Register Saturday | December 7 | 2019

A Hockey Odyssey

A Leafs fan in Montreal holds forth on the playoffs

Playoff Predictions, Round Two (and Round One Recap)


April 23-I predicted that goaltending would carry the day, and for the most part, it did.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders: TB in 5. Check! I even got the number of games right!

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens: Habs in 7. Also a check, even if they made it tough on themselves.
New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers: Devils in 7. Who knew Martin Brodeur was human? Flyers win in 5, on solid goaltending from Robert Esche (who?).

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators: Toronto in 6. It took a little longer, but indeed, Eddie Belfour made Patrick Lalime look like a peewee. Actually, that was Joe Nieuwendyk. No, it was Lalime himself. Who cares? Leafs win! Leafs win!



Goaltending was the story here again, in most cases.

Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators: Wings in 5. The Preds made it last a little longer, but the Wings came out on top, and Curtis Joseph even got into the mix.

San Jose Sharks vs. St. Louis Blues: St. Louis in 6. Well, I was just plain wrong here. San Jose was way too strong for the Blues.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames: Flames in 6. As predicted, Kiprusoff was the difference, though Jarome Iginla had a bit to say about it as well.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars: Avs in 7. I’m surprised at how easily the Avs handled the Stars. Oh well. What’s up with hockey in Texas anyway?
So now . . . round two:


The Eastern Conference final is going to see a small but quick, skilled team with a hot goalie take on a big, tough and also skilled squad, also with a hot goalie. Both matchups in the East feature teams so similar, I might have trouble telling them apart on my little black and white TV.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Philadelphia Flyers

This one is going to hurt both teams. Like last year’s first-round series, this will leave both teams in rough shape for the Conference final. I think the Leafs’ final game against Ottawa might have shaken them out of their goal-scoring doldrums. The Flyers, meanwhile, having dismantled Martin Brodeur, will not be as mesmerized by Eddie Belfour as were the useless Sens. This may actually be a high-scoring series, and by that I mean an average score of 4-3 instead of 2-0 or 2-1. Still, a hot goalie will have the ability to make the important save no matter what the score, even if he doesn’t get a shutout every time. This will be long and painful, but the Leafs will win. Their defence is stronger than last year, and their offence is better. Sundin should return for game 3 in Toronto, and after a split in Philly, the Leafs will go up 3-1. The Flyers beat the Leafs soundly several times this year, but that was before the additions of Ron Francis, Brian Leetch, Calle Johansson and, yes, Chad Kilger (who knew?). The Flyers are also improved, but Leetch and Nieuwendyk will carry the Blue and White to a dream date with Quebec’s team--that is, if your Quebec includes Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. Leafs in 6.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
How ’bout those Habs? People in Montreal are going nuts, making wild statements like “Habs in 5!” or “Habs in 3!” The former is as likely as the latter. The players on Montreal’s first line, the Kovalev-Koivu-ZedniK combo (the KKK line--is that nickname allowed? Not really a positive connotation), are using their skill and speed to good effect and there aren’t too many bruisers on the Lightning who will slow them down. Ryder-Ribeiro-Dagenais could get going as well; there’ll probably be more open ice to work with and, with no big hitters to worry about, Ribeiro won’t have to waste time practicing his choreography. Nikolai Khabibulin might have something to say about Montreal’s all-star “cast,” however. Martin St. Louis wasn’t dominant against the Islanders, but he didn’t need to be. Against Les Glorieux, he and Ile Bizard native Vincent Lecavalier will be huge. Will Jose outduel Nikolai? My heart says yes, my bookie says no. The Canadiens have the highest goals-against average of the remaining eight teams. This series will be exciting to watch at least. Tampa Bay in 6. I hope I’m wrong.



Detroit Red Wings vs. Calgary Flames
Oh man oh man oh man. If you thought the Vancouver-Calgary series was exciting, it’s going to be made to look like Major League Baseball compared to this. Kiprusoff was shaky too often against Vancouver, but Curtis Joseph doesn’t have Nolan Ryan stuff himself. The Wings might even switch back to Legace if Jarome and Co. light up “Cooj.” Having a dog nickname in the playoffs is not a good idea. Luckily for the Red Wings, they have plenty of home run hitters--except in hockey you can only score one point at a time. The Predators managed to extend Detroit to six games, and I feel Jarome is a man of destiny. Flames in 7.

