One of the NHL's stated goals in its reincarnation is fostering rivalries.
But even with two of these newfangled Leafs vs Habs games in the books, the old Toronto-Montreal meeting, ice division, has a long way to go and many years of neglect to make up for. It was one of the casualties of the NHL's first big expansion, in 1967 -- after that, the Leafs withered into years of mediocrity while the Habs thrived under Pollock, Bowman et al. The last time the two teams met in the NHL playoffs is 1979, ancient history. In hockey, anyway, it's the Battle of Ontario that stirs the passions of most fans and players, because it's the playoffs and those long series that build familiarity, enmity -- and rivalries.
One place where Toronto vs. Montreal has come to stand for something more than just business as usual is on the football field. I did a piece for the Star last year on this, and nothing much has changed.
When the Argos play the Alouettes at Montreal's Olympic Stadium Saturday afternoon, it'll be the latest instalment of the longest-running and most bitter CFL series east of Alberta. This is an almost-playoff game, but there's plenty of spillover from last year's postseason meeting -- "They are so arrogant as a team and as a coaching staff," said Argos' Eric England after knocking out Montreal QB Anthony Calvillo -- and they may well hook up again, too, in a few weeks come playoff time. Which would make it seven playoff meetings in the past nine years, and four in a row. We can only hope. On a busy weekend, this is what I'm watching.
Elsewhere this morning:
Thanks to Joe Pantalone for your morning smile, as a city hall committee approves $9.8 million of our money to help build a soccer stadium: "I'd like to suggest that the chances of this stadium losing money is probably similar to there being an earthquake in Toronto in the next few years," said Pantalone, whose ward includes the waterfront park. E-mailer Michael Brown responds:
"Gotta love Joe Pantalone. Right after Mr. Pantload proclaims the new football palace will lose money as soon as we get a tectonic attack, a rattler shakes up Owen Sound. Jean Drapeau, anyone?"
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick has this World Series breakdown, and a prediction: Astros in seven. Meantime, Richard Griffin, Expos' public relations man when Larry Walker arrived in the bigs, is there to see off Walker's career.
I'm not sure I would agree with the suggestion that the Breeders' Cup has declined, at least in terms of racing fan interest, but as Dave Perkins puts it, there's no better day in Canadian racing than International day at Woodbine.
Among the Raptors, some early reviews are in on Jose Calderon, and as Doug Smith reports: "While nearly everyone connected with the team has conceded the starting point guard role to veteran Mike James, Calderon is making a strong case for carrying a heavy workload, if not starting right away."
Oh, and about the NHL's new broadcaster in the U.S. -- they've been pulled from the country's second-largest dish network.
Punters corner: You could go to the Linebacker. Or Chris Schultz. Even, now that it's hockey season, the abacus-readers at Hockey Analysis. Here's where you get five Pro-Line picks you just can't get anywhere else. And for good reason (For entertainment purposes only, not to be used as the basis for any wagering activity -- ie, anything other than Pro-Line, etc.):
Houston over Chicago (BBL, Game 1, odds TBA). With White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen a regular upchucker before games due to nervousness, Fox adds Toilet-Cam to its coverage.
NJ V+ win (2.3) at Atlanta (NHL): Rash of goaltending injuries means Thrashers call up Frosty McFreeze from the Home Depot commercial.
Arizona H win (2.3) vs Tennessee: In wake of Vikings’ Love Boat escapades, Cardinals being investigated for bye-week team-bonding trip to Tempe dinner theatre to watch Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Phil H win (1.9) vs San Diego: After blowout loss in Dallas, Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb decide they don’t want to talk after all, but agree to exchange e-mails, Christmas cards and recipes.
Atlanta H+ win (1.8) vs NY Jets: With Vinny Testaverde at QB, Jets GM looks for depth, travelled to Guatemala this week hoping Gary Hogoboom would lose his immunity challenge and be voted off the island.