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Ulmer: Is It Time To Say...Go Habs

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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Leaf fans, card carrying citizens of Leaf Nation, casual observers, MLSE employees and their families, sketchy panhandlers outside Union Station: the time has come.

At every political convention, a failed candidate is faced with a terrible choice. For the good of the party, he or she must endorse a hated rival.

With the Montreal Canadiens now among the final four, we face that choice today.

Go Habs.

Look, this hurts me as much as it hurts you but my argument is not with the team but with its flag-waving, occasionally-rioting, Ole Ole and Shana-na-na signing fans. But let us be honest, Leaf fans are equally emphatic when they commandeer NHL arenas across this shining land.

The Canadiens are the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup. Since then, the greatest trophy in sports has been hoisted in such hockey outposts as Anaheim, Carolina, Tampa and Colorado. Is our hatred of all things Canadien so virulent we would prefer a Stanley Cup parade in Boston, Philly, Chicago or San Jose, even if it snakes down, as Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau once sniffed, “along the usual route?”

There was a lovely shot of the Canadiens’ hallway at the end of the second intermission in Game 6. Jean Beliveau was leaving the Habs room en route to his seat and he looked absolutely energized. If it makes Jean Beliveau happy, I’m for it.

Go Habs.

If we are who we say we are, lovers of Canada and the game, we have no choice. It’s time to be big.

I know, five straight years out of the playoffs is big enough, but the Leafs are themselves responsible for this. They fell one goal short of eliminating the Canadiens in the final game of the season.

Honestly, what’s not to like? The Canadiens feature two of the more likeable personalities, ex-Leafs Hal Gill and Dominic Moore.

A Habs victory would be better than we think. It is proof that an overachieving, hard-working team with great goaltending can better a superior rival stacked with stars. For the Leafs, built around Jonas Gustavsson, a solid pack of defencemen and a still developing cast of forwards, that has to be good news.

Go Habs.

This is a noble team.

Leaf fans venerate Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour not just because they wore the uniform. They love them because of what they represented: a stoic courage in Clark, a relentless energy and competetiveness in Gilmour.

The Canadiens are immensely worthy. They are a busload of nobodies, ordered around a comet named Jaroslav Halak and a true sniper in Mike Cammalleri. Skilled smaller players Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta are fighting for every sliver of ice. The Canadiens’ best player, Andrei Markov, is lost to a knee injury. In his place, players like Gill and rookie P.K. Subban hare been remarkable.

Go Habs

The Canadiens are worthy of the attention, even the support of any hockey fan, including Leaf fans.

Would Hab fans root for the Leafs if the situation was reversed?  Absolutely not, but someone has to be the grown-up here.

I’m not saying you have to buy a sweater. But it is mid-May and our choices are few.

Let’s suck it up. Let’s be big, lets…

Ah, hell. I can’t do it.

Go Leafs.
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