COLLINGWOOD – Toronto natives Michael Cammalleri, Chris Campoli and P.K. Subban, reflect on watching the Habs-Leafs rivalry as kids before growing up to be a part of it.
With training camp behind them and just over 24 hours until the first game of their regular season, the Habs leave Collingwood, bound for Toronto and a date with the Leafs.
After picking up a pair of points in the Habs 2009-10 season opener at the Air Canada Centre, Cammalleri was confined to press gallery for last year’s tilt after being handed a one-game suspension in the final match of the preseason – something he made sure wasn’t going to happen twice.
“I actually just got some congratulations from the boys for making it all the way through the preseason. It was much appreciated,” kidded Cammalleri, before going onto explain the significance of Thursday night’s match-up.
“It’s always special for me to play in Toronto and that’s something I’ve never hidden. I grew up there, all my family and friends are there and it’s the place where I spend most of my offseason,” mentioned the Habs sniper. “This should be a great game; it’s opening night, Habs-Leafs, and all the implications that come with it – it’s a dream come true for sure.”
P.K. Subban shared his teammate’s sentiments of what it means to play in front of his hometown as part of the historic rivalry.
“Being a kid and growing up, whenever the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs would come together on a Saturday, it would always be a big night at the Subban house with a big crowd showing up to watch the game,” reminisced Subban on the eve of his sophomore season wearing the bleu-blanc-rouge. “It’s amazing that I get to be a part of it now and I’m really looking forward to the game.”
While Subban and Cammalleri each already know the feeling of experiencing the classic rivalry from the inside, Chris Campoli is looking forward to living it for the first time.
“I’m excited to play this game for a number of reasons. It’s a great feeling to be able to go back and play there – especially wearing these colors – and getting the opportunity to be part of this rich rivalry between Toronto and Montreal,” expressed the Habs’ newest blue-liner.
“I remember watching those games as a kid and always thinking they were the best because they were always the most intense,” he added. “It seemed like it mattered every time they played and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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