July 26,2014(ISN) – The Habs and Bruins facing off for game seven, so why wasn’t I at home parked in front of the big screen? The work gods had cruelly conspired to schedule a meeting for a committee I volunteered for at gunpoint with the RCMP. Suffice it to say I have been in better moods for most committee meetings, but I could seek some solace in the fact I could watch the third period in the staff lunchroom at the Detachment.
I no sooner settled into my seat three feet from the low definition television in the Detachment lunch room when I was joined by a constable just coming off shift. The only reason he was there was because he couldn’t get home in time for the rest of the game. So there we were, me, a die-hard Habs fan, and a dyed in the wool Bruins fanatic, inches apart. At first we tried to engage in polite banter between whistles, but after the first heavy collision in the corner it was game on and the insults flew faster than a series of sneers from Brad Marchand’s curse curled lips.
I knew this particular Constable as a quiet, thoughtful, hardworking, generally soft spoken credit to the uniform he wore. I interviewed him for a piece in the local paper when he rode a bike for 1,500 kilometres in 10 gruelling days over roads that challenged seasoned truckers to raise money for kids with cancer. He was one of the many Mounties I crossed paths with, first during my career as a journalist, and later on when I worked as a municipal employee sequestered with the Red Serge crew. This particular constable was one of the really good ones, except for the Boston crest tattooed to his heart.
As the third period ticked away, the verbal exchanges went from gnarly to downright nasty. At one point, I do remember remarking that it was good for both of us that he still had his firearm and taser strapped to his side. Fortunately a clear headed Corporal joined us for the last 10 minutes of the game and cooler heads were forced to prevail, but you could still cut the tension with a high stick when the final whistle trumpeted a Montreal win.
Seventh games are, as the cliché goes, life and death. I was ecstatic that the Canadiens survived to play another rounded and didn’t miss the opportunity to kid my colleague mercilessly after the final whistle blew, or a few days later when we passed each other in the hall. I also admit to taking obscene pleasure in showing him a photo I clipped of a jersey clad Boston fan in full dismay mode who just happened to look suspiciously like the constable in question.
The next newspaper story that connected us in a much different way left a deeper, indelible impression. The horrific murder of three RCMP Members in Moncton, New Brunswick, thousands of miles away from the Detachment where I work took on an immediacy and proximity I was frankly not prepared for. It reinforced the realization that a life devoted to serving with the RCMP can be extinguished in a heartbeat, the blink of an eye, a patch of black ice or the squeeze of a trigger. It actually made me feel a little guilty for gleefully grinding the Boston fanatic constable because, under a different set of circumstances, he could have just as easily been one of the fallen in New Brunswick. It didn’t change how much I hate the Bruins, but it did affect how I feel about some of their fans. Particularly the ones who serve and protect Habs fans like me, no questions asked.
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