Dream Canada: Tribute to Habs-Leafs Rivalry Is a Video Classic
Across the complete sporting spectrum, there are few teams with histories so intertwined as the Montréal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The relationship goes back to the dawn of pro hockey as we know it, when les Habitants Canadiens de Montréal -- officially, le Club du hockey Canadien -- arranged to have a new Toronto franchise as a fourth league team, displacing the Blueshirts, whose owner was so despised by other clubs that they bolted the five-team National Hockey Association and didn't invite him to the new NHL. The Canadiens' owner knew a team in Toronto was mandatory for the league's financial success, and the Arenas were created in 1917. They became the St Patricks in 1919, and finally, the Maple Leafs in 1927.
Culture clash heightened the relationship between the two teams, to the point that Toronto's new nickname was inspired by the anglophonic Cap Badge Insignia of Canadian forces in World War I, which also accounts for Leafs being spelled the way it is. And from that point onward, the anglo-franco rivalry was sealed.
Their competitive ferocity has long since moved past the language differences and past the decades when they were the only Canadian teams in the NHL. Its essence was captured recently in an excellent video montage for Hockey Night in Canada.
Personnification of the rivalry's intensity can be seen at the 1.18 mark, when a maskless Leafs goalie stops Serge Savard's backhander with his face:
Puccini's opera Turandot was posthumously completed in 1926, one year before the NHL's creation. Its signature moment, Nessun Dorma (translation: None Shall Sleep), as performed by Luciano Pavarotti, served as the perfect musical bed for this piece. Its emotional peaks and valleys perfectly capture the rivalry's spirit; in fact, this opus seems as if it was designed to accompany the Leafs and Canadiens through their history as its sporting visage.
Of course, there's no record as to whether Puccini even realized the game of hockey exists, so the association is purely coincidental. But in the hands of CBC filmmaker Tim Thompson, whose job it is to create such videos for intros to Hockey Night in Canada each week, this confluence of love and hate in both opera and sport has become a masterpiece in its own right.