How long have you been a Habs fan?
WILLIAM DEVRY: I was born in Montreal, but I lived in Mont St. Hilaire. We left for Africa when I was three and came back when I was six, so I’ve been a fan pretty much from the time we got back. That’s when I realized what hockey was. I think I was a bit too young before that to realize just how important the Canadiens were. If I’d been in Montreal earlier, I probably would have been a fan even sooner. When we got back from Africa, my dad started taking me to games. When I was 12, I started taking the bus out of Mont St. Hilaire to Longueuil, and then from Longueuil I’d take the metro to Atwater to go see games at the Montreal Forum. After the game, I’d wait to get players’ autographs on my hockey cards. I’m stunned at how many I’ve got signed. It was a lot of fun back then.
Who were some of the players you idolized growing up?
WD: Obviously, Guy Lafleur is first and foremost from my time. He was just a really nice guy. He was really good to the kids who would wait outside the rink. He stood out there and signed all the autographs. He never seemed to be in a rush. Larry Robinson and Mats Naslund would sign autographs, too. I just have a ton of them. Even the guys that were in Montreal for a year, I have signed cards of theirs also. Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Bobby Smith, Ryan Walter, Stephane Richer. The list keeps going. They were all important in their own right.
Did seeing players like Guy Lafleur and Larry Robinson take the time to sign autographs for fans have an impact on you later in life as an actor with a fan base of his own?
WD: Absolutely. I’ll always remember all those guys who took the time to meet with fans. Nowadays, I pretty much make time for anybody. I try to schedule my time knowing that that’s going to happen. I do my best to spend as much time with fans and sign as many autographs as I can. Autographs aren’t necessarily the popular thing right now, though. It seems to be more about pictures and selfies. Regardless, it leaves an impression on people. Even if it’s 30 seconds, people really enjoy it.
Did you play hockey as a kid?
WD: I kind of grew up in a split-parent household for a while there. I played a lot of baseball in the summer, but come winter we’d be out there playing hockey every day on the Richelieu River. As soon as I got back from Africa, I put on a pair of skates. It’s a shame that I never played organized hockey until I was old enough to drive. But, like anyone growing up near a body of water, in the winter time, you’re there until you can’t see the puck anymore at night. When I see coverage of the Winter Classic and they talk about players growing up in Canada skating on rivers, lakes, ponds and outdoor rinks, I definitely identify with that.
What are some of your best memories watching the Canadiens over the years?
WD: When you’re young, you might not realize at the time that this is a moment that I need to remember. As you get older, you start remembering things and you make it a habit of remembering those moments like the ’86 Cup and the ’93 Cup. For me, though, it was just those moments with the players after the game. That seemed to be, more than anything, what I remember the most, as opposed to any particular games. And, I went to a lot of games.
Like hockey players, actors have to put in their fair share of prep work. Do you think you have anything in common with the guys out there on the ice in that regard?
WD: I think a lot of actors who played sports as youths got the work ethic from good coaches along the way. The coach who instilled that work ethic on me was my volleyball coach Robert Bonenberg out of Richelieu Valley Regional High School. We finished every year 30-0. We just dominated for five years, every year I was there. But, there was no lack of discipline, either. I remember one time I skipped practice to go see a Canadiens game. I ended up sitting on the bench for the first half of a tournament and I was one of the star players. (Laughs) You had to work hard. You had to follow the rules, and a commitment was a commitment. That’s kind of how I went into things with acting. There was no turning back. There was nothing to fall back on.
How often do you get to watch Canadiens games given your busy and demanding schedule?
WD: I pretty much get to watch every game out here in California. I often can’t watch them live, though, because they generally start at 4 p.m. If I’m not home, I’m always recording them. I have to stay off of social media while they’re on, because that’s a real pain. Even my phone knows that I check the Canadiens’ results, so it sends me the score sometimes. I’m like – “How do you make this stop?” So, I just turn my phone off until after I watch the game. (Laughs) I don’t think there are very many games that I’ve missed. We were in Italy last year, and unfortunately I was sitting in the Four Seasons Hotel at four o’clock in the morning, Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, watching on my computer when the New York Rangers won in May 2014. I just sort of shut off my computer, closed the MacBook Pro, crawled into bed and went to sleep.
What are some of the most unusual places you’ve watched a Canadiens game?
WD: I’ve watched them all over the world. I’ve watched them in France, Belgium and Italy. I’ve pretty much caught them wherever I’ve gone. If it’s available somehow, I’ll definitely watch it. I even took a picture in front of the Vatican during the series against the Rangers. I was on my knees praying in a Canadiens T-shirt. I always love watching them play at the Bell Centre, though. I probably get back to Montreal twice a year.
