Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Grantland: What every hockey fan needs to know about a possible Leafs/Habs first round series

We’re getting close to the end of the NHL regular season, and the postseason scenarios are rapidly taking shape. Teams are clinching spots, the death watches have begun, and fans of playoff-bound teams are already looking ahead to possible first-round matchups.

But of all the potential pairings, one looms above the rest: the Toronto Maple Leafs facing the Montreal Canadiens.

According to Sports Club Stats, a Leafs-Habs pairing is the most likely first-round series in the league right now, at just slightly better than a 50 percent chance. Is that enough to call it a sure thing? Not at all. Is it enough to prematurely crank up the hype machine? Oh, baby.

Here are 10 things you need to know about a potential playoff meeting between the Maple Leafs and Canadiens:

It’s the greatest rivalry in NHL history.

Not necessarily the greatest rivalry of today — you could make a good case for Boston-Montreal or Pittsburgh-Philadelphia. And not the greatest rivalry of our generation, thanks to these guys.

But with all due respect to those teams and others, nothing can match the history of the league’s oldest rivalry. The two teams have combined for more than 30 Stanley Cups, including 13 of 14 between 1956 and 1969, and each have more than 50 players in the Hall of Fame.

And yes, this is the part where you point out that all that happened decades ago and doesn’t matter much today. To which the hockey world responds: Pull your pants up, you insufferable brat. If you’re a hockey fan, especially a Canadian one, this is the rivalry your grandparents’ generation grew up with and passed down. No matter where you are or what team you cheer for, the history of the Maple Leafs and Canadiens is a big part of why you’re a fan.

>> Read the full post at Grantland


  1. Down goes Bourque!

  2. "Sorry, America, you’re going to need to figure out how to make your own maple syrup and sketch comedy for a while."
    It's okay, we have our Monty Python DVDs and we'll just raid your Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve.

  3. While SCTV is the funniest show ever - despite some sketches that really did not work, as a Chicagoan, I do have to point out that the north of the border operation was a branch office.

    A very early Second City skit - with origins in the Compass Players at the University of Chicago.
    Football Comes to the University of Chicago

  4. On one hand, I laughed and love reading this shit. Keep it coming. Even when I disagree I like reading hockey stuff on Grantland and I`m not sure anyone is doing hockey humour better.

    On the other hand:

    Leafs vs. Habs - A Western Canadians Perspective

    As a Western Canadian, I've got to admit Montreal has a storied history. Toronto has a television station.

    Also, my experience with Montreal fans and Toronto fans discussing the 1993 playoffs is slightly different. The Toronto fans normally claim they would have won, while the Montreal fan just keeps pointing out that they actually won. This type of distinction is important to all hockey fans with the exception of people who cheer for the Canucks and Leafs.

    Finally, Toronto and Montreal have not met in the playoffs since 1979 for two very important reasons.

    1, From 1981-82 to the end of 1993, the teams were in opposite conferences. In order for two teams to meet in the finals, Toronto would have to have made the finals. For those of you wondering, Toronto has not made the finals since prior to the end of the Vietnam war.

    2. The Toronto Maple Leafs are almost always terrible at hockey. I would have called them putrid, but there have been some seasons since 1967 when they have risen to the staggering heights of ``above average`` or "almost good enough to really matter." When a Toronto Maple Leaf fan tells you they haven't met a certain team in the playoffs, you should treat that comment in the same manner as you would a comment from celibate nun who claims she hasn't slept with Fred even though Fred's a real looker.

    To conclude, I believe the Toronto Maple Leafs are our gift and curse. The curse occurs because the coverage generally focuses on them. During the pre-season, this is infuriating. However, during the magical period of time known as the actual season and playoffs where thoughts of glory and honour gradually shift to delusional rambling about that one time in 1993 and thoughts about how we are one player away. If you are an American and into politics, think of it as like if Rush Limbaugh or Obama (your choice) being repeatedly punched in the face. If you are American and not political, think of it as like if that guy who won't stop talking about politics while you're just trying to enjoy your dinner being repeatedly punched in the face.

    But I was raised to never cheer for the Habs under any circumstances.