Skip to main content

Travelling Harper hooks up with jersey-wearing Habs fans in Zagreb

NHL.com @NHL

ZAGREB, Croatia - Hab passport, will travel.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper got a pleasant surprise when he arrived for his official greeting in Zagreb on Friday.

As Harper's small motorcade pulled into Saint Mark's Square beside Croatia's Government House, the prime minister leaned forward and grinned as he examined a knot of onlookers.

Prominent among them were two men wearing Montreal Canadiens sweaters.

Dennis Rukavina of Prince George, B.C., and Gordy Samija of Montreal, were there with their young families in tow to see the first Canadian prime minister to visit Croatia since its independence in 1992.

"He is my prime minister, after all," shrugged Samija, who moved back to Croatia three years ago. "I'm a Canadian."

"He was probably hoping for some (Calgary) Flames jerseys," said Rukavina.

Their presence, along with their young families, drew a crowd of Canadian reporters travelling with Harper and then the prime minister's communications team - who arranged to have Harper meet the men after his bilateral with the Croatian prime minister.

"I did see them, absolutely!" Harper said at a news conference when asked about the incongruously clad Croatians.

"It just shows that Montreal Canadiens fans take their loyalty everywhere, as we know in Canada and abroad."

Harper, a Calgary MP but Toronto native and a known Maple Leafs fan, then took a dig at his old favourites.

"Toronto Maple Leafs fans do the same thing - a little more shyly. Especially at this time of year."

Heritage Minister James Moore got into mildly hot water recently when the British Columbia MP referred to the Canucks as "Canada's team."

Both Montreal and Vancouver remain alive in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Toronto has missed the playoffs for the last five years.

View More