Montreal mayor defends team spirit after ordering Habs logos from fire stations

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MONTREAL - The city's mayor is seeing red - and white and blue - after firefighters painted several fire stations to show their support for the Montreal Canadiens.

As the Habs prepared to face the Boston Bruins in the first game of their playoff series on Thursday, Mayor Gerald Tremblay was getting ready to send in work crews to clean up the impromptu paint jobs.

"And we're going to send the bill to the (firefighters') union... it's tolerance zero," he said.

But Tremblay insisted his decision has nothing to do with a lack of team spirit.

"I have Habs fever, but I don't put graffiti or paint in the windows of my house," he told reporters Thursday while announcing new initiatives to fight graffiti.

The firefighters used water-based paint to decorate many of their station doors with the Canadiens logo and the team's storied red, white and blue colours.

Calling it vandalism, Tremblay said he wanted people to feel secure.

"Those responsible for security, whether they're police or firefighters, should set an example," he added.

The colourful paint jobs started at a downtown fire station on Monday. A string of other stations have since followed suit.

The firefighters are currently involved in a labour dispute with the city, but the captain of the station that kicked off the trend said that had nothing to do with it.

"There was no order from the union, it was only the firefighters here who decided to do that and other fire stations decided to support them," said Capt. Alain Saint-Pierre.

"It was simply to get caught in the hockey fever that's now sweeping Montreal."

He pointed out that despite the dispute with the city, no union slogans were painted on the stations. However, the union did instruct its members not to clean up their paint jobs.

Saint-Pierre apologized if anyone was offended by the display of team spirit. But he also said he was disappointed by the mayor's reaction.

"We just wanted to lighten the atmosphere," Saint-Pierre said.

Claude Dauphin, a member of Montreal's executive committee, issued a statement saying the city wasn't opposed to city employees expressing their support for the Habs.

"But the city will not tolerate damage caused to public equipment by firefighters, who have painted the doors and windows and truck tires," he said.

Last year, the city claimed that members of the firefighters' union twice used epoxy glue and other tricks to stop chiefs from getting into their stations.



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