Colorado Avalanche vs. San Jose Sharks
I underestimated the Sharks in round one, and I’m going to do it again here. I just can’t see them (or anyone, except maybe the Calgary Flames) beating Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. It’s going to take something special--and that special, the Sharks don’t have. I can’t think of any one player on the Sharks who can “elevate,” as Pierre McGuire likes to say. I’m sorry, but I can only picture Vinnie Damphousse playing on a line with Daniel Marois and Tom Fergus. How old was he then, fourteen? For the Avs, on the other hand, “Cousin” Aebischer could be the Ken Dryden/Patrick Roy of the 2004 playoffs. Or he could be David Aebischer, which isn’t such a bad deal, especially with the World All-Stars playing in front of him. Avs in 6.

A message to Ottawa Senators fans: If you want to become Leafs fans, that’s okay by me. I understand; your team sucks. It’s just that there’s a waiting period. You have to go through tapes of all the Leafs seasons from the 1980s before you’re allowed to be a real fan. If you make it, congrats, welcome to hockey heaven. Oh, and if you think you have an exemption because you WERE a Leafs fan back in those days, think again. See, when you’re a fan of a team, you’re supposed to stick with them, through adversity and all that stuff. It’s tough to lose, sure, and, yes, we all want our team to win, but hey, get in line. Leafs fans have been waiting too long to let a twelve-year-old franchise’s bandwagon get in the way of their victory party. Go Leafs Go!


The Rollercoaster Ride
April 17--The simile of the NHL playoffs being like a rollercoaster, if clichéd, is at least true. What else can describe the feeling, or rather the cascade of feelings, a fan has as his or her team attempts to win four games before they lose four? Win the first game, and it’s up, up and away--momentum, that peculiarity of physics that somehow transcends the force, power and energy generated as metal cuts ice. It’s just like that slow ticking as your coaster mounts that first hill. At the beginning it is slow: you wait a day while the other half of the schedule unfolds, and the feeling is that there’s nowhere to go but up. Sometimes, rarely, this is true, and the team wins a second, a third and even a fourth consecutive game--the sweep: the most glorious of victories, or at least the quickest--but even then the latch must eventually release, if not in the first series, then surely the second. The more common occurrence is this: just when you think there is nowhere to go but up, you go down. The team loses. Momentum, again. The day off is painful. Nothing in your life matters, or, worse, everything else matters; you’ve given up hope.
But it’s too soon for that. In game three, your team loses again. Or wins. By now, there is no slow click; you are either riding high or plummeting to your death. The fulcrum is usually a power play, a shorthanded goal, an injury to a star player. At the end of the ride, you slide safely (for now) into the docking bay, the brakes are pulled, and the carnie either snarls at you to get out--your team has lost--or pull down that safety bar, because here we go again.

To be specific, it’s those g.d. Leafs again. When they lose, they lose big; when they win, they win ugly. Happy as I am that Toronto is up 3-2 in their series with Ottawa, it has been painful to watch. The way it has gone, every game--the script the same regardless of who is winning or who wins--is as follows: one team dumps it in, throws themselves wildly against the boards, other team dumps it out and takes their turn. When one team finally scores, that formula is replayed, but with only one team on the attack. In game five it took a player kicking the puck into his own net to break a dreary scoreless tie in the third period. Tie Domi was credited with the goal. Sometimes, once one team scores (usually by accident), the other actually starts to try to score also (you have to score to win this game, apparently), and this allows the team that is winning to score more goals, because their opponents, in their blind efforts to score, forget to try to stop them, and you end up with a deceivingly interesting score like 4-1 or 4-2.

I hope in the deepest core of my being that the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup, and I’m quite willing to accept that it may have to happen in the ugliest way possible (after all, the New Jersey Devils have several Cups to their credit); however, I also harbour another hope, a secret young Jedi known as the Western Conference. In the Western Conference, the players try to score goals all the time. They skate quickly, fast even, up and down the ice, chasing the puck, trying to take it from the opposing players and put it in the net. This is called “hockey.”

