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Hab at Heart: Jennifer Finnigan

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Actress Jennifer Finnigan has always been proud of her Montreal upbringing, which included plenty of quality time spent with her father, Jack, watching the Canadiens vie for NHL supremacy. These days, the 35-year-old continues to cement her place among Hollywood's top thespians, starring as Molly Al-Fayeed in the FX political thriller, Tyrant, adding to an already impressive resume that included a four-year stint on The Bold and the Beautiful portraying  Bridget Forrester. We recently caught up with the three-time Daytime Emmy Award winner to learn more about her remarkable passion for the CH

How long have you been a Habs fan?
I’ve been a fan since my early high school days, during the Patrick Roy era. I remember myself and two of my girlfriends, we would sit in the back row of the class and talk about last night’s Canadiens game. That was sort of how I discovered my love for hockey. It was just such a brilliantly successful era, too. I loved the players and the energy in the city at the time. The last time we won the Cup back in 1993, my dad, Jack, and I, lived in an apartment not too far from the Montreal Forum. I seriously think I could hear the victory celebration coming from the building. We were probably 20 blocks away, but I could hear the honking and everything else that was going on. That was when my love for this team really began. I felt a little bit distant from it when I first moved to Los Angeles, and then I just sort of found it again. It’s tough to put into words. The same way that Montreal will always be a part of my heart and soul, the Habs are as well. I’ve lived in L.A. for 14 years now, but I will always consider Montreal home. I just bought a place in the Mile End. I’m a tried-and-true Montrealer, and if I meet people that don’t get what this city is all about, then I can be pretty certain that we won’t be friends. (laughs) I just love this team so much.

What did you enjoy most about watching Canadiens games with your dad?
Well, there are two things that we bonded over in terms of sports. My dad was born in Ontario, so he was a Blue Jays fan. He wasn’t a Maple Leafs fan, though. (laughs) He loved the Habs. I just remember coming home and the games would always be on TV. We would just sit down together and cheer and scream at the screen. There’s just something amazing about fathers and daughters bonding over sports. Those are the moments that stick out in my memory. We were best friends. We had an amazing relationship. Sitting down and watching hockey together was special. I also remember that my dad really hated when the players fought. (laughs) I remember him getting angry and just walking away. I was different, though. I really loved it. It would really get me into the game.

It’s interesting. Now, my mother, Diane, is a massive fan. That’s been especially true over the last five years. She’s really gotten into it. When I’m in town and I’m watching with her, it’s not my favorite thing because her screams at the TV are usually in a very high register. (laughs) It’s a very high-pitched scream that I’ve never really heard from her before.

Acting and performing takes you all over the world. Tell us about some of best places you’ve watched games on TV over the years.
My time in Israel and Portugal really stands out when it comes to watching games. Speaking of those trips, I was lucky enough to be in the first ‘Rock the Sweater’ video by Annakin Slayd. He’s a good friend of mine. When Annakin asked me to be in it, a friend of ours actually contacted someone in Jerusalem at the Canadian Consulate who then dropped off a jersey at my apartment in Tel Aviv. I filmed myself kissing the emblem and sent it his way. When Annakin found out that my husband, [actor] Jonathan Silverman, was a huge Habs fan, too, he asked if we’d like to shoot something together for the video. I was in Portugal at the time, so I called him and told him to pack both of our jerseys and bring them along to Lisbon. We set up the camera and did the kiss there somewhere along the way. I love taking the team around the world with me. It makes every place feel exactly like home. When you’re traveling, you search for those types of things. The Habs symbolize my childhood. It’s ultimately just so comforting for me to sit and watch a game and root for these guys. It means way more to me than just rooting for a sports team. It’s just a giant chunk of my being.

I have to be honest, though. The Los Angeles Kings are my second favorite team. I’m always happy when I see them succeed. Luc Robitaille is a good friend of mine. Luc is kind enough to always save me seats at the Staples Center when the Habs are playing. He always says – “Jen, you can come and watch, but you’re sitting in my section so you can’t wear anything Habs related. I know who you’re really rooting for.” (laughs) I always surreptitiously carry a Habs hat or a Habs scarf in my purse, and when we score I’ll take it out and cheer. Then, I’ll go to Luc and talk to him about Montreal and how much we miss it. We inevitably talk about where we get our favorite poutine in town. I have to say that for a guy who got his own statue outside the Staples Center in March, he is one of the nicest, most grounded people you’ll ever meet. He’s one of my favorite people.

