Toronto vs Montreal: A tale of two cities off the ice

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Those looking for a refresher on the history of the rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs need look no further than Roch Carrier’s beloved tale “The Hockey Sweater.”

Drawing from his past experience as a hockey-mad boy in rural Quebec who idolizes Maurice Richard, Carrier tells the story of how his life turns upside-down when Eaton’s mistakenly sends him a sweater of the hated Maple Leafs to replace his worn No. 9 Montreal jersey.

Given hockey’s place in Canadian culture, the old animosity between the Leafs and the Habs is an entry point for understanding the dynamic between the cities. But the differences between Canada’s largest cities invite other comparisons in sports, culture and business.

With the start of the first playoff series between the Leafs and Habs since 1979 on the horizon, here is a look at just a few of the other ways the cities stack up against each other.

CELEBRITY FANS

When it comes to ardent celebrity fans, the Habs score with Jay Baruchel. The Montreal-raised comedy star is a well-known Canadiens devotee and wrote extensively about them in his book “Born Into It.”

Though the actor-filmmaker now lives in Toronto, he says his love of Les Habitants is just as strong.

American actor Viggo Mortensen is equally passionate about the team, often sporting Canadiens garb and even bringing a Habs flag onstage to accept a trophy for “A Dangerous Method” at the 2012 Genie Awards.

Star superfans on the Leafs side include Stratford, Ont.-raised pop sensation Justin Bieber, who has stated his song and music video for “Hold On” are a “love letter” to the team.

And let’s not forget about Toronto-raised comedy star Mike Myers, who has put references to the team in some of his “Austin Powers” films as well as “The Love Guru.”