To be specific, the Calgary Flames. The Flames, like my beloved Leafs, are up 3-2 in their series against fellow Canucks, the Vancouver, uh, Canucks. So exciting are these games that the ol’ rollercoaster metaphor can actually apply to one game, not just to the series. While the Toronto-Ottawa matches are spent mostly cringing, cringing and hoping (an extra cringe because Aki Berg is back in the lineup), the Calgary-Vancouver matchups involve cheering, clapping and sighs of satisfaction. Compare your first time having sex with a daylong multiple orgasm.

As for the Habs, they are down 3-2 to the Bruins, and though the town is all aflutter because they’ve got one more date with the Bears, I don’t think the Canadiens are going to get past second base, and if they do, you won’t be sure they’re not faking it.
There’s nothing quite like the first time: Go Leafs Go!  


First Round Playoff Predictions
April 6--As my friend Tony likes to sing when the NHL playoffs begin, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . ” Indeed, invocations of religious holidays, cancelling of all evening activities and hyperbolic comparisons to war are inevitable as the playoffs begin. I have no problem with any but the last of those--I know that’s the one thing not to say at this time of year (at least not before your team is eliminated), but, well, it’s not a war, it’s just a game. That being said, if the Leafs win the Cup, I know my life will be better somehow, and I will be able to go on living (though it would hardly be necessary, as my life will be complete) with the carefree disposition of a millionaire, or maybe someone who has paid back all of his student loans.
Anyway, what else abounds at this time of year? Predictions! Can’t start the playoffs without ’em!


In a word, goaltending. The keepers of the caged cabanas (as Joe Bowen likes to say) will tell the tale in the East.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders
Tampa’s Nikolai Khabibulin probably won’t need to be the difference here, as the Lightning’s firepower will be too much for the Isles. Rick DiPietro will be a great playoff goalie in about five years. Some people think this could be an upset. It won’t be an upset if New York wins; it will be a miracle. TB in 5.

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens

This will be a true tussle of the tenders of the twine tents (sorry, Joe). Andrew Raycroft has shown that he is better than the average bear, and is up for rookie of the year, while Jose Theodore has shown that he is better than he has been the last couple of seasons. The Bruins forwards are bigger and stronger than the Habs forwards, but Montreal has that Newfie magic in Michael Ryder. In the end, though, it all comes down to the goalies: Theodore doesn’t have much playoff experience, but he has more than Raycroft. Raycroft still might outplay Theo, and if he does, the Bruins just might go all the way. He won’t and they won’t, but it’ll be close. Habs in 7.

New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Like the Leafs and Flyers series last year, this one could end up eliminating both teams. The Flyers are stacked and the Devils are, well, the Devils, and they have the best goalie in the world--perhaps the best goalie ever--in Martin Brodeur. The Flyers’ tending is suspect, and though Robert Esche will get the start ahead of the veteran Sean Burke (my fellow St. Mike’s alumnus), I don’t think that will last long. In any case, the Flyers are too good to go in less than seven games, but Brodeur is too good to go at all. Devils in 7.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators
Leafs in 4. Okay, okay. . . Goaltending will be crucial here as well, as the Leafs boast one of the best goalies in the game, if also one of the oldest (but that’s par for the course in Toronto), and the Senators have a hot young European goalie who will be starting the series on the bench. I really feel that, despite being on the losing end of Toronto’s 6-0 beating (see, the violent imagery just creeps in . . . ) of the Sens last weekend, Martin Prusek is the best goalie Ottawa has. John Muckler and Jacques Martin do not agree, and so they will start Patrick Lalime in goal. Lalime had a superb spring in 2003, despite being out-puckstopped by Martin Brodeur in the Eastern final (nothing to be ashamed of), yet this year he has been horrible. I think the fragile psyche of the Ottawa team, shaking after a 6-0 loss to the team that has eliminated them from the playoffs in three of the last four years, will crumble quickly. The Leafs could win it in 4, but I’ll give the Sens two games. Age and treachery always overcome youth and skill. Toronto in 6.