Which Canadiens player(s) did you admire growing up?
It had to be Patrick Roy. I was a giant super fan. He reminds me of Carey Price. I don’t know if it’s the way he plays goal, but I just see so many similarities with Carey. I think the love that the city has for him is growing every day. I love the way that he conducts himself. I like the way that he’s so calm, cool and collected. He never seems rattled. I’ve sort of watched him grow, both as a player and as a person. He’s just getting stronger and stronger with age and experience. I love his humanitarian efforts, too. Carey reminds me of my favorite player back in the 90’s both personally and professionally. I really like the way he represents the team and the city.

You probably have many great memories of watching the Canadiens growing up. Which moment is at the top of your list?
There’s no question it was the Stanley Cup win in 1993. It was all about being with my dad when we won it all. We might’ve been blocks away, but the energy was incredible. I remember jumping up and down and screaming. It was such a memorable moment. It’s something that every super fan longs to feel again.

Given your busy schedule, how often do you manage to get to a game at the Bell Centre?
The last time I was there was last November. We played the St. Louis Blues and picked up a nice 4-1 win. I went to the game with some of my closest friends from Sacred Heart. I usually get back home in the summer, so this was a special experience. It was the first game I’d been to at the Bell Centre since 1996. Normally, when I watch the Canadiens play it’s in Los Angeles or Anaheim. Obviously, those buildings don’t have the same feeling as the Bell Centre. There’s no other place in the world that has that kind of passion and love for their team.

Which current Canadiens player do you think has the potential to be successful at a career in acting down the road?
Carey’s got the looks, but P.K. Subban has a great sense of humor and such great charisma. He’s got game. I’m torn between those two. Obviously, Subban has the looks, too. (laughs)

Which current Canadiens player would seamlessly integrate into the cast of characters featured in Tyrant?
It’s got to be someone who’s really present, who’s a team player and who succeeds at what he does. Let’s go with Max Pacioretty. He just seems like he always comes to play and deliver. He seems like a really good team player. I’m a fan.

Out of curiosity, do you sport Habs gear around Los Angeles and elsewhere, too?
Oh, absolutely! I always bring a couple of T-shirts with me overseas. I’m not inclined to rock a jersey unless there’s a game going on, though. I do have a lot of winter wear. I’ve got tons of hats and tons of sweatshirts. I definitely wear them around town. I also work out in Canadiens gear. I have no shame about showcasing my love for the team. By the way, I bought my husband a cap a while back and he’s completely worn it out. He wears it all day, every day. My California born and bred husband is constantly wearing that thing.

Do you often get grief from people with allegiances to other NHL teams?
I do, but there’s only really one kind of fan that I will truly – but playfully – fight with on set, and that would be a Boston Bruins fan. The level of love I have for the Habs is almost directly matched to the level of hate I have for the Bruins. (laughs) Don’t think I wasn’t gloating when Boston didn’t make the playoffs this past season. It made things even sweeter.

You’ve clearly had a significant impact on your husband’s decision to make the Canadiens his team of choice. Tell us more about what was involved in making him a Habs fan.
Well, it helped that he wasn’t a giant hockey fan when we first met. The guy lives and breathes baseball. He bleeds Dodger blue, as they say. That’s always been his love. He’s a fantasy baseball guy. He loves stats. He’s a huge baseball nerd. But, he wasn’t necessarily very knowledgeable about hockey back then. It didn’t click with him. Then, when we started dating and I expressed my passion about it, I’d always make us watch the games. When we moved in together, I made him get the hockey package, which is no small feat on DirecTV. It’s an expensive proposition, but he did it. He just started to get into it more and more, and he started to get to know the players. As the team started to grow in ability and popularity, he just kind of started showing more enthusiasm. One Christmas like six years ago my mother bought him a jersey. I thought – “This is the true test. Is this going to go over well?” (laughs) He was really excited. Then, when we would go to games together when the Habs would come to Los Angeles, I would watch him carefully to see which team he was rooting for. He was rooting for the Habs. That’s when I knew he was a real fan. Now, he’ll text me photos of him watching the game or videos of him cheering when they win. He’s turning into a Habs nerd like me. He really loves the game now. He sees the magic in it.

Are we going to find Habs paraphernalia on the walls of your home or your dressing room?
I did have some stuff in my dressing room a while back. Right now, I don’t really have one. We just kind of trade off trailers where we’re shooting. I used to put a flag in my dressing room. I had this old tattered flag as a kid. I guess I need to start buying some good home décor and set it up. (laughs) When I was at the game in November, I bought about $300 worth of gear. I don’t know if that was just because of my excitement of finally being at a game or because I’d had a few beers. (laughs) I walked out with a whole new wardrobe that night. I even picked up a little Youppi! foam figure which I bring with me when I travel.

Interview conducted by Matt Cudzinowski.

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