I find no great enmity between the Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators but I do find fault with those who describe the two teams as rivals. Call me if the Senators beat the Leafs in a playoff round. The heavy bag is not a rival to the boxer.
I like Ryan Miller, find a level of noble industry in the Boston Bruins and enjoy John Tortorella the way I enjoy watching Monster Trucks steamroll pickups a couple of times a year at the Rogers Centre. Say what you want about Tortorella, he’d be a lot of fun at a party.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are admirable. The Philadelphia Flyers are irritating but rendered tolerable by chronically-bad goaltending . Got to admire the Red Wings and pull for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Canucks are far enough away as to be only a minor annoyance.
Anyway, there’s little profit in hating hockey players. They’re a rotating cast of strangers.
It is in this spirit that I say I don’t dislike the Montreal Canadiens.
It’s their fans I can’t stand. I have nothing against P.K. Subban but the guy who wears his sweater and sings Ole, Ole, Ole gets on my nerves.
This could become significant. The playoff picture is still hazy but the smart money is beginning to drift to a first-round matchup between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs.
Guy on the street: “Montreal Canadiens fans sure are loyal.”
Buddy: “Yeah, they’re with them lose or tie”.
Hab fans are quick to point out that unlike Maple Leaf supporters, they won’t back a loser. That sure worked well for the Expos.
Look, Harold Ballard could have just as easily happened to the Montreal Canadiens. The ‘hey, hey, goodbye’ song is utterly classless .
It’s been 20 years since Patrick Roy led the Canadiens to their most current Stanley Cup. You would think 20 years out of the finals would engender some degree of humility in Hab followers. You would be wrong.
In the intervening years, the Leafs have made the final four three times. The Canadiens just once. Just thought I should mention that.
Question: How many Montreal Canadiens fans does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer: Four. One guy to turn the bulb and three to sit around and talk about how great the old light bulb was.
The two highlights of my career are interviewing Maurice Richard, one on one, for 30 minutes as well as witnessing both the closing of the Montreal Forum and the ovation accorded the great man.
While Richard detested being co-opted as a symbol of Quebec nationalism, I see Jackie Robinson as the only Canadian or American athlete more culturally impactful than the Rocket.
Jean Beliveau is grace personified. Butch Bouchard was a great guy. I interviewed and found much to like in Yvan Cournoyer, Henri Richard and Bob Gainey.
But did you ever know a couple where the guy was wonderful as his wife was obnoxious. That’s the relationship between the Habs and their fans.
The Leafs and the Canadiens haven’t met in the post season in 33 years. Each team packs the other’s arena. Fun would not come close to describing a Habs-Leafs series. The 2013 season no longer becomes about the lockout if the Leafs and Habs meet with money on the table.
It’s in this spirit that I say ‘Go Habs Go.’ Just make sure you take your fans with you.