Here, the goaltending will be less of a factor. Other than Marty Turco and Miikka Kiprusoff, there are no knights of the netting who are likely to steal a series. The Western Conference will be decided by hot sticks, not hot glove hands.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators

The Red Wings have paid their karmic dues, I think. After Cujo left Toronto for the money in Motown, the Wings were eliminated by a hot, underpaid goalie in Jean-Sebastien Giguere; after Dominik Hasek decided to come back to the Midwest, and the Wings greedily held on to their two multimillion-dollar masked marvels, both rich guys got hurt. Hasek, in a move that I only hope serves as an example and precedent for athletes everywhere, did his part to alleviate some of the karmic debt by refusing to be paid during his injury. So that leave the Wings with Manny Legace in goal, and he’s no slouch. Tomas Vokoun, the Preds puck-stopper, is no slouch either, except he doesn’t have Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Pavel Datsyuk, Steve Yzerman, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Robert Lang, Derian Hatcher and Chris Chelios in front of him. Who are these guys, the TorontoMaple Leafs? Wings in 5.

San Jose Sharks vs. St. Louis Blues
This year the Blues made the playoffs for a record twenty-fifth consecutive year. They’ve never won a Stanley Cup, though, so that’s a little bit like getting to first base the most times without making it to second (and I’m not talking baseball). Still, the momentum from their late-season push is enough for me to suggest an upset here. The Sharks have a good goalie in Nabokov, and the Blues’ Osgood is solid as well. I really like San Jose’s Alyn McAuley and Vinnie Damphousse (two former Leafs from very different eras), but the size of St. Louis’ Chris Pronger will be the difference; he has the potential to win the Conn Smythe trophy, if the Blues ever get any Stanley Cup finals action. St. Louis in 6.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames
Here is where hot goaltending should make a difference in the West. Kiprusoff is untested in the post-season with Calgary, for sure, but he’s got to be better than Cloutier. The Canucks are reeling from “the Bertuzzi Incident” (isn’t that the new Guns N’ Roses album?) and the Flames are on fire (yes, I just wrote that). It is a shame that of the five Canadian teams in the playoffs, at least two will be eliminated in the first round, but it is nice to have them playing each other. Why? I’m not sure, but it’s nice in that patriotic, all-things-Canadian-are-good kind of way. Flames in 6.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars
Avs goalie David Aebisher probably had the toughest job of any keeper this year: replacing Patrick Roy. He managed just fine, thanks, and now he’s facing Marty Turco, the man who unseated Ed Belfour in Dallas. This could be a goaltending party if there ever was one, but I don’t see the Avalanche playing too many of those 2-1, 3-2 games. Sakic, Forsberg, Tanguay, Hejduk, Kariya, Selanne: these guys can score, and even if some of them have been injured or slumping, there are too many superstars here for all of them to go into the tank (it’s not New York, after all). The Stars have some skill, but not as much as Colorado. Mike Modano and Bill Guerin will not be enough. Avs in 7.

So that’s it. Yeah, it’s just a game, but it’s a fast game, a beautiful game (not the beautiful game, though) and a fun game. Not only that, but NHL hockey players, it seems to me, want to win their championship trophy, that Stanley Cup, more than players in any other pro sport. The baseball playoffs are too limited; football is about the coaches and playbooks; basketball players are too rich to care; golf is not a sport. Yeah, that’s right, golf is not a sport, but it is a game the Ottawa Senators will be playing very soon.


Dryden on Violence
March 31--Ken Dryden’s recent analysis of what is wrong with hockey is the first I’ve seen that makes an honest and accurate assessment of the problems of the game at the NHL level. In this analysis, which was delivered at the Canadian university championships for men’s hockey in Fredericton and then printed in The Globe and Mail, Dryden goes beyond the excuses that both top-level NHL brass and passionate, but equally ignorant, sports-talk-show callers have made for the growing dangerousness of the sport of hockey. The former Montreal Canadiens goalie and current Toronto Maple Leafs president points out that it is not just the size of the players that has changed, but also the length of their shifts (shorter today), resulting in a faster-paced, more intense game. That the game is played by larger players, at a faster speed, Dryden points out, results in a force that is obvious and simple physics. So he calls on the leaders of the sport, of which he is one, to make real changes that acknowledge this, as well as acknowledging that this force, not by physics but by some unfortunate alchemy of emotion and national pride, often turns into violence.

