Dating Within The Division

Editor’s Note: This is an entry in our search for Fresh Blood at TLN. Every possible contributor will get three posts to strut their stuff and then we’ll ask you readers to help us choose who is going to join.  

By: John Lofranco @jtlinmtl

It’s Valentine’s Day, and whether you buy into the whole thing or not, everyone is talking about love, so let’s get to it. Games like last Saturday night’s can be a strain on my relationship. Not only do I get grumpy when the Leafs lose (I’m sure many of you are familiar with this feeling), but to make matters worse, my fiancée is a Habs fan.

Lucky for me Carleton the Bear is a little more gentle than The Bruin. But, yes, it is true, I am dating (marrying, even!) within the division. How does this even happen? Due to the history of the franchise, Leaf fans are everywhere. And it may be that a Leaf fan will find him or herself living in a place where most people cheer for another team. And so the problem arises when, as the poor fellow in the video says, "she’s so pretty" and a poor fellow can not resist…

Love works in mysterious ways, and sometimes love throws a Leaf fan and a Hab fan together. My fiancé and I will be married this May, hopefully on a night when the Leafs are between playoff games (we aren’t too worried about the Habs), after five years together. Of course the relationship is wonderful, but sometimes, it hasn’t been easy on the hockey front.

It isn’t so much our individual hockey backgrounds that are the problem. We deal with it. But for others, who might see us only for our hockey allegiances (perhaps a sad comment on their own priorities in life), eyebrows are raised. Most typically, it’s the family.

My family actually doesn’t seem to mind. I think if the lady in question walked into my dad’s basement and tried to change the channel from a Leafs game to a Habs game, there might be a problem, but since my parents live in Toronto, it’s all good. Her family, on the other hand, while very nice, and fully supportive of our relationship, do engage in some playful, and perhaps less than playful, askance-looking.

One game last season I found myself on the couch in Boucherville, between Oncle Sylvain, and Oncle Jean-Francois, both wearing Le Tricolore. I had my Blue on, of course, but I was outnumbered. The Leafs were shutout that night, and I suffered through quite a few "friendly" barbs. (This season, they have less to say, though I haven’t spoken to them since Saturday’s debacle.) Meanwhile, at work, Miriam’s co-workers question her sanity for dating a Leafs fan. "How can you do it?" they ask. Love endures.

We are not the only "mixed" hockey couple. Our friends, Edward and Julie, share our cross-cultural love situation. (Not their real names, by the way, as Edward was concerned about being publicly identified as a Leaf fan, and missing out on Quebec government grants. Is this a realistic concern? Welcome to Quebec, my friends!) We often watch games together, at their house, or sometimes even at the Molson Centre.

They met in the same department in graduate school, where they were the only two Canadians, and so "brought together by the common tie of Canadian-ness, not divided by the Habs-Leafs rivalry that wedges itself between us a handful of times each season," as Edward put it.

Edward assumed that his lady friend was a partisan of les Canadiens, simply by virtue of the fact that she was Québecoise. He has been a Leaf fan for a while, though the intensity of his support increased when he found out Julie was a Habs fan. He’s a bit of a contrarian that way.

Julie remembers the beginning of their courtship as involving hockey. "We did play cosom hockey together while in New York although we weren’t yet an item. I remember the Mr being a goalie, and adopting the butterfly technique, which was nice to see."

Their eventual engagement did involve hockey, as the day Edward proposed, Julie had just played a game (on the ice) and in contrast to the usual Montreal style, showed a bit of toughness in taking a double major for cross checking a guy twice her size. "He was an asshole," she recalled. Perhaps it was this truculence and belligerence that attracted the fellow.

Since moving to Montreal, they have attended some games together. Edward felt (as do I) no concern for being able to wear his Leafs jersey to the Habs game. "I’d like to point out that while the rivalry is strong, I have never felt in any physical danger, even when the Leafs have won," he said, however, "I have elected to not correct too many people’s grammar" (an on-going problem in a multi-lingual rivalry, I suppose).

Edward also pointed out that when the Leafs get beat, he likes to highlight the contributions of GTA players on the Habs, such as Cammalleri (formerly) and Subban. It is certainly true that the topic of language and providence of players is one best avoided in mixed company, but Edward can’t resist poking the bear, any chance he gets.

Edward and Julie have two kids. What will become of them? Ed reports that "they are both getting plied with Habs/Leaf paraphernalia. The older is only 3 so it is too early to see if she has a favourite. Basically the team loyalty will just be a way of seeing which parent they each like better. Or we could make the parents team captains and we could each pick a kid for our team." Either of these sounds like a healthy response!

You should all know of course that "Uncle" John is on the case, working to recruit both kids to Leafs Nation. It will be good practice for my own kids, who will be Leaf fans, I hope. I may not have set a great example myself for keeping the family "pure laine," but my hope is that the kids will just want to cheer for the better team.