Meet A Habs Fan – A Winning Habit’s Biggest (Celebrity) Fan

The Montreal Canadiens meet on the ice to celebrate their Stanley Cup victory 09 June 1993. The Canadiens won their 24th Stanley Cup championship by defeating the Los Angeles Kings in four out of five games. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)
The Montreal Canadiens meet on the ice to celebrate their Stanley Cup victory 09 June 1993. The Canadiens won their 24th Stanley Cup championship by defeating the Los Angeles Kings in four out of five games. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images) /

Our “Meet A Habs Fan” series continues as we veer back on the 401 and drive down to Hampton, Ontario where we meet one of A Winning Habit’s biggest fans. You’ve seen him aplenty in the comments section but now it’s time to meet the true fan behind the name. You can even say he’s kind of a celebrity. Let’s meet Tyrone.

My name is Tyrone Sluymers, I’m a Habs fan, I live in Hampton, ON and like long walks on the beach… oh wait. Wrong kind of website. Never mind.

My parents are from the Netherlands and immigrated to Canada in the late 60’s and weren’t familiar much with hockey so it wasn’t a part of our household. Soccer was the thing for them. I became a hockey fan in the mid 70’s when I was introduced to it by playing road hockey with all my friends in the neighborhood I grew up in. Soon afterwards I wanted to play actual hockey on ice like all the rest of my friends had already been doing for several years. That’s when I learned about the NHL and its teams.

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Growing up in Ontario, of course everyone I knew were Leafs fans. I asked my friends who the “best” team was and one of them mentioned that the Montreal Canadiens had won the most Cups. Around that same time I discovered the book, “The Sweater” by Roch Carrier in my school library. It fascinated me and I read it a million times. Rocket Richard became my hero even though I was too young to have ever seen him play.

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Then, the Habs went on to win 4 straight Cups and that sealed it. I was a Habs fan for life. I got my first Habs “jersey” and wore it constantly until it basically fell apart. I read everything that I could and watched games any time I was allowed to stay up whenever they were on TV in Ontario. By the time I was in high school I could catch games on the “French channel” and knew about Rocket’s intensity, Beliveau’s grace, Lafleur’s majesty and the rest of all the legends to have worn the bleu, blanc et rouge. I was still too young to watch most games during the 70’s dynasty, but I was a die hard fan and in high school by the time the ‘86 team won the Cup.

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I have so many fantastic Habs memories that it’s near impossible to choose only one. But 2 really stand out for me. The first was in 1989. I was in my final year of high school and I got to see my very first Canadiens game live at the Montreal Forum. At the time Montreal was in 1st place overall in the entire NHL and they were playing the lowly New York Islanders who were in last place overall in the whole league. I had been trying for years to get tickets and this was finally my big chance, and on virtually “guaranteed win” night to boot.

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My best friend and I took the VIA train by ourselves into Montreal. We spent the day wandering around downtown and had lunch in a fast food restaurant near the Forum with a series of large photos on the wall of Claude Lemieux’s OT goal vs the Whalers. I was wearing my Canadiens polo shirt and being 17 and buff, must have looked like I was a prospect or something because a few girls came up to me and asked me if I was a player with the team. My friend and I thought it would be funny to play a joke on them, so we said we were, and they got all giggly and nervous. I can’t remember if I gave them my autograph or not.

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From there we hung around outside the Forum taking photographs with a crappy film camera praying that the photos would turn out. Once we got inside the hallowed hall of hockey, goosebumps and all, we made it to the concession stands to try the famous hot dogs and then eventually made our way to our seats in the nosebleeds. Like literally our backs were against the wall in the last row of the highest section, but I couldn’t care less. I was at the Forum baby and my Habs were going to crush the Isles!

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Not! Remarkably, they lost 5-3! I couldn’t believe it. Fast forward to the following Monday and boy did I hear about it at school. Being one of only 2 or 3 Habs fans in the entire school, and certainly the most vocal one, people couldn’t wait to give me the gears.

