This has been the worst month for Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans in recent memory. Four weeks ago, another painful and humiliating chapter was added to the growing book of playoff disappointments. However, it didn’t end there. Now an already frustrated and upset fanbase has been put in an agonizing predicament. The Stanley Cup can only return to Canada if Toronto’s most despised rival becomes a champion.
This dilemma is too awful to make up. Asking a Toronto fan to pull for the Montreal Canadiens is like asking a Boston Red Sox fan to cheer for the New York Yankees, a Dallas Cowboys fan to pull for the Green Bay Packers or a Los Angeles Lakers fan to root for the Boston Celtics. A lot of things in sports you just can’t explain. It’s the equivalent of Robin applauding the Joker as he beats up Batman.
If you are a Maple Leafs’ fan, it automatically means you are not a fan of the Canadiens. Not only are you not a fan, but you also really don’t like them. In fact, you hate the Habs. The same is true for Montreal fans. Why? Good question. No one can truthfully give a legitimate reason unless they are in their late 60s or older. Those old-timers may remember the original six battles that left the ice bloodied for decades between the two oldest franchises. Those older fans may recall the black and white images of the 1950s and 1960s playoff clashes. Maybe they have a reason to not like the other team.
Anyone born in or after the late 1970s has no real reason to hold so much contempt for their sworn rival. So be honest, Leafs and Habs fans. Do you remember when you started to hate the enemy? It’s just the way it has been for as long as the younger fans can remember.
Cheer for Montreal
If you’re a Leafs’ fan who is still on the fence for the Finals, here are some reasons to put aside your ingrained hatred of Montreal for just a couple of weeks and support the Canadiens.
North Division Champs
All season we heard how weak the North Division is and how the Canadian teams wouldn’t stand a chance in the other divisions. Montreal took out one of those teams that apparently could easily defeat any team in Canada when they beat the Vegas Golden Knights. If the North Champion wins the Cup, one can logically conclude the North was the most challenging division in the League.
Got Beat by the Best
If Montreal wins, years from now, Toronto fans can say their team was knocked out of the playoffs by the team that won the Stanley Cup. It will be forgotten how Toronto blew a 3-1 series lead, how they were favourites and how they should’ve easily made it to the final four. Sometimes getting beat by the eventual champion can lessen the sting of defeat.
Bring it Home
At the end of the day, Canadian hockey fans want the Cup back in Canada. Hockey is Canada’s game (unofficially), yet the Stanley Cup parade has taken place in American cities since 1994. Plus, we’ve cheered some of the guys on this team before when they won Olympic gold for Canada.
Anyone But the Canadiens
While there are several reasons to cheer for Montreal, there are just as many to be against the Habs. However, there is only one reason that really matters.
Never Hear the End of It
As a Toronto fan, even a hockey fan, you likely know Canadiens’ fans. It also means you’ve been getting an ear full from them for the last month. Before that, they bragged about the 1993 Cup win and 23 other Stanley Cups the franchise has won. Can you really stomach that person or all the Montreal fans you know winning another Cup?
I will admit, there were moments during the Vegas series that I found myself not cheering for Montreal as much as I was cheering against the Golden Knights. I will also be honest in saying that I like an underdog story. It all ends there. I’m still cheering for the blue and white, except for the next two weeks that blue is not in the shape of a leaf; it looks more like a streak of lightning.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.