A new agreement for the Leafs and their fans
Good afternoon, Leafs Nation, and welcome to the rest of our season.
Around the NHL, the post-All-Star home stretch is a time of escalating thrills as teams jockey for position in the standings and tweak rosters for the big show this spring.
In blue-and-white country, well, the situation is a little different.
With no playoff action since 2004 – and no reason to believe this will change by April – the thrills are more fleeting than escalating. Instead of gearing up for the big show we are now gearing down for the small signposts that occasionally zoom past our sad faces as we cruise along Highway 67: The Unorthodox Rebuild in search of cheap gas and moral victories.
Hey, look over there, the billboard we just passed read: "CAUTION: THEY ARE YOUNG." Cool. And look at that sign: "YIELD TO BETTER DAYS AHEAD." Awesome. Or that one over there: "WARNING: WATCH FOR INCONSISTENCY."
Yes, we have reached the point in the season when Leaf fans sigh loudly, crank up the tunes and ignore the ominous sounds rumbling from underneath our rusty vehicles.
Me, I'm just going to enjoy the bumpy ride, starting with tonight's game against Florida.
I know this sounds lame and pitiful. I know it smacks of defeatism, of surrender, like I am part of the problem or a feckless cog in the gnashing MLSE machine. Am I suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? Perhaps.
But as my grandmother used to say: "You can't fit a square peg inside a round hole."
Here's the thing: If Leaf fans are deprived of the playoffs for yet another year, if we are forced to trade escalating thrills for lowered expectations – Let’s not give Boston another lottery pick! People, we can do this! – we at least deserve some quid pro quo.
There are 33 games remaining this season. This morning, I drafted an agreement contract for the Leafs and their fans. Feel free to make amendments or changes:
THIS AGREEMENT MADE ON THE__1st____ DAY OF ___FEBRUARY____, IN THE YEAR 20__11__, IS BETWEEN __THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS____ AND __LEAFS NATION__.
In consideration of mutual covenants and prior agreements such as winning or making the playoffs or not trading first-round draft picks, the two parties agree to amend the rules of engagement hereto:
___LEAFS NATION____ agrees to:
1. Be patient and comply with the tenets inherent in this reconstructive phase, hereby referred to as "The Rebuild."
2. Support "The Other Party" in good times and bad times and times of bitter despair, but reserve the right to be critical during the latter two periods within a) specific game situations and, b) the general parameters of "The Rebuild."
3. Refrain from throwing breakfast items on the ice and/or scrawling profane messages on the expensive vehicles belonging to "The Other Party."
4. Not scrutinize the standings each and every morning while weeping and/or calculating magic numbers and/or longing for the days of Doug Gilmour.
5. Not ask questions of co-workers, family members and others outside either Party, such as "Did you see the highlights from last night? Are these guys on crack?"
6. Look for positives and, when none are present, consume lemon squares in stony silence.
7. Second-guess players, coaches and management only if said second-guessing is predicated upon actions that meet the legal threshold of "gross incompetence."
8. Create an atmosphere inside the Air Canada Centre that is boisterous and upbeat and not consistent with a prayer group, though praying is permitted at all times.
9. Limit booing and/or heckling to short intervals when the team is losing and/or getting outworked for no apparent reason.
10. Maintain felicity and devotion to "The Rebuild," however difficult, and experiment with chants, rituals, superstitions and potent potables.
_THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS_____ agree to:
1. Work hard every shift, every game, irrespective of fatigue and/or travel.
2. Refrain from using the words or phrases "fun," "we tried our best," "we ran into a hot goalie," "we just didn't catch any breaks," "we can't explain it," "it was just one of those things," "we really can't explain it, really" or "snake-bitten" during interviews following a loss.
3. Create the impression of really caring.
4. Remember how lucky they are to be doing what they are doing.
5. Learn from mistakes.* (*This learning shall be limited to two weeks per mistake.)
6. Skate with enthusiasm, pass with vision, hit with cruel intention, shoot with accuracy, play with confidence.
7. Reject any and all excuses related to "The Rebuild."
8. Support each other on the ice while embracing a sense of individual responsibility.
9. Make an effort to see "The Other Party," not as a source of distraction or nagging frustration, but as a source of inspiration.
10. Avoid complacency, indifference, apathy, learned helplessness, despair, vanity, selfishness and/or comfort with proximity to mediocrity. Any symptoms of Blue and White disease are to be reported immediately.
This agreement shall be binding upon the Parties, their successors, assigns, personal representatives, mascots and fellow travelers. All undertakings are subject to unforeseen circumstances, such as a 10-game winning streak. This agreement shall be enforced under the laws of _____LEAFS NATION_______.
Signed in the presence of:
Witness: _______________ First Party: _______________
Witness: _______________ Second Party: _______________
G O L E A F S G O