Have you managed to spread your love for the Canadiens around and turn people into Habs fans along the way?
WD: (Laughs) Are you kidding me? I’ve got all the girls who follow me on Twitter watching the Habs. They’re keeping track of the team. There are also a bunch of Canadians on the General Hospital set. One of the guys, Dominic Zamprogna, is a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He’s been in absolute pain for over a decade probably. Jason Thompson is an Edmonton Oilers fan, so he hasn’t really been much better off either in recent years. It’s say to say there’s not too much influencing going on, I guess. We’ve got Michelle Stafford, who’s a die-hard Los Angeles Kings fan. These guys know hockey inside and out. Those are kind of the three people on the show, not including myself, who are die-hard hockey fans. There’s also Nancy Lee Grahn, who is my co-star and love interest on the show. She claims to love the Blackhawks because she’s from Chicago. It would be difficult influencing anybody to be a Habs fan in that room.
But, you have managed to turn your long-time girlfiriend, actress Rebecca Staab, into a loyal Habs supporter. True or false?
WD: She’s become a real die-hard now. When the Canadiens won the first two games against Ottawa in Round 1 of the playoffs this year, and the Senators put Craig Anderson in goal, you just don’t look forward to facing him. Everybody was talking about a sweep after Game 3, and I was telling people to calm down. I really hate giving the other team any ammunition. Then, Ottawa won the next two games. I remember waking up on the morning of Game 6 feeling really good about it. Near the end of the game, as it was winding down, I was kind of going through my cards, just looking at them. I’ve been an avid collector since I was a kid. She’s like – “Why aren’t you watching the game?” I said – “The Canadiens are going to win. I know it. They’re going to win.” She was on the edge of her seat making all of these noises that I normally make. For once, I was just totally at peace. I just had a feeling about it. I don’t know why. I was just going to look at my cards and be relaxed. I didn’t need to get all wound up. She was doing it for me. It was hilarious.
Do you often wear Habs gear around Los Angeles?
WD: I always go to work wearing something representing the team. Zamprogna is a Maple Leafs fan, so when he sees me he always says something like – “Oh God! That is so obnoxious, dude!” (Laughs) I’ve got the Canadiens jersey or the hat on. Sometimes, I’ll even come in with my Montreal Alouettes sweatpants. It cracks me up. I’ve got a lot of stuff in my dressing room at work. Pennants, calendars and stuff like that.
Have you ever tried to get something Canadiens-related incorporated into a General Hospital script?
WD: I’ve tried, but these guys are a little bit difficult to do that stuff with. I probably could have managed to do something like that in the past. Fans often ask me if Julian can maybe be a fan of the Canadiens. I reply that it’s unlikely. I might try to sneak it in one time, maybe like a red T-shirt underneath a black button-down shirt. That’s just reaching for it right there, though. The writers won’t let me do anything too obvious.
That being said, which Canadiens player(s) do you think would be a good fit for General Hospital down the road?
WD: Carey Price is just so good in front of the camera. He’s so calm. His deliveries are really dry. He’s the first guy that comes to mind. Torrey Mitchell is another name that comes to mind. He might do well. [Former Habs defenseman] Mike Weaver would make a really good character actor, but I think he’s just too pretty to intimidate anybody on TV. (Laughs) He’s just got that perfect character actor face where he could probably work from the time he hangs up his skates until the end of time.
Just how avid a hockey card collector are you?
WD: I started collecting baseball and hockey cards when I got back from Africa. I’ve got a bunch of cards of Maurice Richard, Henri Richard, Jacques Plante and Toe Blake. I go pretty far back with some of these guys. I’ve got a "Boom Boom" Geoffrion rookie card. I’ve got a Doug Harvey rookie card. I’ve got a lot of these guys’ cards. I’ve been collecting them all, Cournoyer, Lafleur, Roy. I even have Tom Johnson and Gump Worsley cards in my collection.
Is it tough being a Habs fan in the City of Angels?
WD: Once in a blue moon, I get the French TV feed and I really enjoy that. That’s what I miss about the local feeds in Canada. I really enjoyed watching Dick Irvin on Hockey Night in Canada. His dad had such a huge history with the Canadiens. I miss those guys. I miss listening to them. Now, you get a lot of NBC feeds out here, and it’s just not the same. I miss being in Canada and watching it with the local broadcasters.
Interview conducted by Matt Cudzinowski.
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