When an intense rivalry turns into off-ice hatred
The on-ice moments in the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry speak for themselves. From Ken Dryden’s heroics in the 1971 Stanley Cup Semifinals and too many men eight years later, to the B’s lifting the ghosts at the old Montreal Forum in ’88 and Nathan Horton’s series clincher in 2011, the chapters reveal some compelling stories.
Then there’s some off-ice hatred that have hit both cities hard. The latest incident came after notorious Bruins villain PK Subban scored his second of the night in double overtime to give the Montreal Canadiens a 4-3 win in Game 1.
The postgame media scrums were filled with questions on how the Bruins missed their chances or how Carey Price stole the show. Many members of the hockey media would then gather their quotes and share them on Twitter before writing their stories as usual.
But instead of users turning their attention towards their favorite writers and outlets for their postgame coverage, they turned to Twitter for something else. Something ugly. They turned their attention to a few narrow-minded individuals who call themselves Bruins fans. More specifically, they turned their attention to the racist tweets directed at Subban.
The morning after a game is usually a time to divulge the last bit of information from the night prior before the next round of storylines make their way in the news cycle. Rather than typing their stories on what the Bruins need to do to tie the series, or what the Habs need to do to steal another game at the TD Garden before the series shifts to the Bell Centre, media outlets focused their attention on the racist tweets that don’t reflect the opinions of the Boston Bruins organization, the media, or the real Bruins fans.
It is a double-edged sword for those of us in the media. On one hand, the fact that there is still a race problem in today’s society needs to be the subject of our attention. On the other hand, individuals who perform ignorant acts like this – or any other form of hate – should be ignored.
That’s exactly what Bruins President Cam Neely said as he issued a statement about the racist comments:
“The racist, classless views expressed by an ignorant group of individuals following Thursday’s game via digital media are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization,” Neely said in his statement.
It’s a reminder that a few individuals can seem to give a team’s fan base a bad reputation. It’s a reminder that those who would rather pony up the cash to attend a playoff game at TD Garden or the Bell Centre can have their experiences ruined by one heinous act. It’s a reminder that those who watch on TV or view the game online can also have that experience taken away by some ludicrous individual acts of cowards who are hiding behind the anonymity of the internet.
In a rivalry as fierce and historic as that between the Bruins and Habs, this sort of ugliness can surface every so often. A perfect example of this came when the National Hockey League decided not to discipline Zdeno Chara for checking Max Pacioretty into the stanchion in an early March game during the 2010-11 season.
Canadiens fans were upset and vented their frustrations the right way as they went to social media, blogs, websites, TV stations and other outlets to voice their complaints. Some, however, took it a bit too far when they called the police to conduct a criminal investigation on Chara (the police eventually did so, in another absurd moment in B’s-Canadiens history). It was another incident where a few individuals had to go an extra step further and give Habs fans a hit to their reputation.
Painting an entire fanbase based on a 911 call is certainly unfair to those who found other ways to vent. Declaring an entire city as racist because of a few careless tweeters is also bad in and of itself.
Being a hockey writer, I’ve encountered many Bruins and Canadiens fans and media members and engaged in discussions.We agree on some issues; on other, we disagree. However, I have nothing but respect for the B’s and Habs fans and players that I come into contact with on a daily basis in my profession.
There’s still room to discuss which team has the better X’s and O’s, which team and fans have the better traditions, which city has the better culture, and more. Taking great pride in rooting on your team or being a part of a great city is something we all do.
As ugly as this recent incident has been, Boston is not a racist city, and real Bruins fans are not bigots. There is room to turn this negative into a positive. And that should be the focus going forward.