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The Prefiguration via Carey Price

April 2015, my first NHL game: staying on a friend's couch

in Saint-Henri, I discover a boon

of tax-return mad-money in my bank account,

and soon I’m doing my best

impression of middle-class, rambling through the slush

on Saint-Cat's in a Canadiens sweater, loaded

by way of micro-brewery, on my way to the Bell Centre

to watch Carey Price set the team record

for most wins in a season. The chanting of fans

distorts and bounces around in the fog beneath

half-finished condo towers, the lonely lights at the ends

of high steel beams like beacon fires

signaling homecoming or invasion.

My toque is doffed. Standing for the national anthem

is to return to elementary school:

I half-expect a lunchtime prayer and eight-year-olds

hawking stubby cartons of milk down the aisle for a quarter,

but here I’m disappointed, and sit down with the rest to watch Price put on a rare lacklustre performance

in a season where he's tapped to win the Vezina

and maybe even the Hart. The standout player this night

is an old veteran (almost thirty-seven!) on the visiting team.

Like an errant Bolshoi dancer, he weaves

through the defense to slip one by Price, assists on two more.

Still, Les Boys keep Price in it. Stop the tape and zoom in to see

me, pixelated in the nosebleeds, cheering,

scraping my knuckles on the rafters (almost) after every Habs goal,

slapping the back of the stranger beside me

and having mine slapped in turn, jumping and yelling,

quietly facepalming when they blow the lead late,

finally being raised to my feet again when, on the rush,

a middle-six forward picks his corner and wins it for us.

Four-three the final in this Original Six match-up.

Stay standing. After the squad circles at centre,

sticks raised to salute the crowd, after the three stars,

Price comes back out to receive more praise

and answer a reporter's questions. From the upper reaches

of the stadium, where weather patterns whirl

atoms of dry ice and smoke from the pyrotechnics,

thousands of us are chanting his name,

muting him with our boom of Carrr-ey and M-V-P.

These moments are what I’ve been primed for all my life.

The cirrus and cirrocumulus mists— I’m lost in the joyful

mass-moment, the adoration of a great man, his name,

his name, his name, beaten in rhythm across the cavern

of the stadium interior. I don’t remember

his answers to the questions. Those details don’t matter. I am a man in uniform together with more men the same,

calling a name, wanting what I fear and fearing what I want.


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