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It’s almost midnight on February 19, 2008. Just like every Saturday during the hockey season, I’m heading home from a night at Chez Paulo. And also just like every Saturday, everybody in the “band of four” (as we call ourselves) was there: Chantal, a biology student; Jean, a dispatcher for a transportation company; Pierre, who studies literature and is writing his thesis on the poet Jacques Prévert, whom he quotes constantly; and me, an aspiring sports journalist. We’re a motley crew as you can see, but we’re really passionate about hockey, and our friendship runs deep. The Canadiens won. Tonight’s game was more than beautiful: it was a game we will all remember. The Habs were playing the New York Rangers and trailing 5 to 0 five minutes into the second period. You might have expected they would more or less throw in the towel. We amused ourselves with the usual clichés to explain why the game was going so poorly: “Eh! La puck roule pas pour nous autres, ce soir” (the puck’s not on our side tonight) and other dated expressions. But against all odds, our Glorieux soldiered valiantly on. They made a miraculous comeback and, after three regulation periods, the score was now 5 to 5! So it was into overtime. Off went the buzzer. No goals. The shootout had us on the edge of our seats. In the end, the Canadiens won the day with a goal by Saku Koivu! The owner of the bar The Great Drug Debate: Saturday Night at Chez Paulo Normand Baillargeon Hockey and Philosophy.indd 167 15-11-02 15:54 168 Hockey and Philosophy announced that drinks were on the house, which had never happened before. As the commentators reminded us many times over, this was the stuff of history: for the first time in its 99-year history, the Tricolore had recovered from a five-goal deficit and won. So, like I said, it was definitely a night to remember. But I’ll also remember it for an equally memorable debate the four of us had before the game. I’ll record it here as best I can before I go to bed. Hockey talk exported In a culture like ours, in which hockey is such a big deal, it’s not surprising that its vocabulary has slipped into everyday speech. Here is a non-exhaustive list of expressions that have made their way into French: Être (ou ne pas être) vite sur ses patins Patiner La puck roule (ou ne roule pas) pour nous autres Donner son 110 pour cent On ne peut pas toutes les gagner! Travailler dans les coins Un plombier Pas pire, pas pire, pas pire Jouser Avoir (ou ne pas avoir) l’esprit d’équipe Dans mon livre à moi . . . Y’en aura pas de facile Niaiser avec la puck L’expérience d’un . . . Mon toé là! Accrocher ses patins Définitivement Être (ou ne pas être) un joueur d’équipe La force (ou la dureté) du mental! Il est fort ce . . . (N.B. and C.B.) Hockey and Philosophy.indd 168 15-11-02 15:54 Normand Baillargeon 169 It all began when Pierre told us about a newspaper article he had just read (I can’t remember which paper) saying that, according to a report published the previous January, a number of Major League Baseball players had used banned drugs to improve their performance. Éric Gagné, a Québécois, was one of the 87 players implicated in the report. Chantal interjected, reminding us that the use of banned drugs was widespread in many sports besides baseball—with perhaps the most glaring example being cycling. Just by coincidence, she happened to have a Scientific American article on the subject with her. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the graph she showed us was worth ten thousand. I can’t remember it in exact detail, but basically it showed the average speed of Tour de France winners, which increased gradually from 1949 to 1990, presumably due to improvements in cycling equipment, training, and the athletes’ diets. Then, starting in 1991—and I here I do remember clearly as Chantal pointed at giant upswing on the graph—the average speed increased by leaps and bounds. This rapid progress couldn’t just be from improvements in equipment, training, or diet. “How do you explain that?” I asked her. The answer was obvious to all of us...


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