Leafs' playoff performance could soften even a hard-core hater
If the Maple Leafs keep playing like they have against the
Boston Bruins and manage to get by them tonight, I could yet become a
is the easiest place in the world to sell hockey, which is why the Leafs have
been able to get away with icing a perennial loser and still fill the rink with
chumps willing to pay outrageous prices for tickets.
I didn’t grow up in Toronto
and have never been infected with fondness for the Leafs, but I have lived here
for more than 30 years and have witnessed the suffering of those who are.
I still remember an Export “A” cigarette calendar of the
1967 Leafs, the last time they won a Stanley Cup, on the wall of my Uncle Wayne
Blankenship’s barber shop in Burford Ont., when I was 10 years old.
Even as a boy I didn’t like them. I was a Boston fan, while my father and brother were
loyal to the Canadiens, whom I hated at least as much as the Leafs, since they
often knocked the Bruins out of the playoffs.
The only Leaf fan in our house was my mother, who was endlessly
needled by my Dad because they were such bums. On one occasion, she ended up
telling him to f… off (and this from a woman who never uttered a cuss word) and
stormed out of the house.
It is pitiful and disgusting to listen to Leaf fans engage
in an annual debate at the outset of each season about the chances of making
the playoffs. It happens so seldom that the benchmark of success is simply
squeaking into the post-season.
In lesser hockey cities – Boston,
Detroit, even Vancouver
or Montreal –
fans talk about how far into the playoffs their teams will advance, or even
winning it all. Getting there is a given. They’d be embarrassed by a bar set as
low as Toronto’s.
The mediocrity has seeped into the walls of the Air Canada
Centre, or so I thought until the Leafs managed to make the playoffs this year,
no doubt aided by a strike-shortened season too short to accommodate the
I figured the Bruins would clean them up like last night’s
supper, especially when they were up three games to one last week and snatched
away what looked to be a Leafs win on Wednesday night.
But the Leafs have surprised me with tenacity, great
goaltending and key goals that has given them the momentum going into a
do-or-die seventh game. For the first time since I can remember, it’s possible
that they could advance to a second playoff round.
If they do, I just might switch allegiance to the Leafs. I’m
not going to run out and buy a $175 blue-and-white jersey, or start flying one
of those Leaf flags on my car, but it’s hard not to like this bunch, they way
they’ve been playing.
I can’t believe it, but I am keeping my fingers crossed for