Dryden is unique among hockey players in that he is an intellectual. The inevitable reactions to this true but disturbing exposure of the sadism of our national sport will come from the likes of Don Cherry and Vancouver Canucks president and GM Brian Burke, and will reveal the intellectual discrepancy between the average hockey player (or former hockey player) and Dryden, an eloquent and erudite man. Dryden’s argument exposes the fear of change that accompanies the ignorance of those running the NHL, a fear that these aging men cling to in an effort to keep their own legacies intact. Dryden at least is looking to establish a more productive and influential legacy than that of, say, his coach Pat Quinn, who is renowned for laying out Bobby Orr with a body check--Dryden is concerned for the well-being of all hockey players, including children and teenagers who play the game in awe-filled emulation of their heroes. Quinn and Burke care only about the players on their individual teams and don’t see the game as a whole. Even those in the NHL front offices refuse to acknowledge that though the NHL is the world’s premier hockey league, it is not the only league, and it is in danger of losing its status, in favour, as Dryden says, of the extreme.

Pierre McGuire, another hockey mind more active than your average Wade Belak, has called for a ban on fighting in the NHL. This is not as revolutionary a stance as it might sound: fighting is banned in most minor leagues and in Canadian and American university hockey. However, Rob Daum, the coach of the University of Alberta Golden Bears, wants to bring fighting back in order to cut down on “cheap shots” that apparently come as a result of players not being able to let out their frustrations by beating another player senseless.

Daum and McGuire may seem at odds, but they are both making the same mistake: treating the symptom, not the cause. Dryden looks to the root cause of the problem, namely, the size and speed of the players. The game must evolve to accommodate these two elements. Unfortunately, that is more difficult than it sounds. Restricting the size of players is simply not realistic; lengthening their shifts does not seem likely because it is not easily policed, unless you go to a house-league-style A-line/B-line three-minute buzzer system, and that’s not going to happen. Another possibility, the elimination of changing on the fly, could work, but to me, that seems like a half-measure, and it appears to slow down the game too much. So we are left with treating the symptoms.

Where I believe change might occur with the best results is with the players themselves. Where I disagree with Dryden’s call for change is that his model allows the players to eschew responsibility by claiming that the rules need to be changed to accommodate their ferocity, rather than holding themselves accountable for dangerous play. This accountability must come in some other form than the current Old Testament knee-ligament-for-a-knee-ligament code of so-called honour; the denial in the dressing rooms is appalling. Not only are careless uses of the stick dismissed as “accidental,” but blatant attacks are encouraged, as lessons to teach young kids some respect. In addition, the use of stimulants before games and between periods is on the rise, yet the players deny any relationship between being hyped up on pseudoephedrine and making wild, bull-like charges against their peers.

McGuire has also advocated harsher penalties for intent to injure, such as players having to serve the full sentence of their penalty. This used to be the case, but was changed in the 1950s because of the Montreal Canadiens’ formidable power play; the rule is out of date. Perhaps this change might prove to be more of a deterrent than Krzysztof Oliwa or Wade Belak. Are hockey players so stupid that they will continue to play a reckless, dangerous game after having watched the opposing team score three goals in two minutes while they were sitting in the penalty box? Or is it just that they are flying so high on goofballs that they can’t see the difference? Either because of stupidity or the use of unprescribed stimulants, the players in the NHL are a danger to themselves.

There is some hope, though. In the final weekend of the NHL regular season, Tie Domi, a well-known pugilist, turned down repeated offers to “go” from Ottawa’s Chris Neil. Don Cherry tried to pass this off as some kind of tough-guy code thing (because one of them had a hand injury or something), but what Don missed here was an opportunity to show that one of his beloved tough guys, ol’ Tahir Domi, is not just some dumb thug. Domi, with his club up by several goals, knew there was no need for a fight (problematic in itself because that assumes that there may be a need at some other time, but . . . ), and I don’t doubt that the recent climate of questioning the need for fighting in hockey contributed to his decision. It’s this gratuitous grappling that hurts the game, especially when the combatants don’t do anything else. Domi can play as well as fight--he scored a goal last Saturday night--so he knows his job is probably safe. Neil, on the other hand, can’t do much but skate around and tug on opposing players’ jerseys in the hopes of starting something. Maybe this is the beginning of something new: smart hockey players.


