It may have been over 20 years ago, but I still remember so many details. Being allowed to stay up past my bedtime, snuggled under my grandmother’s scratchy throw blanket, cuddled up next to my Papa and watching the Montreal Canadiens (also known as the Habs) play on the TV. Papa’s little bar in the basement rec room was plastered with Habs memorabilia. He’d read me Le Chandail de Hockey before bed.
Over breakfast the next morning, before church, he’d tell me about the days of the legendary Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard and how the Habs were the greatest team in the world. These were little routines we had.
After all, the Habs have hoisted the Stanley Cup 24 times in their history, more than any other franchise has come close to doing in the last 100 years. Along with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal was among the “Original Six” teams in the National Hockey League between the 1930s and 1967 – when the league grew to 12 teams.
The Habs have won the ultimate hockey prize 10 times in the past 50 years. The last time was in 1993. Our rivals, the Leafs, haven’t even reached the Stanley Cup Final for 50 years.
I’m not what you would describe as a sports fan, or even a real hockey fan, but I am definitely a Habs fan. Everything I’ve learned about hockey mostly comes from my Habs-loving Papa.
The sentimental value runs too deep for me not to love the team, and I honestly still love watching them play whenever I can. You can imagine my frustration when I found out that Ryan, my significant other, is a Leafs fan.
I could’ve come to grips with an Ottawa Senators fan (there’s some strong family history there too, and unlike most Habs fans, I quite like the Sens). An Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames fan would’ve been no problem at all. But I grew up in southern Ontario, and the Leafs, well, they were the enemy. So how do you reconcile this bitter, intense rivalry when the one you love is rooting for the other guy?
Luckily for us, our passions for our teams, and hockey in general, are tame enough that we’ve been able to celebrate our differences. For the most part, we’re good sports – even going as far as buying each other some swag when the opportunity arises. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t learned boundaries.
Losing sucks. It sucks even more if someone is there rubbing your face in it. So, while the game is on, go nuts. When the game is on, we’re free to tease each other unmercilessly. Competitive talk, victory dances, it’s all acceptable right now. But as soon as the game ends, leave the competitiveness on the ice where it belongs.
Our differences have even benefitted us to some extent. We’ve made it to a ninja-level of remote control mastery just from switching games back and forth when our teams are playing different games simultaneously. Sports bars and doubling up on laptops would help here as well.
Ultimately, what always saves us when debates get too heated: we’ve found out which team we hate more than each other’s. In the 2013 playoffs, I found myself cheering on the Leafs at Boston Pizza when they faced the Bruins, while he was rooting for the Habs over the Sens.
Even though both our teams lost in the first round that year, it gave us a chance to be on the same team for once.
So just remember, the enemy of your enemy is your friend.