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The Montreal Canadiens Visit Boston on Thursday

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
They are the "big" games -- the ones where you shut off the cell phone and negotiate for rights to the remote control with your spouse.

Perhaps even resorting to the dreaded "I'll do the dishes" or "I'll clean the tub" trumps-all negotiation smart bomb.

It's the Boston Red Sox versus the New York Yankees, Boston Celtics versus Los Angeles Lakers, Harvard versus Yale in football, Boston University versus Boston College in hockey, and, of course our beloved Boston Bruins versus the dreaded Montreal Canadiens in the greatest rivalry in the NHL.

And yah, I said GREATEST NHL RIVALRY. Period.

It's the game you desperately want to find a ticket for and when you find that ticket, its "naaaah, naaaah, neeee, foooo, foooo" until your friends want to hurt you.

Ha, that rhymed.

It’s the type of contest that renews your spirit after weeks of lesser lights, also-rans and the random Johnny-com-lately and, in short, these are the games that make a regular season worthwhile. And if, by chance, you happen to face your rival in the playoffs, that’s even better because the greatest bragging rights belong to the team that goes THROUGH their rival on their way to the championship.

Think 2004 Red Sox, people.

Just in case you haven't been around the TD Banknorth Garden or its two predecessors very much, the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens have maintained just such a rivalry for a really long time -- 82 years.

It seethes, it broods, it's ugly, it's nasty and sometimes, it can get downright scary -- just like Don Cherry's suits.

While their respective donnybrooks with the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs may make regional sparks fly, or perhaps ignite intra-metropolis passion, there is something about Boston vs. Montreal that just makes you sit down and just plain watch the game.

Watch we will as the two teams' first tilt of the 2006-07 has a 7:00 pm start time on Thursday, October 26th at the Garden and as you might have guessed by the buildup, the anticipation remains very high in Boston despite the Bruins somewhat slow start and the Habs tough loss to Buffalo on Monday.

And why not?

The first game between the B's and Habs was December 8, 1924, a 4-3 loss for the Bruins at the Boston Arena. The latest regular season game between the two Original Six franchises was April 13 of this year, a 4-3 win for Les Glorieux at the TD Banknorth Garden. And in-between the two disparate dates lay the history of, say it with me, "The Greatest Rivalry in Hockey."

Heck, it even has an entry in the Wikipedia -- Look it up!

Speaking of facts and figures, and just in case you are wondering, the two teams have played 677 times, with the Flying Frenchmen leading the all-time series to the tune of a 320-250-103-4 docket.

In Boston, however, the Bruins hold a 156-125-56-2 advantage over Le Tricolore.

And it is on that advantage that the Bruins hope to ride to victory on Thursday. Our Black-and-Gold Boys are truly looking forward to facing Les Boys in Le Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge and they hope the current edition of the Garden lives up to its wonderful name.

"They're such a storied franchise with all the Stanley Cups they've won," said Bruins forward Marc Savard, recently. "All the great players and coaches they've had go through there, you know it's always special facing them…it's a big game.

"Obviously we want to get winning here and give the fans something to cheer about."

Savard's father was a Habs fan and he has had to learn to enjoy beating them, but Patrice Bergeron, on the other hand, has not had to make any such transition.

"Growing up in Quebec City we have a big rivalry against the Montreal Canadiens," said Bergeron. "Being a Quebec Nordiques fan, it was huge when I was growing up.

"And being drafted by the Bruins was awesome for me because obviously there is also a rivalry between Boston and Montreal. And I'm just glad to be on the Bruins side to be able to play against Montreal.

"There's a lot of history between the two teams and its always fun to play against each other," he said.

And just down the row in the locker room, Yan Stastny has three more reasons to hate the Habs besides growing up in Quebec City and wearing the spoked B.

Their names are Uncle Anton, Uncle Marian, and his dad, Hockey Hall of Famer, Peter Stastny -- all three of whom played for the aforementioned, now departed, Nordiques.

"There's still a big Quebec City vs. Montreal rivalry," explained Yan. "Growing up that was one of the biggest things in Quebec, when they played each other.

"There's so much history in Montreal and it's always fun to play a team like that…it's always been big matches, all the time, and there's always been a little fire every time [the Bruins and Habs] play each other. Having the cities so close together makes it more heated, I think.

"The other day Colorado was in Montreal and my brother [Paul, who plays for the Avalanche] scored his first goal versus Montreal," said Stastny, perhaps hoping to dent the twine on Thursday to keep up with his bro. "It's always fun and it should be exciting and it's always a good rivalry to play."

And how.

"You know, it's important, they're in our division," said rookie forward Phil Kessel of his first regular season tilt versus the Habs. "We need to win this game."

"We're preparing for it and going out there to play hard and win the game. If the fans really get into it, it makes it more fun. And If the fans are loud it helps us out," he said.

So you heard them and you know how much the game means.

So make sure you root on the Bruins on Thursday, be it in the barkalounger or the balcony, the Bruins know what makes their rivalry with the Habs so special -- their fans.

And the fans NEED to show the Bruins how special the B's are to them.

And if you still want to do some bragging, there are tickets still available.

Go Bruins, beat Montreal!
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