A little bad blood just fine by Carbonneau

Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau doesn't mind that recent Leafs-Habs tilts have become more bitter....

Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau doesn't mind that recent Leafs-Habs tilts have become more bitter. (Bill Kostroun/AP/file)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Guy Carbonneau has been through these wars before.

Back in the days when the Quebec Nordiques and Montreal Canadiens were setting the standard of what a "hated rivalry" really was, it was Carbonneau's job to slow down Nords superstar Peter Stastny by whatever means possible.

At that time, whenever those two teams locked horns, there were as many scraps in the stands at the Montreal Forum and the Quebec Colisee as there were on the ice. Because the Nords were owned by Carling O'Keefe and the Habs by Molson, fans would go fist city after debating which brand of suds was better.

And who can forget the famous bout during the 1984 playoffs when the Nords' Louis Sleigher dropped the Jean Hamel with The Sucker Punch Heard 'Round La Belle Province. The incident occurred just after Carbonneau had been in an altercation with Quebec's Dale Hunter.

By no means is the modern-day Maple Leafs-Canadiens rivalry anywhere close to that. In fact, there might never be another rivalry like it.

At the same time, Carbonneau, now the Canadiens' head coach, doesn't mind that recent Leafs-Habs tilts have become more bitter, a trend culminated by the feud between Toronto forward Mikhail Grabovski and Montreal winger Sergei Kostitsyn.

For his part, Carbonneau told Montreal reporters this week that he will not shackle Kostitsyn from participating in extracurricular activities in the event they arise during tonight's Leafs-Habs meeting at the Bell Centre.

"I think it's just great," Carbonneau said, flashing a grin when asked about the feud between the two Belarusians. "You need emotion to play. For me and Peter Statsny, it wasn't love.

"I don't see why I would talk to (Kostitsyn). Power plays are an important part of the game and I don't want him to go out there and be stupid. But if they have problems, there is one way to fix it."

Of course, the level of intensity in the Leafs-Canadiens rivalry already had increased a good two months prior to the Jan. 8 game in which Grabovski and Kostitsyn almost scrapped.

On Nov. 8, at the Air Canada Centre, Montreal forward Tom Kostopoulos smeared Mike Van Ryn into the boards from behind, leaving the defenceman with a concussion, two lost teeth, a busted nose and a fractured hand.

Weeks later, Van Ryn claimed that Kostopoulos, who received a three-game suspension for the hit, was not someone who normally went over the line like that.

"Maybe it was the rivalry, maybe he was trying to make the big hit, I don't know," Van Ryn said.

Maybe that was exactly the reason.


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