Canada fans celebrate during the WJC. (Toronto Star)
As co-hosts of the 2015 world juniors, Toronto and Montreal will be linked by the highway to hockey heaven. Here’s where to go and what do when you’re not at the rink.The rivalry between Toronto and Montreal extends well beyond the ice. As the London and Paris of North America, the two cities have long respectfully despised one another, mirroring on the municipal level their hockey teams’ mutual dislike. And like any long-standing conflict, this civic feud is filled with stereotypes from both sides. Torontonians look at Montreal and see a city of European lassitude and lax morals with a fashion sense that falls somewhere between hipster and homeless. Montrealers, meanwhile, think Toronto is the third-largest city in the United States filled with stuck-up suits and anal urban tree-huggers who could all use a little cultural proctology. For two weeks over the holidays, however, Toronto and Montreal will kiss and make up to co-host the 2015 World Junior Championship, putting the WJC hype machine on its biggest stage ever.
As far as host cities go, it doesn’t get any better for Hockey Canada, which expects to rake in a record profits, surpassing the $21 million it made in 2012 when Calgary and Edmonton were co-hosts. With a combined population of 4.5 million, Toronto and Montreal have the fan bases and the deep pockets to pay for packages that range from $170 to $2301 (though Montrealers were slower to snap up tickets than were Torontonians, who sold out their share months ago).For residents of Toronto and Montreal, it’s the perfect opportunity to reacquaint themselves with each other and put their stereotypes to the test. For out-of-town fans of the world juniors, it’s a chance to check out and compare Canada’s two largest cities and cultural hubs, and see for themselves whether the stereotypes hold true. Toronto and Montreal are about a one-hour flight or five-hour drive apart, but the smartest transportation link for fans to take is the train, which ties the two downtown cores together. It bypasses the hassle of getting to the airports, both of which are well outside the downtown areas, while each city’s subway system renders driving an unnecessary nuisance for visitors. Since the Air Canada Centre and Bell Centre are in the heart of their cities, downtown is where all the WJC action will be anyway. Pre-game, there’s no shortage of affordable fare. Montreal overflows with quaint bistros and cool cafes – and, of course, it has poutine, which is made dozens of different ways, and all increase in taste as their calorie counts rise. Toronto, however, is a culinary United Nations, offering every kind of cultural cuisine imaginable thanks to having the most ethnically diverse population in the world. Post-game, each city is home to a lively nightlife for fans looking to cut loose when hockey is done for the day. Here is where Montreal thrives. Toronto knows how to party – and it has one of North America’s top-rated sports bars in Real Sports, which is adjacent to the ACC – but Montreal knows how to party hard. Its last call (3 a.m.) is one hour later and drinking age (18) one year younger than Toronto’s, and fermented beverages are easily had at grocery and convenience stores instead of in tightly regulated government outlets. A greater percentage of Montrealers also frequent bars and clubs than do Torontonians, who prefer to spend their money on shopping and live entertainment. If there’s a stereotype the two cities have shared recently, it’s circus-like municipal politics and clowns for mayors. Rob Ford put Toronto on the late-night comedy map for four years with his extra-curricular activities of crack smoking and drunken stupors. Montrealers, meanwhile, had to bounce two mayors, Gerald Tremblay and Michael Applebaum, from office a mere six months apart for alleged corruption at city hall. In any comparison of the two cities, however, Montreal holds the trump card: the Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups to Toronto’s 13. Through the first 50 years of the NHL, the two franchises were neck and neck in championships, but since expansion in 1967 Montreal has won 10 more Cups, while Toronto has won none and now holds the ignominious title (with the St. Louis Blues) of the longest active drought at 47 years…and counting. For those who can’t make the trip to Toronto and Montreal for this year’s tournament, the two cities will team up again in two years. Toronto is home to the medal round this time around, but Montreal will have the honors the the 2017 world juniors. (They split round-robin games.) Which will be the better host? Torontonians and Montrealers will be happy to tell you. Just don’t believe the stereotypes.