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It's a thin line between smug and hate for Boston and Toronto

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Thursday, April 12, 2018 – Page B13

TORONTO -- n Wednesday, Ottawa SenO ators owner Eugene Melnyk tried to get a little intraprovincial postseason rage rolling.

In a town-hall meeting with ticket holders, Melnyk said the Toronto Maple Leafs would be "blown out" by the Boston Bruins in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

"Just watch," Melnyk said, according to a reporter who was there.

Fifteen years ago, they'd have closed the Ontario border so that the rioting could be conducted in an orderly fashion.

But since the Senators have reorganized their hockey team into a hobo art collective staging a happening titled Misery avec Ice, their jabs have lost some pop.

Toronto's rejoinder amounted to something along the lines of, "I'm sorry, you're who again?" It's a bit sad, really. It speaks to the dull state of affairs when it comes to our national hockey rivalries.

If a Canadian taxpayer can no longer find him or herself capable of hating the seat of government, the place where they steal your money and turn it into useless services like health care and child benefits, then I just don't know.

It's no better elsewhere.

Toronto-Montreal? We'll check back after they reopen the Bell Centre. What? It's been open all year? Why didn't anyone say anything?

Calgary-Vancouver? Unless they promise to beat other with pieces of an actual pipeline, I would rather not.

Winnipeg-Edmonton? Is it a windchill contest? Because that's the only way it'd be competitive.

We like to talk about these things in military terms - the Battle of Alberta; the Battle of Ontario; the Battle of this and that.

But it is hard to recall the part of the Peloponnesian War when the Spartans got really bad at sword fighting because they were trying to move up the war draft and get some high-ceiling, young chariots.

I mean, the Sedin brothers retired and everyone got all choked up over what wonderful guys they are, but not one mention was made of the fact that they've been making several million dollars per annum these past few years playing for a junior highschool team. That doesn't seem right in our social democracy.

But this is how bad it's got - people feel sorry for Vancouver.

No, no, not you, Alberta. Stop yelling. We hear you.

We can't solve everyone's problems (not for this current salary), but we can do some work on Toronto's behalf.

For a few reasons, it is time for the city to begin hating Boston most of all. Oddly, these two clubs do not share much history.

But forget Montreal, Ottawa or any other sad sack from the past.

Toronto's changed. We have an actual mayor now, one who comes to work and everything.

Since we've grown up, it's time for a grown-up rival.

First, Boston works because hate is the flip side of love. That's what they say (usually about someone you hate).

And Toronto and Boston share a powerful love - of themselves.

Not even New York can approach these two hopped-up second cities in terms of self-regard.

Boston's been insufferable ever since being poor and missing just the one tooth became cool. But even before that, it had Harvard and a ton of people from Co.

Cork (the worst).

In Toronto, we pretended to be modest and self-effacing until Drake released a tsunami of local self-satisfaction.

Sure, we have our problems, but, really, we are the very, very best. The UN said so (if you disregard all of Scandinavia and big chunks of Australia).

Ask anyone standing north of Lake Ontario on a Bixi bike.

They'll tell you. Bring a chair.

You're going to be there a while.

It's going to be awful and include a long digression on where to get really authentic pho.

Two cities this smug deserve each other, especially now that their sports luck is going in opposite directions.

Second, Ace Bailey.

He's been gone a long while and there aren't a dozen people in the city who could pick his face out of a crowd, but the pain?

It lingers.

As best I recall the story, this perfectly innocent Toronto Maple Leaf was out for a night stroll on the New England wharf when a gang of ruffians threw him in the harbour during an argument over taxes, ending Bailey's career.

They called that atrocity the Boston Tea Party, and it started the Civil War.

Or something like that. It's got confused in the retelling.

Anyway, we owe them.

And, third, once the Leafs pick a new-ish enemy people can find some way to care about, they can then stop being their own.

This week, a CBC/Toronto Star investigation noted that only 96 tickets were released to the general public for next Monday's Game 3 against Boston, the first one at Air Canada Centre.

If it were any other business, the tagline here would be 'local concern provides desired service; does well financially as a result.' But in Toronto, it's proof that the Leafs have lost touch with the Common Man. (They actually did this decades ago, when it turned out the Common Man had other things that needed buying, such as groceries.)

The question was put to Mike Babcock, who's as common as they come. He's from Sasky. He hunts. He makes more money than the CEO of Imperial Oil.

"I'm the coach, so I don't know a whole lot about this," Babcock said. He started to answer, then thought better of it ("I'm not going there.") and then thought better of that ("I know there will be great bars and restaurants in this area that will have unbelievable TVs and you get to be closer to the ice.").

Okay, exactly how "unbelievable" are these TVs?

It's this sort of thing that makes the Leafs their own love/ hate proposition. They are a rapacious corporation, but if you live in these parts, they're your rapacious corporation (that you cannot go to see unless you have bags of money).

How do you reconcile yourself to that? Find a rival that's worse.

Associated Graphic

Eugene Melnyk

Huh? How did I get here?
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