Founded in 1909, the Montreal Canadiens are the city’s oldest and most iconic professional sports team. With hockey’s rich history as a favourite Canadian pastime, the Canadiens have always been an important part of this city. Nicknamed the “Habs” after ‘les habitants’, the original settlers of New France, the people’s passion for hockey is channeled through their hometown team. The team has a rich history as one of the winningest franchises in all of professional sports, and the greatest in hockey with twenty four Stanley Cup wins. Despite a championship drought that has endured since 1993, the team’s fan base continues to grow. The Canadiens’ presence and influence now extends beyond the walls of their arena and the games they play on ice. From steps outside the Bell Center, to the streets of Montreal, the Habs are part of the pulse of the city, integral to its identity. Hockey is a religion in Montreal; the evidence is found throughout a city that proudly displays its passion for the colours of the bleu, blanc et rouge.
A bandwaggoner is a fan who is not a true follower of a team but claiming to be one just for the sake of being a “fan.” Then there is a what I like to call a “super fan” or a devoted fan who are fans that have shed blood, sweat and tears for their team. Those who have been with the team through their rough times and have witnessed them at their best. I’ve had the pleasure to befriend someone who is arguably one of the biggest and most loyal habs fans. For the past 5 years she has made a name for herself amongst some of the most devoted fans in Montreal and has made her voice heard across Montreal. I gladly present to you, Victoria Hankewicz, better known as, VicNasty2.0.
Through thick and thin
It takes a true fan to know a true fan so who better to really explain what it really means to be a super fan. “I don’t particularly like the term ‘super fan’ because I find it just makes me seem super clingy towards the Montreal Canadiens,” Hankewicz said.
A devoted or dedicated fan would be the appropriate term to use according to Hankewicz. But differing a bandwagonner from a faithful fan can be a tricky situation. “Some traits I associate with being a dedicated fan is someone who will watch every game no matter how crappy they’re playing and will not change the channel,” she said. “It is someone who prides themselves in knowing the stats of almost all the players on the team and someone who keeps track of the team even when they are not playing, for example Twitter, on Instagram or Facebook.”
Most superheroes or celebrities have some sort of cool abbreviated version of their name that rolls off the tongue. This fan girl is no different and knew what she had to do in order to get her name out there. “I always wanted a Twitter nickname or an identifier so I decided after countless diferent handles that I would take Paul Bissonettes twitter handle BizNasty2point0 and make it into my own with VicNasty2point0,” she explained. It took some trial and error and some time but up until now, this twitter handle has paid off in numerous ways.
Habs fans are to be found everywhere not only across Montreal but across all of Canada.
So what makes a Montreal Canadiens fan so unique? The waterworks. “I think the only thing that makes me unique as a Habs fan is the fact that I cry over them too much. I have cried countless times from being knocked out of the playoffs or when they’ve traded my favourite players but as a hockey fan you must get used to it as that’s the cookie crumbles. More importantly, I live tweet every game which a lot of people find thoroughly entertaining,” she said. (VicNasty2.0 has over 1.5 K followers on Twitter)
All Habs fans, devoted or not, know who Dave Stubbs is. The man is a legend in this city and nobody can take his place as the sportswriter for the Montreal Canadiens. How much would it mean if Dave Stubbs singled you out as one of the most noticeable devoted Habs fan? “I have always followed Dave Stubbs and read his articles and when he finally followed me back I was quite honoured because he is such a distinguished and professional man,” she said. “Stubbs has offered me guidance and a different look into the Montreal Canadiens organization that a normal fan on the ‘outside’ would typically miss out on.”
It has been debated for so long what the Montreal Canadiens really means to the city of Montreal. VicNasty2.0 is one of the most credible sources because there are no cameras, there is no fame involved, and this is pure passion. “The Montreal Canadiens are more than just a hockey team here in Montreal. They have a way of uniting the city no matter what language you speak or race you are. It is like a religion here, you live and die by the bleu, blanc et rouge,” she said passionately. “They mean the absolute world to me which I know is such a cliché thing to say but I cannot imagine my life without the Habs as I was born and raised within this fan base.”
It has been 21 years since Lord Stanley’s Cup has been hoisted in this city. The Canadiens faithful have forgotten what it is like to win a Championship. The majority of the fan base have never even witnessed the Stanley Cup Finals in Montreal. It is only a fantasy that hopefully will one day be fulfilled. “Winning the Stanley Cup would be unimaginable, I have yet to witness the Montreal Canadiens win the cup but I can just see the crowds of people filling the streets with the ‘Olé’ chant echoing through the city. It would unite everyone strangers or not because we all share the same love and passion for the Habs.”
Do not be deceived by her cuteness. VicNasty can play with the big boys.
Les Canadiens de Montréal give more than just a hockey game to watch at night. They have an influence on people’s lives and moods and can change a person’s day in a matter of 60 minutes. “Being a dedicated fan has had a positive effect on my life. No matter how bad things are going in my life I can always count on the hockey game to erase my worries for a bit and bring me to my ‘happy’ place,” Hankewicz said.
To have all this going for you at only 16 years young, a bright future is definitely in store for this young “buck”. “My passion for the Canadiens will never dissipate and I hope to one day have a job in the esteemed organization that I’ve been following my whole life,” she said. “That is why I am trying to follow a path of sports marketing and sport management.” The sky is the limit for VicNasty2point0, who knows where she’ll be a decade from now.
This picture received a lot of attention including from her idol, Brendan Gallagher.
Rumours concerning the Expos coming back or Quebec City getting their Nordiques back have lurking around for some time. Montreal is a sports city filled with sports fans. Have the Montreal Canadiens influenced this sports outbreak in the city? “Without the Habs the city would be so bland and lifeless. Even though we have the MLS and CFL, hockey is the pulse of this city and is definitely the most supported but I do not think this will hinder the chances of a new franchise but can only promote it,” she said.
The Habs bring so much more to this city than just business and hockey. It is a lifestyle for those who care and it is what fuels this great city through our rough winters and inspire many to chase their dreams.