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10/19/2009

The way of the Leafs

Steve Russell, Staff Photographer

I grew up in a house with a die hard Leaf fan, I was a Montreal fan. I had to hear all about the great Leafs over the years, Darryl Sittler, Rick Vaive, Lanny McDonald, Garry Leeman, Miroslav Frycer, I heard about all of the men that would never have a ring on their finger for bringing the Blue and White the ultimate hockey prize.

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It seemed a little cruel to me, having the current Leafs dressed in the jerseys of the greats from the 1990's. More than a few of the people in the seats would have loved to see those guys all on one team.

I'm a little less of a Habs fan now, I don't keep up with the team. I'm still not a Leafs fan, I still enjoy tormenting my brother about their difficulties. But, in the dozen plus years I have been working in Toronto, my interest in the team is huge. It's my job to know all about them and I no longer root against them. I watch them all the time, it helps me do my job better when I know how they play, same for the Argos, Blue Jays, Raptors, Rock and TFC.

And when a Toronto squad does well, it makes our jobs a little more fun, the teams are more pumped, they play with a higher level of intensity, the fans are happier and it opens up an opportunity for photographers to go on the road to cover play-offs. Loads of work and stress but also a lot of fun.

I covered my first Leafs game of the season Saturday night. After the first period I was impressed, I could not believe that this team hadn't won a game yet. I was impressed, I could not believe that the team out on the ice, crashing the net, hitting and winning races to the puck hadn't won a game yet this year. If it wasn't for Lundqvist the score would have been lopsided in the Leafs favour.

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On a breakaway, Jason Blake is stymied by Hendrik Lundqvist, one of several great scoring chances the Leafs had.

What happened during the first intermission, I don't know. I'm sure it had the fans in the stands equally confused and frustrated.

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Fan's signs and booing let the Leafs know how they felt with the team's efforts in the third period.

You can see a gallery of additional images from the game here

-srussell@thestar.ca

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