In sports, things don’t always happen as they should. You can be the best player, have the best equipment on the market, your team can be the best organized and for some reason you can be lame and your team can lose! Even in a tough “agôn”, there is place for some “alea”. Because people need some logic in this randomness, they want to believe in a kind of divinity who decides if the goalkeeper stops the puck or not, if the center scores or not. And they perform rituals to make this divinity help their team.
In Montreal, we believe in the Habs. And for them, we worship several divinities in several manners. Some worship the Christian God by praticing Catholic devotions. But some other prefer to pray the Ghosts of the Forum, i.e. the best Habs players whose jerseys were retired on the ceiling of the ancient ice-skating rink where the Habs won 22 Stanley cups.
From a Protestant theological point of view, both attitudes are at risk of idolatry. Praying the Ghosts of the Forum could be a true worship given to false Gods and practicing Catholic rituals for the Habs to win could be a false worship given to the true God.
But the Habs’ passion is not condemned to idolatry. The Habs’ Passion could become a true faith to a true God. When a Habs game, a Plekanec’s play, a Price’s stop, even a Laraque’s fight or a crowd’s cheer are so beautiful, so perfect, you could look at them as a sign or a premise of God’s Kingdom. And when the Habs lose or when a Camalleri’s shot misses the net, you are reminded that hockey players are just human and that ice hockey is just a game.
Here is the views I have presented two times in June 2010: during « Hockey on the Border – An International Scholarly Conference » at State University of New York (Buffalo); and during the « Summer Literary Seminars » at Concordia University (Montréal).