He shoots! They text!! He scores!!!
by Mike Brock
LITTLE CURRENT – Forty-two years. A four-decade dormancy enabled by some realignments, a few lockouts, some really bad seasons on both sides, and perhaps even, the hockey gods. Yet, the rivalry remains. How though, when more than a generation has passed since the involved teams met in the playoffs? Brothers. Sisters. Stepfathers. Old university buddies. Grandmas. But, especially, brothers. Yes, the hate for the other team is as strong as the love for its fan. The most Canadian of conversations has been rekindled this spring, and it is an amazing thing. The boxscores, fantasy pools, injury reports are official and matter—but they don’t matter as much as the rivalry itself.
When the puck drops the gloves come off…so you can text your loser friend, wife, dad, uncle or, in the best (worst?) case scenario, your brother.
Meet Ian and Don Wilkin. Haweaters. Fans of the game. Brothers. Rivals. One of them will be on the wrong side of history, but it’s the present that matters, and thankfully we’ve been given the gift of a playoff series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens.
Ian, a fan of the Leafs and Don, fan of the Habs, shared Game 2 of the first round series via text. It was a beautiful day on Manitoulin Island. A little foggy to start, with no way of knowing how the day was going to unfold. No matter what, though, there would be some clarity by the final buzzer.
This is how it went down on Saturday.
just after 7 pm.
at 9:46 am.
IAN: What should you do if you find a Montreal Canadiens fan buried up to their neck in cement?
(FYI, if you are a Leafs fan, you can purchase a little more cement is for $5.08 a bag at the RONA in Little Current.)
After a close victory in Game 1, Don’s confidence seems to be at a healthy level. In fact, he shuns the superstitions of the average fan. Ian thinks the wardrobe is important, though.
5:49 pm: IAN: Well, I’ve worn my Marner jersey since the series started. I don’t think Donald even owns a Habs jersey, which makes me think he’s actually a Leafs fan deep down.
5:52 pm: DON: And how has that worked out for you?
Fair point by Don.
5:59 pm: IAN: Why will Canadiens fans have to drink from a saucer this summer?
5:59 pm: IAN: Because the Cup will be in Toronto.
The jokes aren’t really getting to Don, so Ian attacks right where it hurts. The crease.
6:10pm: IAN: What’s it like to pin all your hopes and dreams on a washed up goalie?
Ouch. A lot of miscalculations in that statement, but all’s fair in the greatest rivalry in sports. Don defends Carey Price.
6:13 pm: DON: Ha ha. You just kill me. 35 shots and counting. C’mon now, show a little respect. How many gold medals at the Olympics has he won for you?
6:15 pm: Here we go. Typical Habs fan. Bringing up old stats.
Don tries to calm his nerves by playing a little Alex Trebek.
6:21 pm: DON: OK. Quiz for you. Who is the only person to win MVPV of the playoffs and then win rookie of the year the following year?
Ian tries to explain that there is no reason for him to know stats or facts about the Montreal Canadiens, but he gives it a shot anyway.
6:25 pm: Patrick Roy?
6:25 pm: Ken Dryden?
6:25 pm: The Flower?
The answer is Dryden. But whether they know the answer or not, no Leafs fan really concerns themselves with the triumphs of long-forgotten Montreal teams from decades ago. Ask them about Allan Bester, Felix Potvin, or Rick Vaive instead. Fans of the Montreal Canadiens tend to rely on their glorious past when it comes to pumping their own tires. For Leafs’ fans, the past is too far away. Leafs Nation has been focused on the future for years now.
Getting close to the drop of the puck, now. Ian and Don are watching on TV. I’m listening to the game on XM Radio. My old pals Joe Bowen and Jim Ralph are on the call. To understand what it really means to answer your calling in life, listen to these two men describe the Toronto Maple Leafs play playoff hockey. To understand what it means to have a brother with a tilted view of what it means to be a fan, listen to Ian and Don Wilkin chat with each other. Either way, it’s good, clean fun.
7:27 pm: Les Habitents take the lead thanks to Kotkaniemi
It’s a 60-minute game, but a good start for the Canadiens. Doesn’t take long for the Leafs to even it up, though. Ian wastes no time firing up the optimism train.
7:33 pm: Spezza makes it 1-1
7:34 pm: IAN: Here we go!!
7:35 pm: IAN: Floodgates are open now!!
