Updated: Oct 6, 2019
I was talking with a good buddy today and we were debating whether or not Saturday Night is still special when it comes to watching our favourite teams. The debate centred around the fact that we can watch our team any day of the week so the sacredness of Saturday Night has lost a bit of its lustre - unless of course, it is Habs vs Leafs.
Whether you grew up in the Original 6 Era like my dad did, or in the Original 21 era like I did, or in the original 30 like my children, you cannot deny the excitement surrounding Habs vs Leafs on a Saturday Night. That said, even after last night's wild 6-5 shootout victory for the good guys, the rivalry still needs some zest.
Step #1: We need a playoff series against each other
The Habs/Bruins rivalry is an easy sell because of the memorable playoff series over the last, well, 40 years. The fact that the underdog Habs have beat the Bruins so many times adds to the animosity. Leafs/Sens on a Saturday night is another easy one. Who could forget the “Battle of Ontario” playoff memories? The Leafs went 4-0 regardless of the regular season standings. Those Senator teams were good enough to win the Cup if it weren’t for the likes of those annoying Leafs teams.
The Leafs/Bruins rivalry is an easy sell because of the annual Leaf-meltdown in Game 7’s. Just the mention of “Game 7 vs Bruins” turns the average Leafs fan into a nervous wreck.
Living in Ottawa and watching 2 Habs/Senator playoff series has increased the venom big time between these teams and their fans. Watching Habs fans invade the Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa for Senator “home” games is a huge source of pride when it comes to the rivalry.
Imagine what a playoff series between the Leafs and Habs would do for the rivalry. No one under the age of 40 has ever witnessed such a thing. Regardless of who would win the series, the ill-feelings would last for a few years at least. Imagine the watercooler chats and the barstool debates after that!
Step #2: Draft some Jerks!
The teams are too nice now. Who are we supposed to hate on the Leafs? Captain John Tavares? A salt-of-the-earth Candian boy who lets his play do the talking. Mitch Marner? Great kid and fun to watch. Morgan Reilly? Awesome defenseman and great in the community. Freddie Anderson? Do we even know what his voice sounds like? Head Coach Mike Babcock? Most boring interview in the league. GM Kyle Dubas? Any dad would be proud of a son like that.
Who are Leaf fans supposed to hate? Captain Shea Weber? Another salt-of-the-earth Candian boy who lets his play do the talking. Carey Price? Consummate teammate and community guy. Max Domi? I guess he is annoying, but his dad played for the Leafs and there is a soft spot there. Brendan Gallagher? Ok, he bumps the goalie a bit and talks a bit, but he is also 125 pounds and is loved by his team. Claude Julien? When has he ever been less than classy? GM Marc Bergevin? How could anyone hate those Italian suits and beautiful biceps? (I’m serious. Those arms are outstanding!)
Gone are PK Subban, Shayne Corson, Max Lapierre, legendary/fiery coaches Pat Quinn and Pat Burns (RIP), Tie Domi, Brian Burke, Patrick Roy, and super-pest Darcy Tucker. The games are better when you hate someone.
Step #3: Bring Back Line Brawls and Fights
Before you get all high and mighty on me, deep down you know that when there is a fight, your blood starts pumping and the energy in the building becomes palpable. Growing up you never knew what kind of mayhem would ensue between the teams. Think of the legendary players who would bring the violence: John Kordic, Wendel Clark, Colton Orr, Wade Belak, Sheldon Souray, Georges Laroque, Mike McPhee, Lyle Odelein, Shayne Corson, and Alexei Kovalev.
Yes, you read it right: Alexei Kovalev. My favourite memory of Leafs vs Habs on a Saturday night will always be this play:
This happened 13 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. Watch the video and tell me you aren’t pumped for tonight's game. Think about how much Tucker was hated. Think about the skills necessary to do what Kovalev did. Imagine being so talented that you can calm yourself after an elbow, rag the puck like a tiger circling its prey, pretend to lose the puck that you had on a string, and have the strength and power to throw the greatest elbow ever into one of the most deserving sets of teeth ever! Even better is the reaction of Tucker. His indignation of receiving an elbow after trying to decapitate Kovalev cemented him as one of the greatest pests of all-time.
Let’s hope the stars align and we get Step #1 in the Spring. Until then, and you know deep down I’m right, Step #3 would be pretty cool too!
- Waldo1947, Staff Montreal Canadiens Writer