 The Hockey Sweater (circa 2004)
March 24--The latest bit of institutional insecurity to come out of Ottawa has nothing to do with scandals or leadership conventions. No, it took place at the civic level of government, where the Ottawa city council passed a ban on Toronto Maple Leafs paraphernalia at Senators games in the Corel Centre. Anyone caught cheering for the (better) visiting team would be commanded, or maybe just gently chided, to make a contribution to the Ottawa Food Bank. The Leafs, being the classy organisation that they are (OK, when they’re not busy cancelling Easter Seals events), promptly made a donation to the Food Bank on behalf of their fans, clearing the way for a sea of blue and white to flood the Corel Centre during the final game of the regular season.

Of course the whole thing was in jest, and certainly for a good cause, but it shows the relative immaturity of the Sens fans, especially those in public office. The “problem” of rowdy Leafs fans taking over opposing rinks is league-wide. Logically, this stems from the days when there were only six teams in the NHL: if you liked hockey, you probably liked either the Leafs or the Canadiens, the only two teams really worth cheering for. Sure, there might have been a Bruins fan here and a Wings fan there, but Canada’s teams dominated.

Even in Montreal, the arena is split about fifty-fifty when the two teams play. I had the fortune of scoring rinkside tickets for a recent Habs-Leafs confrontation, which was perhaps the best game of hockey I’ve seen this year. (I will admit, grudgingly, that Montreal won 4-3--but the Leafs took the season series!) When I say “fortune,” I don’t mean that I stood outside the Bell Centre with my hand aloft like I was at a Phish show and sixth-row tickets found their way into my grasp. I mean that my buddy knows someone at Molson.

So that explains how I got there, wearing my Maple Leafs blue behind the Habs net, but what about the other blue shirts? Are they all adopted Montrealers, closet Leafs fans who come out only three times a year (and maybe, oh please God, in the playoffs)? Or did they all hitch down the 401 and pay triple, quadruple the price to the scalpers? It was an issue of much concern on Montreal sports radio the week before the big game: Habs fans, make sure you go to the game and crowd out, drown out those hated Torontonians! Scalpers, don’t sell to anyone not wearing red!

The reality is, of course, that while some of the fans got their seats through a “ticket speculator” (it doesn’t take much speculation to make money on this game), most of the tickets were purchased in September, on the Internet.

I know this, because I tried, from a high-speed connection in downtown T.O., to get some. The system was jammed, and when I finally got through, there were no more tickets, at least not in my price range. I was disappointed because I wanted to invite my dad down for a weekend of Schwartz’s and hockey, and what would be the point if the Leafs weren’t playing? My wife (she’s the smart one in the family) suggested I go down to the Bell Centre and try in person. I did, and I managed to pick up a pair--not side by side like two pieces of toast, but front to back like a couple of St. Catherine Street sex-show stars--for the October clash, which the Leafs won 1-0. The smoked meat was also good, naturally, and my dad went home happy.

So what’s wrong with Montrealers? No faith. Sure, once the team vaulted, magnificently, majestically even, from seventh, to--gasp--the playoffs, everybody wanted in. But hello! This is les Canadiens we’re talking about here! Shouldn’t they sell out every game, years in advance? In Toronto, unless your buddy knows someone who knows someone on Bay Street, you can’t get in, and that’s even true when the team stinks (see Harold Ballard and the 1980s). As the partisans of the CH are so fond of reminding us Leafs lovers, our team hasn’t won the cup since 1967. The Habs, meanwhile, thanks to Patrick Roy (and Kerry Fraser--no, I won’t let that die), won cups in 1986 and 1993, not to mention the 1970s dynasty.

Is it complacency? Apathy? Even in Montreal, winning the Stanley Cup has still got to be special, right? Maybe that’s it, though. Maybe in Montreal, fans are just waiting for the playoffs, or the finals even, to assert themselves. Anything less isn’t worth it. Is that it, really? But even with the arrogance that comes with Montreal’s high standards, they don’t stoop to banning Leafs jerseys in the Bell Centre. That would be an assault against a great tradition and, well, just plain stupid.

Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering, the Ottawa Senators haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1927.