Game 23: If my heart had a face it would look like this
I once saw a three-legged puppy in Barcelona.
It was late in the evening and the sky was a bizarre shade of crimson. My wife and I strolled across La Rambla, eating macadamia nuts while discussing nihilism and world affairs. Or maybe we were giggling about Britney Spears. I can't recall.
Anyway, at the edge of the boulevard, there it was.
Mottled and dirty, wobbling on three legs, the street puppy looked lost and confused in the shadows. It was so young. And, yet, life was already hopeless.
"Poor little guy," said my wife, crouching down and offering the puppy food and water
"That's the saddest thing I have ever seen," I said.
And it was – until last night's overtime loss.
Giving up a goal with less than 10 seconds left in the third? Giving up a two-on-one in overtime for the winner? Giving Leaf fans yet another reason to stumble out of bed and start the day with a sigh.
On Monday, I was on my way to a meeting near the Eaton Centre when I paused for a minute to watch an artist paint a mermaid atop the sidewalk at Yonge and Dundas.
The guy standing next to me was wearing a Leafs jersey under his unzipped coat. This is a rare sight these days. So I pointed at his chest and said: "It's nice to see you haven't lost faith yet."
He glanced at me with dead eyes and replied, "I can't take much more of this."
You know, if that three-legged puppy could talk, it would've probably said the same thing. In a way, we Leaf fans are all three-legged puppies. We stumble into the shadows each season hoping for the best but, deep down, we are conditioned for the worst.
And I can't speak for anybody else but I'm getting sick of the divergent lectures.
Leaf fans need to stop supporting this team! Leaf fans need to start supporting this team! Leaf fans need to get fed up! Leaf fans need to be patient!
The Leafs haven't won the Stanley Cup in my lifetime. They haven't made the playoffs in my daughters' lifetimes. I'm scared to buy a new car just in case the Leafs never score another goddamn goal.
It took 20 years to build the Great Pyramid. It took 10 years to build the Suez Canal. It took 3 years to build the CN Tower. It took 4 years to build the Golden Gate Bridge.
All of this combined is less than 43 years, so please don't talk to me about patience or rebuilding.
I am a Leafs fan. I support this team because, like that three-legged puppy, this is my fate. But as Hoofheartz wisely noted in the comments recently: "I'd say I've earned every right to chastise, berate or boo them whenever the hell I want to."
Some random team stats after 23 games:
WINNING PERCENTAGE: .435 (fifth worst in NHL)
POWER PLAY ON THE ROAD: 6.7 PER CENT (fourth worst in NHL)
GOALS PER GAME AVERAGE: 2.22 (third worst in NHL)
GOALS SCORED IN FIRST PERIODS: 13 (second worst in NHL)
NUMBER OF TIMES SHUTOUT: 5 (worst in NHL)
And if the on-ice woes weren't confusing enough, now there are now reports of a possible corporate shakeup. No wonder some fans are already on strike. No wonder the Leafs are now getting called "the biggest losers in professional sports."
Here at ALF B headquarters, we have not issued any ultimatums this season. But if this team does not storm out of the gates buzzing like a battalion of F-35 jets against Edmonton tomorrow night, if it does not fight for every inch of ice and skate with supersonic desperation, well, our right to chastise, berate and boo shall be taken to the next level.
I leave you with this recipe for lemon squares:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, well beaten
1 heaping tablespoon grated lemon rind
1/4 cup lemon juice
Sift flour and powdered sugar together. Cut in butter until well blended. Press mixture over bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch pan. Bake about 25 minutes at 300° until lightly browned. Combine remaining ingredients and spread on top of the baked crust. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Makes about 12 servings.
PHOTO: RENE JOHNSTON/TORONTO STAR