There’s been a fair bit of controversy around lighting up things in Ontario in Montreal Canadiens colo(u)rs; the Canadiens are the last remaining based-in-Canada team in the NHL playoffs, but they’re also a longstanding rival of the Toronto Maple Leafs (and just beat them in the first round). So that led to pushback when the federally owned-and-operated CN Tower was lit in Canadiens colors, including from Toronto mayor John Tory, who declared that the Toronto city sign would remain in white and blue (Leafs colors). The new and fun version of this controversy comes from Niagara Falls being lit in Canadiens colors Saturday and Sunday, which hasn’t seen as much Leafs’ pushback, but did see a surprising claim from the Russian consulate in Toronto that it was really about them (Saturday was also Russia Day):
Shaping as a tradition on #RussiaDay majestic #NiagaraFalls🇨🇦 were illuminated 🟥🟦⬜️ to honour the colours of the @Russia'n Flag🇷🇺.#RussiaDay2021 #Russia1Love #WeAreRussia #ДеньРоссии #ДеньРоссии2021 #МыРоссия pic.twitter.com/w3Tt0g1biP
— Consulate General of Russia in Toronto (@Russia_Toronto) June 13, 2021
That’s the official Russian consulate account, and it was retweeted by the official Russian embassy in Canada account, so this isn’t just a low-level thing. However, Russia Day was not the reason at all, with the Niagara Falls Tourism account confirming Sunday they did this for the Canadiens (their online schedule also had that listed):
Niagara Falls will be illuminated red, white and blue tonight from 9:30-10pm in support of the Montreal Canadiens. Join us as we cheer them on towards their pursuit of the #StanleyCup as Canada’s last remaining team in the 2021 @NHL playoffs.#hockey #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/JcBQFc9Bfa
— Niagara Falls Tourism (@NFallsTourism) June 13, 2021
And Janice Dickson of The Globe and Mail got some comment on this:
When asked about Russia’s tweet, Irene Knight, the public relations manager for Niagara Falls Tourism, said in an e-mail that the Falls were illuminated in support of the Montreal Canadiens, pointing to the message shared across social channels and also listed on the Falls’ illumination calendar.
So, either the Russian consulate didn’t know this wasn’t supposed to be about them, or they didn’t care and just claimed it anyway. In either case, it’s pretty funny that Canadiens’ lighting controversies are now creating international incidents.