It was the final day of the 2006-2007 season when the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs last met with the playoffs at stake.
The Leafs beat the Habs to knock them out, and then saw their own aspirations die a day later. It was sort of a sporting version of a murder-suicide.
The Leafs and the Canadiens play Saturday in Montreal. The Leafs have given up talking about the post-season but a loss would be devastating to a Habs team that has a one-point lead on Florida. Yum.
Schadenfreude is a German word that describes someone who enjoys the misery of others. It was summed up beautifully by a Broadway impresario who said “It’s not enough that I succeed, you must fail.”
The need for your rival’s failure becomes more acute when your successes are few.
When you have used better than a dozen Marlies in your lineup, when your are deploying a guy in goal who wasn’t even in the league most of the season and yes, when you haven’t won a Stanley Cup since, what is it, 1967?, you don’t have a lot of sympathy for the other guy.
Especially when that other guy is Alexei Kovalev or Tom Kostopoulos.
And so Leafs fans revel in the fact that the Habs have been thrashing about like a fish in the bottom of the boat. We giggle that Carey Price has gone from the reincarnation of Jacques Plante to the guy who makes sure the water is hot when his teammates get in to shower.
We note that Alexei Kovalev was excused from a couple of games because trying was just too much to ask. We ask ourselves WWRWD??? What Would Ron Wilson do???
And yes, it has not escaped our notice that GM Bob Gainey is having his feet fried for canning coach Guy Carbonneau after the Canadiens seemed to have righted themselves from a godawful slump. Under Gainey the Canadiens have lost four straight and gone right back up Crap Mountain.
All of this, of course isn’t supposed to happen. The All-Star Game, entry draft and Stanley Cup final have been scheduled for Montreal, at least in the eyes of the locals who are celebrating the club’s 100th season. It seems like a decade ago that Price, who sits 30th in goals against and save percentage, started the All-Star Game.
In these diverse times, Habs fans and Leafs fans often share the same homes, even marriages.
Although it is tempting to chide Leaf fans for marrying underneath them, the truth is love is blind and any application of common sense in things matrimonial would have left me standing at the altar.
The best I can do is arm you with the following as you await Saturday’s game.
How many Montreal Canadiens fans does it take to change a lightbulb?
Four. One to put the new bulb in and three to stand around talking about how great the old bulb was.