Buried Hatchets

Canada lighting up Niagara Falls with Canadiens colors is the final knife in the back of the Toronto Maple Leafs

June 1993. That’s the last time a Candian team won the Stanley Cup Finals, when the Montreal Canadiens—led by Patrick Roy and Vincent Damphousse—took down Gretzky’s Kings in five. No one would have ever thought that it would be 28 years (and counting) without a champ from hockey’s holy land, but here we are. Every couple of seasons, however, a Canadian team emerges to carry the hopes of the entire nation regardless of their tribal affiliations, and this year that team, as luck would have it, are the Habs themselves.

On Monday night, Montreal will take on the Las Vegas Golden Knights in one half of this year’s unconferenced Stanley Cup semifinals, and if you had any doubts how much this means to Canada, just check out Niagara Falls on Sunday night.

OK, so first of all, lighting up your nation’s most famous is enough of a statement of intent on its own, but you must also consider the geography. Niagara Falls lies just down the road from Toronto, home of the Canadiens’ dreaded rivals (and most cursed of all currently cursed hockey franchises) the Maple Leafs. The Leafs were supposed to be Canada’s great hockey hope this year. They had the roster. They had the regular season. They led their first round series 3-1. They were poised. Then they lost three straight and crashed out of contention in the most gutting fashion imaginable.

The team that beat them? The Montreal Canadiens.

Needless to say, this is yet another dagger in the back of the Maple Leafs who now have an entire cutlery set sticking out of them. Canada is fed up. Hell, Ontario is fed up. It’s the Canadiens turn to be heroes and if they pull it off, the Leafs may as well just pack their bags and move to Atlanta. There are no waterfalls to light up down there.