TSN News Video TSN Radio Fantasy

Boston-Montreal: An annotated history of hatred

Mike Spry (@mdspry) May. 1, 2014 12:12 PM
BarDown Pinned Photo: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images
The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will meet in the playoffs for the 34th time during round two of the NHL postseason. There is no more intense rivalry in sports than the Bruins and Habs. Oh, sure, the Yankees and Red Sox hate each other and poach each other's players, but they're not allowed to punch each other and stab opponents with sticks. The Toronto-Montreal rivalry, or even the Toronto-Boston rivalry, could perhaps have matched the Bruins-Habs, if the Leafs could ever consistently be a viable NHL franchise.

The Boston-Montreal rivalry dates back to not long after the Puritans landed on the Shawmut Peninsula and soon after invented cream-based fish soup, masticated English, and poor sportsmanship. When the series starts later this week, it will again ignite two passionate fan bases whose hatred for each other is unparalleled.

The history of this rivalry goes beyond hockey, and beyond sport. The cities have had a contemptuous relationship for as long as they've been settled, and that contempt is embodied by the two warring franchises. Here is a select review of the hate between Boston and Montreal.

Richard Riot

On March 13th, 1955 Maurice "Rocket" Richard was high-sticked in the face and cut for five stitches by Bruins defenceman Hal Laycoe. In the ensuing melee, Richard smashed Laycoe in the face with his stick, knocked out a linesman, and narrowly avoided being arrested by the Boston police. Or what's known in NHL circles as "hockey."

Commissioner Clarence Campbell suspended Richard for the duration of the season and playoffs, which enraged the entitled Canadiens' fan base. When Campbell attended the next Habs' home game, the fans pelted him with eggs, vegetables, and other inexplicably handy detritus. A tear gas bomb was set off in the Forum to diffuse the situation, and the building was evacuated.

What followed was a riot that engulfed the neighbourhood around the Forum, injuring over 40 policemen and civilians, resulting in $500000 ($4.5 million in 2014 dollars) in damages and dozens of arrests. The chaos lasted until 3am, interestingly also closing time for Montreal bars.

The riot has taken on a mythology typical of Quebec's relationship with hockey. Many cite the Anglophone suspension of a Francophone player as a contributing factor in the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. Others simply argue it gives Montrealers an excuse to set fire to stuff after hockey games.

Ken Dryden

Ken Dryden was drafted 14th overall in 1964 by the Bruins. Later in the day, he was traded to the Habs with Alex Campbell for Paul Reid and Guy Allen. Campbell, Reid, and Allen eventually combined to play zero NHL games, while Dryden would go on to get a BA from Cornell, win six Stanley Cups, get a law degree from McGill, win five Vezinas and a Conn Smythe, write a best-selling book, and be generally considered the best goalie of his generation while contributing to the Habs dominance over the Bruins and the league during that era. So lopsided was the trade that Dryden was unaware of it until the mid-70s. Reid didn't find out until 2002, and that discovery was predicated on the invention of the Internet.

Too Many Men

The Bruins-Habs rivalry would reach its heights the 1970s, making it the most enduring and compelling matchup in sports, and creating the template for the hate that exists between the two teams today. Bobby Orr, arguably the best player of his generation, led the Bruins of the era while the Habs were the epitome of what a franchise should be, the crown jewel of the league led by coach Scotty Bowman.

No moment would better represent the rivalry than the infamous too many men penalty taken by the Bruins in the 1979 semi-finals. Don Cherry, coaching the Bruins, could never quite get past his counterpart Bowman's Habs, having lost in the finals in '77 and '78. During seventh and deciding game, and having just taken the lead on a Rick Middleton goal, the Bruins were assessed a too many men on the ice penalty. Guy Lafleur would tie the game on the ensuing power play and Yvon Lambert would score in OT to send the Bruins home.

Cherry would ultimately lose his job, and eventually end up on Hockey Night in Canada where he would perpetuate the rivalry with his Boston bias, intense hatred of the Habs, and inability to pronounce Francophone surnames. The Canadiens would go on to sweep the Rangers in the Cup final. Though the rivalry would continue, the '80s and '90s were marked mostly with brawls and only two Cups for the Habs.

