MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens’ immense playoff expectations have whipped the city into a frenzy as fans dream of a Stanley Cup run that will raise another banner to the Bell Centre rafters.
Canadiens jerseys are flying off store shelves, Habs flags are sprouting from car windows and local fire stations have been slathered with team colours.
Still, nobody bleeds bleu, blanc, rouge like 80-year-old Jeanne-d’Arc Larocque.
“I’m ready for the playoffs and I hope the Canadiens will win the Stanley Cup,” she told The Canadian Press on Saturday in an interview at her Montreal home.
The diminutive woman, whose legs can barely be seen below her oversized Habs sweater, has been a season ticket holder since 1952.
She’s only missed a handful of matches in 55 years.
Larocque has been on-hand to watch team captains hoist hockey’s Holy Grail 13 times during a season-ticket tenure that spans 18 Montreal championships.
“I hope this year will be my 14th,” she said with a grin.
From age 10, the drama and excitement of the game sucked Larocque in.
One of her first NHL memories is listening to a radio announcer describe the funeral for Hall of Famer Howie Morenz, who died in 1937 from complications related to a broken leg.
When Larocque was 25, she bought a single season ticket in the Montreal Forum’s nosebleeds for a price that worked out to $1.75 a game.
Larocque’s father didn’t want her blowing money on season tickets, so she told him she was going to the movies on game nights.
From the Canadiens string of five straight cups between 1956 and 1960, to the terrifying image of a motionless Lou Fontinato after he crashed head-first into the Forum boards, Larocque has witnessed history time and again for one of the most storied franchises in North American sports.
Over the years, Larocque watched Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur and Patrick Roy lead the team to glory.
But it was the man they called “Boom Boom” who made her jump to her feet.
“When he was on the ice, he played to win,” she said of her favourite player, six-time cup winner Bernie Geoffrion.
“The others did too, but he did it with more heart.”
Still, her most vivid memories are locked on one theme: winning.
“The Stanley Cups were always something special,” she said. “There was always something new.”
Two seasons ago, the Canadiens honoured Larocque’s dedication by printing her image on season-ticket packages.
The team invited her to several meals with former players and gave her a jersey at centre ice before a game.
Her favourite current players, Mathieu Dandenault and Francis Bouillon, both signed the sweater.
She believes this year’s squad could go all the way.
“The team is better than the last few seasons,” Larocque said.
“There’s more of an understanding among the players.”
At first glance, the soft-spoken Larocque, who stands under five feet tall, doesn’t appear to be somebody who would fit in with the boisterous Bell Centre crowd.
But just wait until she gets to her seat.
“I throw up my arms and shout ‘Go Habs go! Go Habs go!’ and sing ‘Ole, ole,”‘ she said shaking her fists in the air.