In all of sports, there are many great rivalries. The Yankees vs. the Red Sox have been bitter opponents since the days of Babe Ruth, who spent time with both organizations. In the NFL, the Cowboys vs. the Redskins continues to be a classic match, while in college football, the Michigan vs. Ohio State match up remains an annual event for mid-western fans. And for over a century, Manchester United and Liverpool have always been a classic soccer clash.
In professional hockey, there are also many excellent rivalries: Oilers vs. Flames, Rangers vs. Islanders or Devils, Flyers vs. Penguins, just to mention a few. However, none can beat the Canadiens vs. the Maple Leafs rivalry. Bragging rights for hockey supremacy within Canada, for the first two Canadian NHL teams, begins tonight for the Habs’s start of its 101st season. For match ups between these two teams, both sides always elevate their play. Motivation to beat the other side is never lacking.
Tonight, this fierce rivalry continues, with Montreal visiting Toronto for the team’s home opener. Both team’s have undergone significant player changes, and neither side has named a captain of their squads, which is an important, symbolic gesture in hockey. In the Canadiens case, new head coach Jacques Martin recently announced three assistant captains for his squad: Andrei Markov, Hal Gill and Brian Gionta. Similarly, Toronto is without an official captain, while bestowing the assistant’s role to Tomas Kaberle, and former Hab Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin.
Look for former Habs Mikhail Grabovski to continue his feud against players from his ex-team, despite the absence of fellow Belarusian Sergei Kostitsyn, who was sent to the AHL this week. The Habs will be primed to counter the Leafs’ truculence should this game become overly physical.
Please email Norm Szcyrek
with your comments about this Habsworld article.