Pedro

The Boston-Montreal rivalry extends beyond hockey, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Pedro Martinez trade from the Montreal Expos to the Boston Red Sox in 1997, which would ultimately signal the end of days for the Expos. Montreal, having already endured the nightmare of a cancelled 1994 season where they were the most dominant team in baseball, and the sell-off or loss of players such as Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, and Ken Hill, were struggling to maintain relevancy and a fan base. General manager Dan Duquette (the architect of the '94 team) and a native Massachusite, left to become GM of the Red Sox in 1994, and three years later robbed his former team in acquiring Martinez, the premiere pitcher of his generation and in his prime, for Carl Pavano, Tony Armas Jr., and a box of Kleenex. Martinez would go on to be a Sox' mainstay and win a World Series in 2004, the same year the 'Spos left Montreal for Washington.

Bros

The drinking age in Massachusetts is 21. The drinking age in Montreal is 18. Kind of. I mean, if you can make your way to a bar in Montreal, you're going to get served. Babies can be seen in sipping from shot glasses. Sweet 16s are held in bars. It's a fun city, the bars are open late, and there are strip clubs everywhere.

There are 58 post-secondary institutions in the Boston area. It's a six-hour drive from Boston to Montreal. A forty dollar bus trip. The result? A wealth of bros infiltrating Montreal, a city they hate, to indulge in the city's offerings. Summer nights are marred by puking frat boys, eight to a hotel room, loitering Crescent Street, hitting on unimpressed locals, polluting the air with Boston slang and unearned bravado.

So many tucked-in golf shirts. So many Red Sox hats. So many goatees. So many pre-ripped jeans. So many gold crosses on necklaces. So many diamond studs. It's like an Abercrombie ad got a Coors Light ad pregnant at Maroon 5 concert at Fenway and gave birth to an army of bros.

Montrealers hate it, yet endure it. It fuels the fire.

The Pacioretty Incident and the 2011 Playoffs

On March 8th, 2011, while skating down the boards, Habs winger Max Pacioretty was checked into the metal upright that ends the glass by Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara. The hit, even to the most strident of Bruins supporters, could at best be called gruesome. Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra. Chara received no supplemental discipline, leading to Habs fan outrage and a Montreal police investigation.

[Sidebar: You know you have a good rivalry when the police get involved on a regular basis.]

Bruins winger Mark Recchi (a former Canadien) openly questioned the severity of Pacioretty's injury, despite Recchi's inability to complete medical school. The incident provided additional animus for the first round playoff meeting between the teams. Recchi, still not a medical professional, did not relent in his comments. The series went a thrilling seven games, with the Habs' P.K. Subban tying game seven late and forcing overtime. Early in OT, the Bruins Nathan Horton scored to win the series. Boston would go on to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972, devastating Habs fans.

Pacioretty would recover to become the Habs' most prolific goal scorer in twenty years. Mark Recchi would retire after the Cup win, and as of yet is still not a licensed practitioner of medicine.

P.K. Subban

Habs and Bruins fans like nothing more (other than victories and Cups) than booing each other's players. No more has this been more evident in the current incarnation of the rivalry than in the Bruins disaffection for Habs defenceman Pernell Karl Subban. It seems to be more venomous and vitriolic than hatred of the past, more angry and intense than the booing that Subban gets in nearly every other arena he visits, except the Bell Centre. I'd like to write that it isn't racism, but it's totally racism. Is my argument anecdotal and biased? Yes, yes it is. But anecdote and bias are the backbone of sports journalism, so I'm going to argue that the most contentious of entities in the contemporary Boston-Montreal rivalry is Bruins' fans intense and racially motivated hatred of the most dynamic defenceman to lace up Bauers since, well, Bobby Orr.

The series will be a bloodbath, no doubt, and add to the legacy of its legend. Boston fans: Please direct your hatred to @mdspry on Twitter. Habs fans: Don't set fire to stuff.