sic]

The way the NHL season was going in February I’d pretty much given up any hope of seeing my Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs. They were well out of a playoff spot.

Then, when the season was put on hold in March, I didn’t think it would come back this year. But they, along with the NBA, had a plan to resume…and said plan featured a play-in round for the 5th through 12th seeds in each Conference. That meant Montreal had a chance. A weak, outside chance given they were the 12th seed and would play the 5th-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins to get in, but…a chance.

Turns out they won the series, 3 games to 1. Maybe they shouldn’t have, since it ruins their chance to win the #1 draft pick, and now they’re up against the even stronger Philadelphia Flyers. But still…when you have Carey Price and a bit of luck, you can do some damage.

Between unexpected hockey and a (hopefully deep) Raptors run, there’s more sports on TV this summer than either Lindsay or I expected. I’ll let you guess who’s happier about that.

In other news, I had a second excursion for dinner this week, this time at Gare de L’Est for dinner with my boss, just to get caught up in person.

.:.

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash