“Let us pray”… for the Montreal Canadiens.
On Thursday morning, the local Catholic Church placed full-page advertisements in Montreal newspapers imploring residents to pray for the Canadiens to make the playoffs. The ads show the current NHL Eastern Conference standings, except in the 8th and final playoff spot, where the Canadiens hope to be, it says “prions,” which translated means let us request or let us pray.
To make the playoffs, the struggling Montreal Canadiens are going to need all the prayer they can get. The Canadiens, or Habs, currently sit in 14th place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, 6 spots out of the playoffs. At this point, nothing short of divine intervention would propel them into hockey relevancy.
But, with the help of prayer – and savvy advertising – the local Catholic Church has quickly propelled themselves into cultural relevancy. With articles popping up on USAToday.com, ESPN.com, and every relevant Canadian news agency, the church has been able to connect what it calls the two big religions in Quebec – Catholicism and hockey.
Hugo Leger, vice-president of Bos advertising agency responsible for the ad, says that the focus of the ad is as much on prayer as it is on hockey. “We just want to remind people that the church exists,” Leger said. “And when we say pray, that could mean for the Canadiens, or an invitation to pray in general.”
This is not the first time the Montreal archdiocese has found creative ways to remind people to pray. In April, they installed a billboard visible from the deteriorating Champlain Bridge in Montreal that advised motorists to, “Say your prayers.”
But one big question still remains: will it work? Will the prayers of the Habs faithful propel their team into the final Eastern Conference playoff spot?
Probably not. I don’t think God is concerned about who wins a hockey game. But what I do know is that I for one will be pulling for the Habs to win. This is not because I am a Habs fan or because I want people to believe that prayer works – praying for your sports team to win is like praying to win the lottery, you are probably going to lose anyways – it is because I find it entertaining when athletes and sports fans haven’t a sweet clue of how to deal with things they can’t explain, like divine intervention.
It is no coincident that athletes and fans are some of the most superstitious people in the world. Hockey in particular is stock full of so many superstitions that a hockey writer recently wrote a book called “Hockey Superstitions: From Playoff Beards to Crossed Sticks and Lucky Socks.” If you didn’t know better, you would think that superstitions were a sort of liturgical sports prayer.
So, if the hapless Habs were able to miraculously turn the tide and win some games I can imagine every fan in the league on their knees lobbying for divine intervention. But, if this were to happen, we reach the inevitable conundrum when it comes to praying for sports: not every team in the league can receive divine intervention to win.
Therefore, my advice to Habs fans: don’t pray too earnestly or too quickly as you don’t want every fan base in the league to catch on right away. Lay low until the late surge at the end of the season. This strategy worked for the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball this year, so I don’t see why it couldn’t work in hockey as well.