You can’t really go home again.
You can, if you are lucky, kick the hell out of your hometown team.
That’s what two Montrealers, Matt Lombardi and Philippe Dupuis
are hoping to accomplish when the Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens in the opener for both teams Thursday at Air Canada Centre.
Lombardi pinned a poster of the 1993 Canadiens on his bedroom wall as a 12-year-old.
“That was the team with Jacques Demers coaching,” Lombardi remembered. “I didn’t see it. We were at some school camp and we couldn’t watch the game. The teachers would tell us what the score was. I was so choked about that.”
The Canadiens haven’t been to a final since but with the Leafs looking to make the playoffs after a six-year hiatus, Lombardi isn’t gloating about his new team.
Still, the move to Toronto has helped in one significant way.
“My Dad said he was a Canadiens fan but on the inside, he was a closet Leafs fan. Now he’s gone public,” Lombardi said. “We used to go to the Forum every once in a while. We saw a Canada Cup game there. It was a great experience.”
A former Calgary Flame, Lombardi experienced the Flames rivalry against the Edmonton Oilers but based on his knowledge of the league, he expects Habs-Leafs games to be something different altogether.
“This is going to be a first for me. It’s going to be awesome. Calgary and Edmonton is cool but I don’t think it’s in the same league. There isn’t the history over all those decades. I’m so proud to be a part of that.”
Dupuis remembers as an eight-year-old reaching out and touching the Cup when the Habs held their last Stanley Cup parade.
“I probably shouldn’t have touched it,” he said, nodding to the longheld superstition that players who have not won the Cup are not allowed to touch the trophy.
It was put to Dupuis that while hockey is religion in Toronto, it is something far more serious in Montreal.
“I see it differently,” he said. “To me they love their hockey, they want to win as much as Toronto.
Those are the two biggest franchises. I feel like everyone in the world knows about the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. I think that’s pretty sick.”