7:44 pm: First power play of the game goes to Montreal
The refs make an appearance, and Joe and Ralphie aren’t happy. Neither is Ian. There is a reference to bull manure.
It’s not surprising, with the emotions of Game 1, that the first period is a little tentative. The Habs have been under pressure all year to live up to the expectations created with a recent roster overhaul. As for the Leafs, a team that was the future four years ago is ready for the now. That means that an early goal against, in a “must-win” game, doesn’t have the same weight it might have had on the shoulders of a younger Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly.
The brothers tire by the end of the first. Twenty minutes in, tie game.
8:16 pm: 2-1 Auston Matthews
An easy goal for a guy who doesn’t need easy. Don is silent. Joe Bowen is not. His trademark ‘Holy Mackinaw’ rips across the North Channel. Ian with the first heart emoji, addressed to No. 34.
8:17 pm: IAN: LOVE MATTHEWS
Ian contemplates how his brother may be dealing with the Leafs lead.
8:20 pm: I think Don switched channels. Probably watching Murder She Wrote.
And right after they announce the goal in the arena, the Leafs head to the power play.
Almost a full two minutes of pressure produces another power play, and the most talented Leafs team in decades goes right back on the man advantage.
Montreal was able to kill the penalties, but the stress has gotten to Don. He’s unresponsive, in fact.
Oops, turns out he had to step away for a little bit of work. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that real life still happens when the Leafs and Habs are playing each other in the playoffs.
8:34 pm: 3-1 Leafs Sandin
Despite the questionable challenge by Montreal, the goal stands. With nothing else to hang hope onto, Don seems to imply that there may have been some sort of illicit payment to the men in stripes.
8:39 pm: DON: From my viewpoint, looks like somebody has paid the refs off.
Ian is unperturbed.
8:40 pm: IAN: Here comes #4. Price might pull a Roy, and just take himself out.
8:46 pm: DON: That’s 3 straight #$%^# &*!!!! penalties. What’s up with that?
8:46 pm: IAN: Want some cheese with that whine?
8:53 pm: IAN: That was a fun period
Unclear if Don agrees with that sentiment, although he does have an opinion on the officiating.
8:54 pm: DON: C’mon. Four straight penalties? In a playoff game?
8:58 pm: IAN: You did watch game 1, right?
It seems as though one’s opinion on officiating may have something to do with how well your team is doing. Either way, the refs and their work are under fire tonight, which is too bad, because the Leafs are playing well, and probably didn’t need the help.
“A two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey.” It’s one of the oldest clichés in hockey. The problem is, it’s only true if the other team score two more goals. Now, math was never my strong suit I would take a two-goal lead any day of the week if it meant the other side only scored one more. Here we are, though. 20 more minutes of play with a two-goal lead for Toronto.
And it doesn’t take long for the lead to go to three.
9:25 pm: Nylander with a power play goal, 4-1 Leafs
And Don has submitted.
9:28 pm: IAN: Pretty quit in Hab Nation!!
9:29 pm: DON: Playing cards now.
9:29 pm: DON: We’re good with the split.
9:31 pm: IAN: Hahaha!!!
9:53 pm: DON: That’s the first time the Leafs have beaten the Habs in 42 years, in the Playoffs.
And the conversation ends, in the most Canadian way possible. One brother laughing in victory. The other losing at cards, and reaching for old stats.
The Leafs did add an empty netter to make it a 5-1 final. The series is even heading into Monday’s Game 3, which will be played in Montreal. A mix of trivia, frustration, bad jokes and tales of former glories filled the chat tonight.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Many bad words have been removed and/or replaced in this story.
How are you taking in the Habs/Leafs series? Are there family rifts developing? Tell us about it! Email email@example.com.
In the nearly five decades since visiting his family’s cottage outside of Little Current, Mike Brock has become a terrible fisherman, a painfully bad campfire guitarist and a shoddy builder of highly dangerous treehouses. In his spare time, he is a TV producer, storyteller and college/university teacher. He has produced hundreds of hours of television and content on all platforms, and this summer will be part of the production team bringing you the Olympics on CBC. In the meantime, though, he’ll be contributing some stories to The Expositor. Mike, his wife, Nat, and two teenage boys—Holden and Bodhi—live in North York during the winter. Check out some of his work at www.urbanpig.tv.