Can Toronto bring itself to cheer for the Habs?

Can Toronto bring itself to cheer for the Habs?

To Hab and Hab not: are rivalries bred in the bone? (Image: Toronto Mike from torontomike.com) 

“No born-and-bred Torontonian and Maple Leafs fan can cheer for the Canadiens,” a friend told us on Wednesday night as we walked with her to watch the Pittsburgh-Montreal game at an Annex bar. And yet, once we got there, we didn’t see a single Penguins—or even Sidney Crosby—jersey. When the Canadiens captured the series, we even heard “Olé! Olé! Olé!” bounce off the framed Leafs jerseys on the wall. Our pal sat glumly as everyone else celebrated.

Can Hogtown really get behind these Habs? Past the bad blood? Is this city really that desperate for some hockey glory? Can Leafs nation cover this up by saying, “We’re just supporting the Canadian-with-an-‘A’ team”? Can Torontonians just cheer for the Rexdale rookie and Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban?

Or will we show some conviction here and just ignore the Canadiens?

Never mind that they’re playing gutsy, all-out hockey—the kind we’d kill to see the Leafs play for just one game. Never mind that they’re classic underdogs. Never mind that they’re obviously fooling around with destiny. And never mind that Montrealers would never, ever, get behind the Leafs. Ever.

You see, for the city’s hockey scribes, a good story is a good story. Toronto sports writers are dusting off their best rhyming nicknames for Les Habitants (“Fab Habs”) and deploying such overstatements as “miracle” and “dream.”

And with every Canadiens win, the Leafs get razzed. The Star’s Andrew Chung reports from Montreal’s riotous streets: “Evan Martow, a Torontonian who was born in Montreal, said he’s never seen the kind of team spirit in Hogtown. ‘People here support the team regardless of how they’re doing.’” Even CBC Radio’s The Current repeatedly knocked the Leafs during a segment about how to keep offices productive during the NHL playoffs, noting that the tips applied only theoretically to Toronto.

So, Montreal, not that you care, but we guess we’re watching. Just please understand that it hurts a little.

• Hockey joy turns to violence in wake of Canadiens’ victory [Toronto Star]
• Fab Habs bounce the Penguins [Toronto Star]