Blue Jays find lukewarm support in Montreal, former home of Expos
Few Montreal fans jump on Jays bandwagon despite cheering for ‘Canada's team’ during preseason
The Blue Jays' bandwagon may be picking up hitchhikers on the road to the World Series, but in Montreal it's picking up something else: dirty looks.
Many long-time baseball fans here harbour deep-seated hostility toward the Jays. And that flies in the face of the team's claim to being a truly "national" club.
"Just sticking a maple leaf" on the team's logo doesn't mean it "represents Canada," said David McGimpsey, the Montreal-based author of Imagining Baseball: America's Pastime and Popular Culture.
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Denis Coderre, Montreal's baseball-loving mayor, has said sellout crowds at Olympic Stadium for preseason Blue Jays games prove this is a "baseball city."
The Toronto organization has even publicly supported Montreal's bid for a new Major League team.
Despite all that — and the Jays' newfound success on the field — Montreal sports bar manager Terry Vasilakos says he's only noticed a "small spike" in the number of patrons coming to watch Jays games.
"People (here) are more excited for hockey to start," Vasilakos said.
Four decades of history
Playing in separate leagues, the two teams rarely met on the field. It was the Jays' support of a plan to relocate Nos Amours in 2004 that would ultimately leave a sour taste in the mouths of Montrealers to this day.
After the Expos' move to Washington, D.C., pro baseball wouldn't return to Montreal's Olympic Stadium for 10 years. Ironically, Toronto would be the team to fill the seats with 100,000 baseball fans for preseason games the past two springs.
The countless Expos caps and jerseys in the stands spoke volumes about who Montrealers were really there to support.
The Jays will take to the Big O field again next April to face the Boston Red Sox.
"Go for the Blue Jays, because I already have a deal with Russell Martin," Coderre said. "When the Expos come back, he will play for Montreal."
Thomas Daigle is a national reporter for CBC News based in Montreal, covering stories for The National, CBC News Network and all other platforms. As a child, Thomas had a Blue Jays team picture on his wall and an Expos cap on his head.