BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
When I heard that the Montreal Canadiens fans booed "The Star Spangled Banner" before Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on April 20, I was sick to my stomach.
It made me want to edit the Canadian National Anthem from "Oh Canada" to "No Canada" because they disrespected a neighbor, who would protect them during an international conflict.
Montreal was a city that had another franchise back in the 1930's named the Maroons. On April 20, the fans in the Bell Centre were named the Montreal Morons.
After the incident, Canadiens Coach & General Manager Bob Gainey showed class by telling his fans their behavior was uncalled for. For years, I've always had a ton of respect for the Canadiens and their fans as being an excellent hockey town. This original six city has the same passion as Green Bay Packers fans do where everything revolves around the team on and off the field of play. Being the only game in town with a large city is what these towns live for.
But I lost all of my respect for Montreal due to this classless incident due to the lack of common sense. I'm not buying the Us Vs Them excuse with the USA facing Canada because there are many match-ups in North America which feature these two countries. The Boston Bruins and Canadiens have indeed had many contested battles since they're both original six teams however, to boo the other countries national anthem is crossing the line between politics and sports.
There is no question that the Canadiens success in their 100 year tradition is unmatched. They've won 24 Stanley Cups more than any other team and as a franchise this amounts to 26 percent.
On Dec 29, 2008, Montreal defeated the Florida Panthers 5-2 to become the first team in NHL history to reach 3,000 victories.
But in recent years, the Canadiens have fallen onto hard times. Montreal's last Stanley Cup occurred in 1992-93 when former Detroit Red Wings Coach Jacques Demers guided them to a title led by Hall of Fame Goaltender Patrick Roy.
Don't expect anymore championships in the immediate future as a modern day player would rather play for a USA based team where the dollar has a much higher value.
Does anybody in the USA care or know anything about Hockey Night In Canada?
With the exception of the NHL Finals and a marquee match-up in the playoffs, you won't see a Canadian based team on NBC. The Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche have been the primary teams featured on the game of the week.
While Canada's hockey tradition speaks for itself, the Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques moved south of the border to Phoenix, AZ and Denver because they couldn't survive north of the border. Over the years, the Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers have struggled financially. There are only six Canadian based teams with the Senators, Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference while the Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks compete in the Western Conference.
When sports fans around the continent look at Montreal, they view this market as a third world country because of the many failures of its teams. Major League Baseball's Expos are now the Washington Nationals while Montreal has struggled to support two Canadian Football League teams. The Montreal Alouettes and Concordes have folded and revived over the years.
My advice to Canadiens fans is don't embarrass yourself anymore because North American fans don't view your city as a legitimate sports town.
Very few people in Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, Tampa Bay, Southern Florida, North Carolina, Columbus, Ohio, Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta know anything about Guy LaFleur, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Maurice Richard, Larry Robinson, Yvan Cournoyer, Steve Shutt, Bernie Geoffrion, Ken Dryden and Jacques Plante.
But they do know that you booed "The Star Spangled Banner." It's hard to believe that your championship drought has now reached 16 years.
I predict that the Detroit Lions will reach the Super Bowl before your team will hoist another Stanley Cup Trophy because teams in the NFL have been know to change their fortunes quickly if they make the right moves in the drafts, via trades and on the waiver market. The Miami Dolphins went from 1-15 to 11-5 in one calendar year.
The perception of Montreal by todays players is that your area is viewed as Hockey's version of Siberia and they know the national television exposure and mega endorsement deals in Montreal are lacking.
Today's players will take the same approach as the Montreal Expos did by using your organizations as stepping stones toward free agency and seeking greener pastures. Your 100 year tradition will carry less weight in contract negations.
Then again, USA fans won't care about you and they'll continue to say "No Canada."
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.
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