When the Montréal Canadiens and Toronto Arenas (now Maple Leafs) first faced off on December 26, 1917, most would not have expected this to be the start of a century-old national rivalry. No, most of the fans that night would have just been taking in this athletic spectacle with new teams, while players and management were likely just hoping that the newly-founded National Hockey League would survive its inaugural season, due to the league being mired in legal threats and the continuing war effort overseas.
But what began that fateful night was not just one of the most intense rivalries in sports, but the matchup that would grow to define a nation, the aforementioned separate legends, English and French, Maple Leafs and Canadiens, side by side, building upon a foundation of tradition, respect and heritage that has fuelled this rivalry throughout Canada for the past hundred years. Two Solitudes is here to chronicle and pay tribute to this historic rivalry, and register future chapters as they unfold into the next century.
Two old races and religions meet here and live their separate legends, side by side. If this sprawling half-continent has a heart, here it is. – Hugh MacLennan, “Two Solitudes” (1945)