Sunday, November 09, 2008

Toronto Maple Leafs 6 - Montreal Canadiens 3

So we went to a fight, and a really good game of ice hockey broke out. Although Montreal were the favourites to win this game, the Leafs took to the ice all fired up and took the fight to their northern neighbours. They played well in open play, and took advantage in power plays when Montreal players were sin binned for various infractions (high sticking, roughing, boarding, eye gouging, grievous bodily harm etc) which happens quite a bit.

Meg took the above photo which shows a full team brawl occurring just after Canadiens player Kostopoulos had board Van Ryn of the Leafs with malice aforethought. The ensuing fight took minutes to sort out and during the whole melee Van Ryn was ignored, lying face down on the ice in a spray of blood. He was eventually helped from the ice and the later news told us he had broken a finger, his hand and nose and had suffered concussion in his impact with the boards.

What really surprised Meg and myself about this game though was the crowd. The match was a sell out, and we were expecting 18,000+ rabid fans baying for blood, we had been led to expect that this game was Inter Milan vs Juventus, Leeds United vs Millwall, Sheffield United vs Sheffield Wednesday with two sets of partisan fans screaming for their teams, not so. Most of the game took place in an almost reverntial silence, the sporadic chants of 'Go Leafs Go' quickly died back into the subdued atmosphere of this strange local derby.

I have been to football(*1) matches when the fans of the two teams have spent the whole of the match screaming abuse at the other fans, at the other team, at their own team, at the referees, at linesmen, even at the St. John's Ambulance staff. This is part of the fun, who doesn't want to jump to their feet at the obligatory opening chant of 'Stand up if you hate Man U', surely taunting the opposition and loudly questioning their parentage, mental ability and sexual preferences is all part of the fun.

Hockey fans sit in mixed stands though, and it is a bit harder to yell insults at the large ginger bloke in the next seat, there's a safety in the distance at football. The lack of support for their own teams though was mystifying, even down to the very low key celebrations of the goals.

Now that does rather sound as if I didn't enjoy the game, quite the opposite, we both had a thoroughly good night. Ice hockey is a fast flowing and exciting sport, only marginally spoiled by the interruptions enforced by the live television advertising spots, this was kindly explained to us by the Canadiens sat next to us, before that we had been baffled by the pauses in play.

I still couldn't fathom most of the rules, partly because the game is so fast, but it was great fun and all the better for our adopted team thrashing their rivals. Many thanks to Damien for organising the tickets for us.

*1 - note for residents of USA/Canada, football is a fast moving and highly skilled game(*2) played by two teams of eleven men over two halves of 45 minutes, it is not the awful, stop start tedium played by two teams of 75 heavily armoured freaks who have misread the rules of rugby league.

*2 - Obviously not when Sheffield Wednesday are involved.

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