Don Cherry's 'Dougie Kiss' smacked on Nazem Kadri a good sign
When Don Cherry planted that smooch on Nazem Kadri’s cheek Saturday, the stars aligned for Toronto Maple Leafs fans.
Leafs faithful have marked the kiss as an omen of good things to come as their anticipation builds for an overdue playoff birth.
The Leafs are poised to make the post-season, the kiss confirmed. Finally, after nearly 10 years, the playoffs are coming to Toronto. Hockey and superstitions go hand in hand, of course.
Sure, last time Cherry smooched a Leafs player, his buddy Doug Gilmour in 1993, the Leafs then lost to Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in the semi-finals.
But that’s the closest they’ve been to Stanley since winning the cup in 1967.
Mats Sundin led them to the conference finals, too, of course, in 2002 against Carolina, but they lost that series 4-2 whereas Gilmour’s Leafs lost 4-3. There were four other semis since 1967, none as promising as 1993.
That leaves Gilmour’s run as the freshest memory of playoff success for many young fans, me included, and Cherry’s kiss could mean another memory’s coming.
At 26, I can remember Gilmour’s miracle run, likely from highlights, tall tales and countless NHL 94 rematches against the Kings on Super Nintendo.
But for the older generation, playoff success means celebrations, parades through the streets, year after year, as the Leafs dominated the 60s with four cups in six years.
There’s a generational gap in Leafs fans, but one thing remains constant: a fierce fandom that surrounds the team no matter their record.
A true Leafs fan has patience, exhibits extreme devotion and cheers for the buds whether they’re winning or losing.
More often than not, such fans will bring up “blood” when pressed about their support; hockey and the Leafs are “in their blood,” they’ll say.
But other “fans” gave up hope long ago, as I did, when the Leafs missed the playoffs year after year after year but continued to sell out the Air Canada Centre.
The team was no longer in it to win, why should they be, right? They still sell out. The Leafs are just a big business. Casual fans with this belief aren’t part of the fandom, where diehard supporters bleed blue and fervently defend their club.
It’s a fanatic mindset I could never understand, but will try to as I journey into the proverbial “Leafs Nation.”
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be running Bleeding Blue, a Toronto Star blog about and for Leafs fans, and I want to hear from you, the true fan.
Think you’re the biggest Leafs fan? Prove it. Got the craziest Leafs story? See if you can beat all the others. Want to weigh in on the Leafs with other fans? Come join the conversation on the blog and take its daily poll.
Let’s take this overdue playoff road together. Look forward to it.
Oh, and please note I was in no way equating Kadri to Gilmour by bringing up the superstitious Cherry kiss – as good as the kid has been, he’s got a ways to go before joining the likes of Dougie.
Alex Consiglio can be reached at 416-814-2764, or at email@example.com.