When I walked into the cafeteria, they had put homemade posters all over the walls, including a top 10 list (I’m a huge Letterman fan too) on “the best ways to waste (whatever my trip had cost me at the time, I can’t remember)”. Number 1 on the list was “Travel all the way to Montreal to watch the Habs lose to the last place Islanders.” It was pretty hilarious actually. So that was one of my best all-time Habs moments even though they didn’t win the game.

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My other favourite Canadiens memory was winning the Cup in 1993. I was in university at the time, so by this point I had cable and could see pretty much every game broadcast on TV back then. I had followed the team religiously as always, all season long. As they progressed through the playoffs, I told everyone I knew that if they won it all, I was going to hop in my car and drive all the way to Montreal just so I could experience a Stanley Cup parade on Saint-Catherine St.

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My sister, who went to the same university as I did had a roommate that was from Montreal so we got to stay at her place for free, which was definitely a plus for a kid in university let me tell you. We drove to Montreal ahead of game 5 and watched the game in a sports bar. After the game ended and the Habs were winners of their 24th Cup, it was complete mayhem outside and we were in the middle of the riot that ensued afterwards. I had my pictures taken with overturned cars on fire and riot police (or so I thought, but more on that later). It was wild.

A few days later, even though it was June, it was quite a cold and drizzly day for the Stanley Cup parade. We waited for what seemed like forever, shivering in our poorly judged clothing choices for the parade trucks to pass by. I was so excited when I finally saw the trucks turn the corner. I jumped from the cold curb I’d been sitting on for hours and pushed my way as close to the edge of the route as I could get, completely ditching my sister temporarily even though I had promised my mother I wouldn’t let her out of my sight in the “big city”.

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The trucks passed by and I snapped photo after photo (I thought…) of the guys waiting to catch a glimpse of my favourite, Patrick Roy. Sure enough, he comes right past me and leans over with the Cup raised right towards me! I couldn’t believe my luck. I was freaking out. And then, tragedy struck.

My batteries had died in my camera from sitting out in the cold for so long. There was Patrick Roy, with the Cup, right smack dab in front of me, and I missed the shot. I was crushed. Somehow I managed to find my sister and her friend in the crowd and told them what happened. My sister felt so bad for me because she knew how much this moment had meant for me, and how I had been waiting my whole life for this incredible experience. She and her friend took off to look for a store to buy me batteries. I followed the parade along, but there were literally a million people there and never reconnected with my sister or the batteries.

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I ended up shimmying up a light post and standing on top of a bus shelter watching thousands and thousands of people pass by hoping to find my sister, but no luck. Eventually I jumped back down to street level and bumped into Michael Whalen from TSN who was reporting right in the middle of the massive moving throng of fans. I asked him if he was getting hazard pay for this and he laughed as the crowd pushed him along.

After searching for my sister for what seemed like hours, I eventually found a pay phone (yes they existed!) and phoned the house of my sister’s friend to see if they had heard from them and where I could find them. In the end we eventually met up at some Metro station in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t what I had dreamed about, but I had gotten to take part in my first Stanley Cup parade in Montreal.

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There would surely be another chance in the near future to get a do-over, right? This is the Canadiens we’re talking about, right? Oops. I’m still waiting for my chance. And this time you better believe I’ll have a pocket full of batteries with me. Oh, and speaking of cameras. Remember when I said more on the photos later? When I got home and developed the photos from the riot and the beginning of the parade, it turned out they were all double exposed and I ended up with nothing to prove I had been there, other than a memory of a lifetime.

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As for whether I think the future is bright for this version of the Canadiens? It depends on what you think is a bright future. If you mean youthful and exciting then sure. If you mean better than the team that came within 3 wins of the Cup in ‘21, I can’t say I’m overly confident yet. Yes, we have lots of prospects and picks, but are any of them going to turn out better than Weber, Petry, Toffoli, Chiarot or any of the other great vets that are sure to not be around when we’re ready to contend again? Suzuki & Caufield are great. Wright should be too. Romanov could be solid. But the rest? Who knows? The one thing I do know for sure, is I’ll be following my team until my last breath regardless, and enjoying the misery of Leaf fans the whole time too.

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Yours sincerely, A Winning Habit’s #1 celebrity fan,

Tyrone Sluymers

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Go Habs Go!

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