It is unclear which team, between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, has the biggest fan base. What we know is that the Habs have a huge followership worldwide, dating back decades. When the old CCCP talked about playing teams in the NHL, Russians and countries across the pond only had it for the Canadiens.
In Montreal, there is the Habs and then, other sports trailing way behind. No NBA, no NFL, no MLB anymore. What’s left is secondary level professional soccer and football teams. So the big draw, the major interest and the spotlight is on the Canadiens. And with such monopoly comes scrutiny. Every media wants a piece of the pie through readership, listenership or viewership. The good ones, as we’ve explored before, make it on quality. Others rely on controversy in hope to keep up with them.
The Price example
Remember back in 2017, when Réjean Tremblay hinted at the fact that he was skeptical regarding the nature of Price’s injury at the time? He shocked the hockey world when he stated that Angela Price, Carey’s wife, gave her husband an ultimatum. Tremblay advanced that Angela told Carey that either they get out of Montreal or she was asking for a divorce. It created such havoc that she felt that she had to respond on her Instagram account.
Pacioretty speaks out
Just this past December, Max Pacioretty had this to say. “Montreal is an amazing place, and I’m so proud of what I accomplished there, but I just feel like everybody has a shelf life there,” Pacioretty told Adam Wylde and Allan Walsh on the “Agent Provocateur” podcast. “Everyone told me – ex-players, current players, fans.”
He added: “I was stubborn, I was hard-headed. (I thought), ‘No, that won’t happen to me. I’m gonna be here for the rest of my career, I love it here. I live in Westmount. I’m down in the city with the fans going out to dinner every night.’ And even when I did get traded, I still thought I could be here forever and not have it affect me.”
But when Pacioretty was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018 after spending his first 10 seasons with the Canadiens, he realized the stark contrast between Montreal and a less hockey-centric market.
“There just seems to be so much less pressure, and whether you admit it or not, you just go about your everyday life in such an easier manner that it really (takes) so much less of a toll on you,” he said. “Whether you’re a leader or a young guy, there’s no media here. Even if you don’t read the media in Montreal, you know what’s being said.”
He added: “I was so used to (coming) to the rink after a loss – two or three losses – and it’s the end of the world. No one’s talking to each other, and it’s heavy. You go out to dinner and everyone’s complaining about the team, and the traffic, and the weather. In Vegas, you can lose three in a row and everyone’s still positive.”
To another level…
There have been other events prior and after that. Lies, or partial truth to feed narratives, to create controversy. We’ve all seen it. But let’s jump ahead to today, shall we?
Jeff Petry was traded to the Canadiens as a pending UFA back in 2015. As we know, Petry signed a contract extension that summer to stay in Montreal. And before that deal expired, he signed what everyone at the time claimed to be “at rebate” to continue his career as with the Habs. Many fans and media even claimed that he was the true number one defenseman on the Canadiens.
And then came this season. Petry, for many reasons, is not the shadow of his old self. The pandemic is taking its toll on everyone and the vaccination topic is creating havoc everywhere. Unfortunately, Jeff’s wife Julie posted a comment or two that were deemed controversial, as did Price’s wife Angela. The two are very close friends. It didn’t take long before a group of “fans” turned on them. To the point where Julie deleted her Twitter account and posted to Instagram some hate comments sent to her.
Now think of the impact of such situations. Hockey wives talk together on the team. They often follow each others on social media. They have friends inside and outside the organisation. Some wives have lived in other hockey cities and they are friends with players’ wives in those cities, and other cities where their husbands have been traded to. They talk. It gets to the ears of the players in other cities. Players’ agents follow these wives on social media and have a relationship with their clients and their spouses. Soon, it’s known across the NHL.
I’ve studied marketing. It has been proven scientifically that one negative publicity has a snowball effect. I don’t remember the exact numbers so I won’t quote them here, but the gist of it is that one unhappy person speaks to several others, who themselves will talk to others as well.
In the case of a wife, with her children, being the target of such nonsense takes its toll. Pacioretty once spoke about how his son was being harassed at school just before he got traded. You may think that what motivates a player’s decision is solely based on hockey and winning. It’s not! Those players have other people to think about and if you’re married and have children, you know what I’m talking about.
What impact do you think this plays when a player, or his wife, or his children, are being the target of bullying or cyber bullying? What impact does it have when sensationalist reporters make stuff up, or amplify partial realities to fit a narrative? It’s not just within the team folks. It goes well beyond.
If you are someone who participates in that kind of behaviour, you are NOT helping. If you watch and do or say nothing about it, or “like” the comments, article or support the culprits one way or another, you are NOT helping. If you provide a platform for that type of behaviour, you are just as guilty. In fact, if you do any of that, you are causing damage. You are making it very difficult, if not impossible, for any GM of the Habs to convince players to come to Montreal. Downplaying this as a non-factor would be a HUGE mistake. Think.
The Art Of Sweetening The Pot by Bob Trask