For Habs fans, a headquarters in Toronto
Arjun D. Sehgal
TORONTO, ONTARIO — You may not know this, but the Montreal Canadiens have an embassy in Toronto.
Kilgour’s Bar Meets Grill may look like an ordinary Toronto drinking establishment when you walk or drive by it but step inside and it becomes clear this place is a little different. Kilgour’s may live in the heart of Maple Leafs’ country, but it’s a Canadiens’ hangout all the way.
For readers who aren’t familiar with Canadian hockey history, allow me to explain. There are certain things in this world that don’t get along very well. Ice cream and salami. Peanut butter and onions. Ketchup and oatmeal. When it comes to hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens fit nicely into that analogy. These rivals have a long, complicated history and it hasn’t always been a nice one. With the National Hockey League season in full swing and the Leafs actually nipping on the heels of a playoff spot for the first time in a long time, I decided to walk into Kilgour’s wearing my Leafs jersey.
I was expecting things to be a bit dicey with my blue-and-white declaration of allegiance, but funny enough I had a great time. No need to feel threatened here, folks — you will love the hospitality of the staff and the environment. In fact, during my visit to Kilgour’s I happened to run into someone I hadn’t seen in nearly five years. He was donning a Habs jersey. It was the first time I had seen him since meeting him in Germany — all this time I never knew he was secretly a Canadiens fan. It’s difficult to keep your alliances hidden at Kilgour’s.
“The owners of the pub are adamant about respect,” said assistant manager Steven Shand.
A Bar That’s a Must-Visit for Hockey Fans
Along with an array of continental beers available, Kilgour’s has the type of food you would expect from a sports bar. I enjoyed Dave’s Burger ($11, and literally a heart attack of goodness on a plate). Knocking down a meal and a cold one is always fun but I wasn’t there to eat. What I really wanted to experience is hockey from a perspective you don’t often see in Toronto. I may not be a Canadiens fan, but so what? Just being a hockey fan is enough to appreciate the photographs and mementoes of legendary players on the wall, including an autographed jersey of former Canadiens and current Nashville Predators defenceman P. K. Subban — a gift from Habs executive Kevin Gilmore himself, who visited Kilgour’s a few years ago and was thrilled with his experience.
Kilgour’s has been around for more than 20 years and its clientele has grown tremendously thanks to word of mouth and social media. Most weekend games can lead to two-hour wait times — three hours during playoffs — leading to reservations from fans coast to coast who are visiting Toronto.
“This bar is kind of my life. My brother Andrew and I have been working together for almost 35 years,” co-owner Peter Kilgour said. “I’m very proud of this place. And no, you don’t have to be a Habs fan to come here. Steve Shand and I are Habs fans but we have a lot of Leafs fans who come in here, and Detroit and Boston fans, of course.”
Any game night is a good time to go but there’s something about that Habs-Leafs rivalry. So if you visit at all, try and do so on a night these two teams are playing each other. Their last scheduled meeting of 2017 takes place on February 25.
What I love about Kilgour’s is you don’t have to be a Habs fan to enjoy an evening. But, to be honest, it wouldn’t hurt.
— With Files From Rod Charles
MORE ABOUT KILGOUR’S BAR MEETS GRILL