“When the Canadians lost in overtime, I heard people saying they would make the playoffs if they played like that all year. But let’s see, it’s impossible. With all young people you have to be patient! The trophy will be available in a few years.”
This line did not come from the mouth of a late-night show panelist, a columnist, or Martin St-Louis.
No, the one who says it is “Aunt Alice”, who at 96 is perhaps the Canadian’s biggest fan.
The one who watches ice hockey the most
“I have to be the person who watches hockey the most in Quebec. I just have to do it!” says the friendly lady with a laugh.
We met her last Tuesday at her lovely home in Thetford Mines, where she lives alone and strong on her feet, even though her 100th birthday is approaching.
This idea came from her nieces Raymonde and Lucette, who were amazed to learn how their aunt Alice, who almost never misses a Canadiens game, arranged their winter evenings.
“Unless I have visitors, I don’t want to be stupid!” says Alice Labonté.
When we arrived, an hour before the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, MMe Labonté has intensive conversations with his daughter Thérèse.
Gallagher calms down, Slafkovsky in Laval
The program includes performances by Brendan Gallagher. Like many other “analysts,” “Aunt Alice” is reassured by the game of the persistent attacker.
But one worry remains: “If he were to get hurt again…” she fears.
She is also very unimpressed with Juraj Slafkovsky’s performance, even though the first choice finally scored a few days earlier.
“I saw him talking about his goal as if it was normal. But it’s been a long time since he scored a goal.”
“I think he should go to Laval.”
Photo credit: Photo Jessica Lapinski
She misses her Artturi
We sit down at the table, where Alice Labonté places a plate garnished with fruit, vegetables and pate. In one corner of the kitchen is a stove that was installed there in 1951, the same year as its owner.
A cast iron behemoth, quite the opposite of the small screen on the counter where “Aunt Alice” can watch her pre-game broadcasts while she prepares dinner before heading into the living room to listen to the game in the apartment Canvas that his children gave him for his 80th birthday in 2007.
Their house is perfect, enough to make Mr. Clean blush with envy.
She never wanted to leave them, even when her husband died 17 years ago. She takes care of it, except for a few other physical tasks, which she delegates to one of her sons.
To pass the time, Alice mainly cooks delicious “pinotte butter” cookies, which we were also able to try. She takes care of her flowers. It colors.
And there is hockey several evenings a week. Not just that of the Canadian: MMe Labonté can also watch a Kings game to get news from Philip Danault.
On the day of our visit, she was wondering if the Avalanche game would be broadcast after the CH game. Alice missed “her” Artturi Lehkonen.
Rogatien Vachon and his premonition
“Aunt Alice” never entered the Forum or the Bell Center.
But the love story between the Canadian and her goes back several decades. Although it was put on hold for a few years with the arrival of the Nordiques, geographically closer to Thetford Mines than Montreal.
Ms. brother-in-lawMe Labonté invited her to watch CH on his television on Saturdays, when these devices were still a rarity. The whole family went there by bus… until one day Alice and her husband became owners of a television themselves.
They were also among the first to have a color television at Thetford Mines, Alice remembers.
An occasion that allowed them to welcome to their home on Saturday evening players such as Réjean Houle, Gilbert Perreault, Marc Tardif and Rogatien Vachon.
During their junior years at Thetford Mines, they came along with one of M’s sons to watch the CanadianMe Labonté, also an ice hockey player, before he went to the city.
“One time we were watching the Canadian and I said to Rogatien, ‘Can you imagine that one day it would be you as a goalkeeper?’ He didn’t seem to believe it,” she says.
But what happened next would prove “Aunt Alice” right!
PK and KK
However, the one who most cemented the relationship between Alice Labonté and the Canadian was PK Subban.
Her PK The one she fell in love with for the same reason as the majority of the defender’s fans: his charisma and his game, which is as flamboyant as his style, she tells us as last Tuesday’s game against the Lightning builds up Prepared to begin.
In recent years she has also fallen in love with other players, including Jesperi Kotkaniemi (“Aunt Alice” seems to have a soft spot for the unloved in the organization…)
“I thought he was so brave, this little guy, to leave Finland to settle here with his mother!” she explains.
Since “KK’s” departure, “Aunt Alice” tells us that she has become a big fan of Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. Even “it’s too easy to love them,” she insists.
“Cole, with his big smile… the Canadian is lucky to have young people like them,” she also said.
Harvey Pinard or Xhekaj?
It could also be Rafael Harvey-Pinard, but MMe Labonté still hesitates.
The faceoff takes place just as Lightning head coach Jon Cooper appears on the screen. Alice exclaims, “We’ve seen him for years, but he doesn’t age!” He still has smooth, smooth, smooth skin.”
She also says she’s surprised that Arber Xhekaj – “the one with a name you can’t say” – is a solid fighter. She had been convinced a few days earlier when she saw him on her television in a black and red suit.
“Maybe he’ll be my next favorite after all,” says “Aunt Alice.”
“Aunt Alice”, the head coach
As she looks at the Canadian, “Aunt Alice” sits down in her rocking chair. She turns off the light in the living room and sets the sound on her television to 11.
To stretch her legs and stay awake during breaks and breaks, she sometimes gets up and walks around the living room.
There is a notebook and a pencil on a small table. “Kent Hughes”, “Martin St-Louis”, “Vincent Lecavalier”: She writes down the names of the staff and players.
Photo credit: Photo Jessica Lapinski
Because she doesn’t have a cell phone or internet. It is therefore impossible to consult HockeyDB to find information.
“If I miss a moment of the game, I have to wait until the next morning to see it again,” she emphasizes.
Because no, the lady doesn’t just listen to the pre-match shows from the various broadcasters – with their “talkers”, as she calls the panelists – and then the game.
Sometimes she also watches the live broadcasts of the games and the sports news.
“Okay, let’s get started!” she blurted out as Jake Allen gave in for the second time in seven minutes.
“Sometimes I give them advice,” explains Aunt Alice.
“I’m telling you, if I were with them…” she then warns, suggesting that with Alice Labonté as head coach the players would be interested in playing 60 minutes.
Especially Josh Anderson, who she can’t wait to wake up to.
Here she also took the opportunity to rebuke Michel Bergeron, who had said a few days earlier that the Canadian could reach the playoffs if he played like he did against Vegas every night.
“He there, when I heard him say that, I couldn’t believe it!” Lance MMe Labonté, who also watched this famous game, lost in extra time until the end… around 1 a.m.
A friend during‘winter
But “Aunt Alice” isn’t always so tough on her “little boys” from the Canadians.
That’s despite having witnessed 22 of the team’s 24 Stanley Cups, a glory that has become increasingly distant as the years have passed since 1993.
Like Kent Hughes, she advocates “patience,” she repeats.
When the CH tightened the score in the third half with quick goals from Nick Suzuki and Michael Pezzetta – which she found rather funny with his big eyes – “Aunt Alice” shouted twice with joy: “You are so happy when you score!”
The friendly “Aunt Alice” represents everything we talk about when we say the Canadian is more than just hockey.
Before our meeting, she told us on the phone that those evenings watching him were undoubtedly one of the reasons that allowed her to still live alone in her house at 96 years old.
Whether he wins or loses, the Canadian is a friend who accompanies him through the cold winter evenings.
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