Saturday, June 19, 2021

Neighbourly hockey rivalry breaks pandemic boredom

  • May 26 2021
  • By Lois Ann Dort    

GUYSBOROUGH – “I think we might have the same politics, but I’m not sure, and I know one thing – we do have the same religion, so we are pretty compatible, other than hockey,” said Rita Kennedy of her neighbour Doreen Lombardo.

Kennedy and Lombardo (nee Halloran) grew up as next-door neighbours in Guysborough and – from the beginning – they got along, with the exception of the teams they cheered for; Lombardo is a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan, while Kennedy is a stalwart supporter of the Montreal Canadiens.

For Kennedy, the love of hockey and the Habs, in particular, started in early childhood. “There were six of us in the family. There were three Montreal Canadiens’ fans, a Chicago Blackhawk and a Detroit Red Wing; that was during the Gordie Howe days. That’s probably when I was five or six years old, and I have never changed,” said Kennedy, adding, “We had some good arguments around the table. The Canadiens were, for a few years, a top team; ‘Rocket’ Richard and Jean Béliveau, people like that.”

For Lombardo, it was a similar story; her fondness for the Leafs started in childhood.

Kennedy said, “The Halloran family and the Kennedys were like one big family really. It’s amazing how we ended up in this apartment building right next door to each other. We’ve always known each other and [are] very close.”

That’s why a little hockey rivalry has never come between the pair, but has added a little spice to the relationship.

This year, with the Habs and the Leafs squaring off in the North Division playoff, the pair decided to take their hockey rivalry public and make a bet. On their neighbouring balconies, each has displayed the jersey for her team; depending on the outcome on game nights, the loser must display her opponent’s jersey on her balcony and remove her fan favourite.

The bet is a fun addition to a sport the pair already loves and it’s added some variety to life in lockdown for the village of Guysborough; locals will always know the outcome of the game, even if they didn’t watch it on TV, as the friends’ second-story balconies look out over the highest traffic area in the community.

Kennedy said, “You see the mayors in different cities doing it (hockey bets). There’s not enough going on here, so we decided to put them (jerseys) out on the deck.”

Lombardo added that it has been a little fun in a time when not much else was, and it has piqued the community’s interest. Pictures of the jerseys on the balcony have shown up on many social media posts and have been the talk of the town.

Both Kennedy and Lombardo have only ever seen their teams play in-person once. About five years ago, Lombardo got a seat at a Leafs’ game when her grandchildren bought her a ticket and the jersey she has on display on the balcony.

The game was held in Ottawa, a city Lombardo called home for 25 years.

“Of course, they lost the game but that’s okay,” said Lombardo.

Kennedy commented with some admiration that, although Lombardo lived in a rival city for years, “She never left, she was living in Ottawa and remained a Toronto fan.”

To which Lombardo commented, “It was rough. It wasn’t fun. I would be the only one in the household watching that.”

For Kennedy, she had taken a trip in her teens to see her team. “Doug Harvey was playing so that was a long time ago. A couple of friends and I went – I suppose I was 17, maybe – up on the train and stayed overnight in a hotel just down from the Forum and spent the weekend – saw two games – it was great. And it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend,” she said, a great time to be in the city.

After the division playoff ends, both say they would cheer for the other’s team, if it was in the Stanley Cup final. “The last few years you’re pushing more for a Canadian team. This is why it is so exciting; it’s been years since we had two Canadian teams (in the playoffs). It’s the North Division they’re in; Toronto is in first place and Montreal in fourth … so it makes it interesting,” said Kennedy.

When their teams are playing, they never watch the game together. Kennedy said, “I don’t know why but we just don’t.”

Perhaps it has something to do with something else. Kennedy said, “I get very excited when I watch them (the Habs); been known to throw things and smashed the window out of the French doors by throwing a book I had in my hand.”

And this year more than ever, hockey is important. “Both of us are real sports-minded,” said Kennedy. “Thank God we have it through the pandemic.”