The Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens have a bitter rivalry that goes back as far as the 1950s. These two teams have faced off over 600 times: more than any other two teams in the history of the NHL.
The Bruins and Canadiens rivalry is more dominant when it comes to the post-season. The Canadiens, also known as the “Habs,” have come through with 25 of 34 series against the Boston Bruins, which doesn’t sit well with Boston fans. Bruins fans are competitive and have serious issues with losing, especially against the same team time after time. The rivalry between the Bruins and the Habs is comparable to the rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees.
On March 13, 1955, there was an altercation between Bruins’s Hal Loyce and Canadiens’s Maurice Richard. Richard was suspended for the remainder of the season including the playoffs, which sparked anger and ferocity in the Habs’ fans, resulting in riots two days later.
In 2011, Bruins’s Zdeno Chara ran Max Pacioretty into the turnbuckle during a game and caused a police investigation. Canadiens’s fans called the Montreal police department and asked for Chara’s arrest when he was not fined or suspended for the hit.
“I do [hate them], and if you ask them the same question I’m sure they’d give you the same answer about if they hate us,” said ex-Bruins’s Milan Lucic in 2014. ”It’s just natural for me. Just being a part of this organization you just naturally learn to hate the Montreal Canadiens, and the battles we have had with them over the last couple of years have definitely made you hate them.”
I have been to a hefty amount of Bruins games in the past few years. I have seen Boston sports fans heckle the visiting team’s fans and even fans of their own team, because they are a little too excited or misinformed about the rules of the game.
The Bruins and Canadiens faced off once again in an early season game is November; it was the perfect opportunity for a trip to the enemy’s territory.
It was the complete opposite when we began our trek through the city of Montreal to find the stadium. Locals were helpful when we needed directions to find the Bell Centre. The locals pointed us to the easiest route to the stadium and even shared stories that prove that hockey is a way of life in Canada. We can say that baseball is America’s favorite past time, but it does not compare to the intensity of a Canada’s love for hockey.
As we made it inside the stadium, fans were helpful in pointing the way to our section and were friendly in their jokes about our team. At this point in the season, the Bruins were doing poorly, so we were able to make jokes about them in return. Nobody made us feel like an outsider the entire time we were sitting there watching the game. There was even a beautiful rendition of God Bless America as they placed an American flag image on the ice.
There was an unexpected number of Boston fans in Montreal that weekend. Our hotel was flooded with Boston accents and people from home. In the stadium, there was a plentiful amount of Boston fans and you could hear them cheer when the Bruins scored the first goal of the game. Though it wasn’t a Boston home game, it was exciting that your team was succeeding in the enemy’s territory.
Eventually that excitement wore off when the Canadiens tied the game up, and eventually led the game to a 4-2 win. The whole stadium boomed with excitement from their first goal. Fans stood up, clapping and singing along to the Canadiens’s goal song, a song that was stuck in my head for days afterward.
Being in the enemy’s territory was a surreal experience. The locals in Canada truly live and breathe hockey. You can find resemblances of hockey everywhere you look. There are hockey players on their coffee cups, billboards, and in souvenir shop store windows.
You may expect the team rivalry to spread and become the fans’ rivalry, but that’s not the case. As sports fans, we need to recognize a rivalry, but to respect it in every way possible. It is all fun and games to make fun of a team’s history and abilities until you realize that it’s just a game and, in the end, respect is far more important than one’s inflated ego.