When Jean Lapointe had favored the Blues
The great rivalry that existed between the Canadiens and the Nordiques is part of the history of modern Quebec. It was a social phenomenon. Nothing else mattered, game days. Even people who weren't interested in hockey were caught up in the game. It looked like the political portrait of the time.
The red of the Canadiens jersey represented the federalist option advocated by the Liberal Party. The sky blue and the fleur-de-lys of the Nordiques jersey joined the nationalists and the separatists.
No amateur was neutral.
We were loyal to the Reds or we were wholeheartedly with the Blues. There was no quarter for supporters on both sides.
It was playing hard, not just in the stands of the Forum and the Colosseum, but in the brasseries and lounges too.
We sent each other to hell and even slapped each other on the margoulette.
It was war!
Close to Serge Savard
The great Jean Lapointe, who left us last week, learned this the hard way.
Mr. Lapointe was a great hockey fan who, during the heyday of the Canadiens, had many friends on the team.
He was close, in particular, to Serge Savard, who would become more late general manager of the Habs.
This is where the story begins.
Before the Adams Division final between the Canadiens and the Nordiques, I gave him a thread to ask him how he sees the upcoming series.
Mr. Lapointe then gave a series of shows at the Grand Théâtre de Québec. He tells me that he came to identify with the Nordiques because of the presence of many French-speaking players in their ranks.
He explains to me that he no longer recognizes himself in the Canadian who has too many English-speaking Canadians and Americans for his liking.
The vase is overflowing
However, he skates big when I ask him for a prediction on the outcome of the series. But since he's not the type to run away, he gets wet.
I remember his statement in the headline in the sports pages of the Journal.
It said: “There comes a time when we have to plug in: the Nordiques in five! »
By making this statement, he had just alienated everything that was CH in Quebec.
His friend Savard is offended.
The Nordiques eliminate finally the Canadiens in seven games thanks to a goal in overtime by Peter Stastny in the seventh game at the Forum.
Duplessis in fury!
Things stayed that way until I met by chance, two or three years later, Mr. Lapointe in the lobby of a hotel in Quebec where the Canadian was staying.
He is in the nation's capital for a demonstration on Parliament Hill defending the rights of artists.
What's more, he portrays the character of former Prime Minister Maurice Duplessis, whom he admirably embodied in the wonderful TV series directed by Mark Blandford.
Mr. Lapointe is impressive in his period three-piece suit and his big cigar.
I feel like I have the real leader of the Union Nationale in front of me.
I will never forget that moment and his reaction when I introduced myself to him as the journalist who had interviewed him about the Canadian- Nords.
Looking at me sternly, he said something like, “Hey! my little…”
I don't think he was mad at me, but he wasn't laughing either. He told me how much his support for the Nordiques had brought him a lot of criticism from Canadiens supporters. He hadn't found it funny.
His manager had told him not to take a stand on matters that could get him in trouble.
That was crazy!
Hard to imagine
For generations who have not witnessed this rivalry, it is difficult to understand.
You have to have lived it.
The rivalries between the Canadiens and the Bruins and the Leafs are nothing compared to what the Montreal-Quebec clashes were.
It was Quebec which was torn apart. There was a visceral hatred between the two parties. We will never feel such passion for hockey games again.
The Canadiens-Nordiques rivalry was unique.