Did you ever read Ken Dryden's book The Game Matty?
It actually kind of contradicts what I am saying about the significance of Leafs/Habs - but it was written in the early 80's about a Habs team that had just piled like 6 Cups on top of the ~20 they already had - while the Leafs were an absolute joke owned by Harold Ballard. So the idea of a rivalry was strictly in the heads of delusional Leafs fans. Maybe it was all a bit before your time.
I feel on solid ground in saying some things have changed.
Haven't read the book, but the Leafs/Habs rivalry is definitely blown out of proportion by a certain segment of Leafs fans. Some of them can't stand the idea that Montreal is as big a hockey market as TO so they build up this "them vs. us" thing in their heads that's not been reflected on the ice for over half a century.
I grew up hating the Nordiques and Bruins, was always indifferent about the Leafs, at best. Was a fan of some of the most passionate players, namely Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour. Was not a fan of the Sundin era at all. Milquetoast giant.
BTW the HHOF belongs at least in part in Montreal. If I were a powerful billionaire I would waste a lot of my own money trying to get Montreal to build its own wing of the Hall of Fame, share custody of the Cup and all.
Besides, most people living in the city of Toronto these days do not give a shit about hockey.
Yeah, it's comparable to the Yanks/Sox in baseball prior to 2003 (?). The Yanks had like 27 World Serieses. WTF do they care about those guise who never win anything?
But to the Sox, the Yanks occupied a whole lot of mental real estate for good reason.
Anyway, my current position is that hopefully the Leafs are building towards what the Sox have done since then. Not there yet, but building. As for tonight's game, the teams are within a point of each other so it sets up as a decent match-up for a Saturday night.