Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) talks with Montreal Canadiens left wing Artturi Lehkonen (62) during warmups before the start of an NHL hockey game, Jan. 12, 2022, in Boston.
The Montreal Canadiens have become the standard for hockey excellence and are regarded as one of the greatest hockey teams of all time. They've won 24 Stanley Cups. And, so far, nobody else is even close.
But the Boston Bruins are on the verge of making history — eclipsing the Montreal Canadiens' coveted record of most points scored in a regular season, set back in 1977.
The two teams have had an intense rivalry for decades that has spilled over into their fandoms, with Canadiens’ fans, called Habs (short for the French term Les Habitants, or Settlers), hoping that the Bruins won’t be able to break the record as the season winds to an end.
To understand what’s got the two team’s fandoms so divided and the historic precedent that the Canadiens has set in hockey, Sunil Peetush, a Montreal Canadians superfan and the first official inductee into the Canadiens Hall of Fan joins The World’s Carol Hills.
Carol Hills: We've got to get down to it. We've got to talk Boston. I'm down here in Boston. What's your beef with us?
Sunil Peetush: Oh my gosh. Well, you know what? The rivalry between the Canadiens and the Boston Bruins has such a long history starting in 1924. We've played each other close to 950 times. There's a lot of bad blood between the Canadiens and the Bruins, and there's not just regular season history there. There's so much playoff history. That's where the rivalry really begins with any team. It's the postseason when you're going for that Stanley Cup. We've played them so many times in the postseason, and there's just so many stories. There's so much bad blood between the two teams on the ice. It just translates into this sort of bitter rivalry amongst fans. It's not an easy topic to talk about from a Montreal Canadiens fan perspective. Records are meant to be broken, but why did it have to be the Bruins that are going to break this record?
Let's get back to the Canadiens' record-breaking season of 1976-77. How hallowed is that record?
It's such a great record because that team represented really just the best of the Canadiens in terms of on-ice talent. You had all these great players on that team, and it just represented the pinnacle of a dynasty … of, you know, this golden era of the Canadiens sweeping the Stanley Cups in the '70s.
Sunil Peetush (middle) with daughter Sophia (left) and son Jai(right) in front of a trophy wall outside of the Montreal Canadiens locker room.
Courtesy of Sunil Peetush
You've been inducted into the Montreal Canadiens Hall of Fan. What is that, and what does that mean for you to be so honored?
It's a hall of fame for the top fans [of the team]. I was lucky enough to be inducted as the first inductee last year. I'm very grateful that my followers actually voted me in. [The team held] a contest and about 40,000 people applied. Many of my followers on Instagram applied, talking about how passionate I was about the Canadiens and that I had to be the first inductee. I take it rather seriously. I love the Canadiens. I'm a passionate, born-and-raised Montreal Canadiens fan, myself, you know. My family's an immigrant family. I'm of Indian descent, so that also sort of plays a role as well in my pride. I am not the typical hockey fan, as one would say, because, you know, I am ethnic. But the way the game is going now, there's a lot of multicultural people who are taking part in playing hockey. It's becoming very diverse, and I'm proud to represent the diversity of the fans as well.
Almost 50,000 people follow your Instagram page @HabsCave, which is dedicated to the Montreal Canadiens. If Boston breaks the record set by the 1976-77 Canadiens team, what will you say to them?
Oh boy, well, I will be happy to acknowledge the record because when records are broken, you have to discuss the past. Montreal has such a glorious past of winning and winning Stanley cups and setting records. So, it's not a bad thing, in my books, that the record is being approached. If the Bruins break the record, I'll take that as a positive because that's something for us to strive for again. Again, records are meant to be broken, and maybe the Canadiens can break that record going forward one day.
This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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