GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- When New York Rangers forward Derick Brassard suits up against the Montreal Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, he'll have plenty of friends and family watching. But the Quebec native admits that more than a few of them will be rooting against him.
A native of Gatineau, Quebec, Brassard grew up in the thick of Habs Nation, with the Canadiens revered throughout his hometown. It speaks to the place the franchise holds in the province, especially considering Brassard's hometown is about one mile east of Ottawa and about 120 miles from Montreal.
Despite that proximity to the Ottawa Senators, Brassard grew up with constant reminders of the team that now stands between him and the Stanley Cup Final.
"Where I grew up, everyone is a Habs fan," Brassard said. "I grew up watching the games. I have some real good friends who are cheering for the Canadiens right now, so it's a little different."
Brassard was 5 years old when the Canadiens last won the Stanley Cup in 1993 and he rarely attended games at Bell Centre. But there's no denying the hold that franchise has on any kid who grew up playing hockey in the province.
Brassard admits that aspect of his Quebec upbringing will be on his mind with Game 1 on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS), but he expects those thoughts to be fleeting.
"It's obviously huge. Everyone is pretty into it down in Quebec. But I need to put everything aside for the next couple of weeks and help the team win some games," Brassard said. "But it's going to be pretty special for me and my family."
Exciting as the series in Montreal will be, Brassard said he isn't looking at it as a homecoming; he grewing up in Gatineau and played junior hockey in Drummondville. Though the novelty of playing against the Canadiens in the conference final will be special, Brassard's trip is all business.
"There's not going to be a lot of distractions around me. I'm not going to answer my phone a lot when I'm there," he said. "I'm going there to play hockey."