• By: Dave Gross

An intimate guide to hockey fans in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto


It’s about the only thing that can most certainly drive a mature, serene hard-working and responsible adult into raving madness and illogical reasoning.

What fun, eh?

But true. Damn true.

And I’m not just pointing fingers here, I’m as guilty as the rest of you. When I was a kid growing up in Montreal I gained an absolute hate on for the Canadiens. My reasoning was logical (in this instance): My older brother had first dibs at favourite hockey teams and snagged Montreal. I was then left with the dregs, which in this case was Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins.

Pretty decent dregs.

You see the logic here, right? Since he was my rival and older, constantly teasing brother I could not under any circumstances agree with him on favourite team. Hence the Bruins.

So there I was in the mid-1970s pounding my fists in frustration on the basement floor, tears flowing, as Ken Dryden stole a sure playoff win away from the heavily favoured Bruins.

The teasing, of course, picked up considerably from there and has cost me thousands in therapy. It wasn’t his fault. That’s just what older brothers do. (Although I’m thinking of sending him the bill.)

As an adult not too much has changed on my side. I still cheer and grind – although a little more quietly – for my teams. As a self-respecting journalist though, I won’t/can’t reveal my biases. You can take that any way you like . . . just take it. (I’d write ‘LOL’ right about now, but I am hostile to ‘LOL.’)

I remain, steadfastly, impartial when I write. At the very least, I do my best to uphold some sort of fair and neutral takes when I put this slop together every week.

So I got to thinking the other night, what identifiers are there in place for the fans of the three hockey teams that gather the most support in Ottawa? Is there belligerence, vitriol, insecurity or short-sightedness in each port?

Let’s check it out.

See, all those dollars spent in therapy are paying off, or are about to.

And we’ll go in alphabetical order just so nobody gets their shorts in a tightened knot.


Character attributes: Traditionalistic; reality-driven; joie-de-vivre; solid chanters; best hot dogs (I know, I know – not really a fan-created thing but had to get it in here somehow); knowledgeable; travels well; least annoying of the three.

Character defects: Still thriving on past accomplishments – “I say, Jacques! Did you realize we’ve won 24 Stanley Cups? I say, 24 Cups!” “Yes (or oui) mon grands chum . . . you only remind me every time we take a loss.;” poor dietary habits (see: chiens chauds); prideful; perfectionism; greed (how many Cups do you actually need?).

Synopsis: So, I grew up with these guys and there’s definitely respect there, even if I did try to take out the floor as a kid. Recognized as the New York Yankees of hockey which is more relevant to the 1970s than the 2020s. But, all said and done, the tops of the tops as far as fans in hockey go.


Character attributes: Never-give-up attitude; most forgiving as a fan and media base; embraces small-market-Canada description; patient; extremely patient; hot dogs are big.

Character defects: Low self-esteem; driven by schadenfreude – “Did you see the Leafs lost last night, ha! Did you see the Habs lost last night, ha!” (What they do when the Leafs play the Habs, I have no clue); procrastinators – “We’ll be soooo much better next year!;” envious; allows thousands of infiltrators to overflow arena on any given night.

Synopsis: Came into the league with the Tampa Bay Lightning, which can’t be good for anyone’s morale or ego. Add to that the national media’s preponderance of coverage on their rivals and you can see why insecurities abound. Founded more than 30 years ago as a franchise so the overflow of Leaf and Habs sweaters in the stands has gotten real old.


Character attributes: Steadfast belief; stick-to-itiveness never dies; pack mentality; travels well and often best post-game callers for anger/joy/outrage/hope/lack-of-balance; dresses well in the 100-level.

Character defects: Hot dogs cost – roughly – a second mortgage; narcissistic; ignores rest of the league unless Montreal’s in town; identifies with Bad Luck Schlep Rock; invasive; in-your-face at all times.

Synopsis: Opening the gates at Ottawa home games against Toronto is akin to the action scenes in World War Z . . . watch the horde stampede and devour the locals. As far as describing what it means to be a Leaf fan, an old friend once told me: “If your life’s desire is to experience constant disruption, dejection and disappointment, cheer for the Maple Leafs.” Pass the Tums, fandom never had it so good and bad.


Saturday, Feb. 11: Edmonton at Ottawa (12:30 pm)

Monday, Feb. 13: Calgary at Ottawa (7:30 pm)

Tuesday, Feb. 14: Ottawa at NY Islanders (7:30 pm)


Photo: courtesyNHL.com