Stu Cowan: Bruins fans in Montreal enjoying Boston's playoff ride

Comedian Joey Elias among those getting the last laugh right now in the Canadiens-Bruins rivalry.

Pat Leonard, far left, Wade Wilson, centre, holding Stanley Cup replica, and their friends from Greenfield Park celebrated the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup victory by driving Leonard's car in the city's 2011 Canada Day Parade. Credit: Courtesy of Wade Wilson Courtesy of Wade Wilson / Montreal Gazette

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If you’re a Montreal hockey fan you probably fall into one of two categories when it comes to the Boston Bruins: You love them or you hate them.

And if you’re a Canadiens fan living in Montreal, there’s a very good chance you have at least one friend who is a huge Bruins fan and is really rubbing in the fact Boston is headed to the Stanley Cup final, while the Canadiens missed the playoffs for the second straight season and the third time in four years. The Bruins swept the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference final with a 4-0 victory Thursday night in Carolina.

I know I have a lot of friends who became huge Bruins fans during the 1970s because of Bobby Orr — still the greatest hockey player ever, in my opinion — and are relishing this playoff drive. There are also a lot of Boston fans in Kahnawake because of former Bruins legend Stan Jonathan, a 5-foot-8, 175-pound full-blooded Mohawk/Tuscarora who was one of the toughest players in the NHL during the 1970s.

Pat Leonard, far left, Wade Wilson, centre, holding Stanley Cup replica, and their friends from Greenfield Park celebrated the Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup victory by driving Leonard’s car in the city’s 2011 Canada Day Parade. Courtesy of Wade Wilson / Montreal Gazette

One huge Bruins fan who lives in Montreal is well-known comedian Joey Elias, whose Twitter URL is @bruins_514. He used to be a Canadiens fan.

“But then along came a gentleman by the name of Cam Neely and I just loved the way he played,” Elias said. “That was it. I just love the guys who could get 50 goals and 250 penalty minutes. Also, growing up I thought Gerry Cheevers’s mask was the coolest mask I ever saw.”

Cheevers used to put black stitch marks on his white mask after each time he got hit in the face with a puck.

But Elias didn’t become an “all-in Bruins fan” until after the Canadiens fired head coach Randy Cunneyworth following the 2011-12 season.

“When he was let go because he wasn’t French, I thought: Well, this team cares more about politics than it does about winning,” Elias said. “I use sports as an escape from the real world — I think that’s what most people do. So why am I encouraging a team that brings politics into sports? So I just went: Well, I’ve always liked the Bruins as my second team and that was it. I just went full throttle as a Bruins fan.”

Elias is having great fun these days bugging his friends who are Canadiens fans.

“I do enjoy this … I’m not going to lie after all the years I’ve taken abuse,” he said Thursday afternoon.

The Canadiens have won a record 24 Stanley Cups, while the Bruins have only six. But times have changed with the Bruins only missing the playoffs twice in the last 12 years, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Cup final in 2013. The Canadiens haven’t been to the Cup final since 1993, when they last won it.

“A friend of mine just had a kid and I got him a Bruins onesie for his child,” Elias said. “He wrote back: ‘You know, we used to be friends. What’s with this piece of crap?’ I told him: ‘You have to teach your kid about playoff hockey.’ With my Habs friends, it’s a fun rivalry and I think the majority of the Boston-Montreal rivalry is fun.”

Elias added he has a lot of Italian friends who cheer for the Bruins as part of the ABC Club: Anything But Canadiens. He said former Bruins star Phil Esposito is a big reason for that.

“I always bug them and joke they just like hockey because (the sticks) make their tomatoes grow better in the off-season,” Elias said with a chuckle.

But the comedian won’t bring up the Canadiens-Bruins rivalry during his standup routines unless someone is heckling him.

“I try not to joke about all that because some people don’t take well to jokes about the Canadiens,” he said. “They’d rather hear me go off about (Justin) Trudeau than tell you Carey Price is average.”

After the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, a few of my buddies decided to celebrate by taking part in Greenfield Park’s Canada Day parade on the South Shore. Seven of them piled into Pat Leonard’s 2003 Mustang convertible that was covered with Bruins logos while wearing their Boston colours and carrying an inflatable Stanley Cup. There were people on the parade route who booed them and sprayed them with hoses and water guns as they drove by, but the seven Bruins fans loved every second of it.

However, after the parade they were pulled over by a Longueuil police officer.

“I figured we’re done … we’re going to jail,” Leonard recalled. “We had seven guys in a four-seater. Then the cop, in a thick French accent, says: ‘I have four teams that I cheer for: the Celtics, the Patriots, the Red Sox and the Bruins … way to go, boys!’ It was classic.”

The boys are planning to drive in the Canada Day parade again this year if the Bruins win the Cup.