By Jason Menard
It’s at this time of year that I can really relate to Kermit T. Frog when he woefully sang, “It’s not easy being green…”
You see, I bleed the blue, blanc, et rouge of the Montreal Canadiens in a Toronto Maple Leafs world. You may not have noticed us, as we tend to gather in small groups, in living rooms with the blinds drawn, to commiserate over the fact that fate has dealt us a geographic blow.
But once in a while you will catch the more intrepid members of our community at your local pub, gathered around what invariably ends up being the smallest TV in the joint, tuned to SRC, watching our beloved Habs take flight. While around us – the flickering glow of the numerous big screens tuned to Hockey Night in Toronto – er, I mean, Canada, illuminate the faces of Maple Leaf fans who sit, or stand, in reverence of the boys in Blue and White.
But look closer at those Canadiens fans and you’ll notice the slight differences between them and their Maple Leaf brethren. They display an air of serenity and poise, but are very careful not to show it.
Some may say that it comes from the hypnotic effect caused by watching Jacques Demers’ inhuman number of chins wiggling during intermission. And while it’s true that we don’t have the pomp and bluster of Don Cherry to wake us from our reverie, the disposition of a Montreal Canadiens fan comes from one thing, and one thing only – success.
Each year Toronto Maple Leafs fans in the area whip them up into a frenzy of anticipation believing that this, finally, will be the year! With every goal for and goal against their mood swings faster than Benny Goodman on amphetamines. And each year they plunge from the euphoric highs of a series win to the inevitable despair that comes with their ouster from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And those Montreal Canadiens fans? We try to suffer our defeats with dignity. But woe is the Habs fan whose allegiances are exposed to this Maple Leaf-dominated world. Like vultures circling a dying carcass, Leaf fans have in recent years feasted on the Canadiens misfortune.
What is that old saying? Oh, yeah, misery loves company. Taking their cues from their spiritual leader, Grapes, Leaf fans have delighted in bombarding their Canadiens-loving cohorts with bravado. Feeling that ridicule combined with volume can fill the void caused by their own lack of post-season glory.
“Theodore couldn’t carry Belfour’s jock strap! Our Swedish captain is totally better than your Finnish captain! Domi would have kicked Ribeiro’s butt if he tried that diving trick on the Leafs!”
And yet that wry smile never leaves the lips of the Canadiens’ fan. Like an internal mantra, the Habs fan takes solace with thoughts of the great Russ Courtnall for John Kordic trade, the Harold Ballard years, the Maple Laffs moniker…
But most of all, the Habs fan finds comfort in the Cups. We draw our strength from generations of success. While Leafs fans hold fast to the thought that “if the refs only called a penalty on Wayne Gretzky…” and what might have been, Canadiens fans can take comfort in countless memories of sipping from Lord Stanley’s mug.
Sure the recent years have been lean, which is what makes this year’s playoffs all the more exciting. So go ahead and fly your flags from your car, flood the street in celebration of a first-round win, shout from the top of your lungs that this is THE year! We Habs fans will smile in bemusement at your desperate need for success and validation.
So as we enter the second round, and as the Maple Leaf bandwagon groans under the weight of ever-more people jumping on as it lumbers along to another early tee time, we Canadiens fans will simply enjoy watching you take that ride. Early-round success? We’ve been there and done that. Wake us when the parade’s being planned.
And if all else fails, we can always fall back on the line: “At least we’ve won our Cups on colour TV…”
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