Reverse Retrogate: the curse of the blue jersey
They don’t wanna see us win
It’s Feb. 4, 2021. You’re getting ready to watch the Montreal Canadiens go up against the Ottawa Senators.
But when you turn on the TV, you notice something’s a bit different. The Habs are wearing blue? Their jerseys are cute, but they’re blue? You think to yourself, “the boys look great so I’m sure they’ll play even better.” Except, they don’t—they actually lose the game.
And then on Feb. 11, when they go up against the Edmonton Oilers, also wearing those gorgeous blue jerseys, they lose again. Some have argued the reverse retro jerseys are simply cursed, but I suspect there’s more to it than that. Well, not ‘more’ in the sense that I could offer a compelling analysis relevant to the intricacies of the sport. Nope, the best I could do is a far-fetched conspiracy theory—but hey, Woodward and Bernstein turned out to be right about Nixon.
Of course, blue makes up a third of the Habs’ classic ‘bleu, blanc, et rouge’ colour scheme, but we’ve never seen it done like this before—as of recent history at least. The reverse retro jerseys are meant to pay tribute to the 1909-1910 National Hockey Association Canadiens jerseys, which were, as you might’ve guessed, blue. In 2009, they wore another version of the blue jerseys to celebrate their centennial anniversary. It was more similar to the original team’s sweaters, featuring a white trim and the letter ‘C’ on the chest, which they wore in a game against the Detroit Red Wings. Interestingly enough, they lost that game too. So the plot thickens.
Initially, I suspected it was a matter of the quintessential cute-to-good-at-stuff ratio. It’s just one of those laws of physics, like gravity if you will. The theory supposes that the better one looks, the worse they will perform. However, we can’t ignore that the Habs’ other jerseys are also cute! So it’s probably not that. No, it must have something to do with the blue.
Here’s what I’m thinking, blue jerseys? Very Toronto Maple Leafs energy. True that there are other teams who wear blue, but none have had such a significant rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens. Theirs goes way back, all the way to the humble beginnings of the NHA—the NHL’s precursor.
In fact, a fight between Eddie Livingstone, owner of the Toronto Blue Shirts and the other owners—including George Kennedy, the owner of the Montreal Canadiens—led to the establishment of the National Hockey League in 1917. Some fun trivia for ya, but the most important part being that the Maple Leafs, once upon a time, were called the Blue Shirts! So blue jerseys remain a crucial part of their legacy as it used to be their namesake. Well, well, well, now we’re getting somewhere.
Let me break it down for you. Toronto has always played in blue. Now all of the sudden, Montreal, their biggest rival, is playing in blue? Suspicious. Really, the only logical conclusion is the Maple Leafs cursed the Habs’ reverse retro jerseys so they would lose while wearing them. Obviously.
It’s especially curious that the Habs’ blue jerseys were introduced this year because now they’ll be playing the Leafs a lot more than they would during any other season—up to 10 times. It’s a result of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, which realigned the divisions in an effort to minimize travel, particularly between the Canadian and American border. The North Division is dedicated entirely to the Canadian teams, which is sure to reignite past rivalries. Perhaps, to the extent that the Maple Leafs need some magic on their side to ensure a victory over the Habs—hoping to recreate the events of the 1967 Stanley Cup finals.
Seeing as hockey reports love bringing up the stats, consider this: every single time the Habs have worn blue jerseys, whether it be during that odd game in 2009 or the two in 2021, they’ve lost. I’m not great at math, but three for three is a perfect losing rate—pretty compelling evidence. I mean, yeah, It’s entirely possible that the Habs’ losses and their reverse retro jerseys are a matter of correlation versus causation. But, drawing it up to a coincidence isn't as fun. As dedicated fans, our options amount to either a) taking responsibility for our bad plays, or b) blaming our misfortunes on Toronto—and what’s more on-brand for Montrealers than that?
So far, everything that’s happened supports my thesis. If the Habs lose tonight, then I’ll know that I was right. But, if the Habs win, then I’d still be right because clearly the only rational explanation would be that Kyle Dubas—the Leafs’ general manager—read my article, knew that I was onto him, and decided to temporarily lift the curse in order to maintain plausible deniability. Either way, I’ll be right and it’s just a matter of finding out why. We’ll see how the rest of the scandal unfolds at 7 p.m., when Montreal plays Toronto in those beautifully haunted reverse retro jerseys. Stay tuned.