Amidst 43 years of Cup futility, here is why I am still a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs
I was born in 1984, 17 years after the Toronto Maple Leafs' most Stanley Cup win and appearance. The Leafs' futility is hardly news to those who follow the team even casually, but it does pose an interesting question as to how someone can root for a team that has given them so little to root for.
The answer is simple: because it's in my blood as a Torontonian.
Just as Canadians take perverse pride in boasting about how cold it gets, we Leafs fans agree each winter to engage in a self-hating willingness to put faith in our boys in blue and let them disappoint us yet again. While this may seem like a tremendous exercise in futility, I see it as a test of our will against the hockey fates until one day we once again attain the greatest trophy in sports. Sure, the Cup final may be played on an ice rink in Hell after it has frozen over, but it will come and the city of Toronto will be ready.
We've certainly earned our own 2004 Red Sox-type moment after plenty of heartbreak. In my lifetime alone, I've seen the no-call on Gretzky in game six of the 1993 Leafs/Kings series and the recent let-downs against underdog teams in the 1999 (Buffalo) and 2002 (Carolina) Eastern Conference finals. And those happened back when the team actually made the play-offs. In fact, ESPN's Bill Simmons recently ranked the Leafs No. 7 among all professional franchises in his “Levels of Losing” rankings.
Now, I have the distinct privilege or curse – depending on how you look at it – of seeing just about every Buds' home game. So I've seen the corporate crowds suck the energy out of the ACC, but I've also seen crowds like last Saturday's 5-0 win over Ottawa, with fans on their feet in the final minutes and a rocking atmosphere throughout the game. These contrasting environments tell you all you need to know about both where this franchise has been and what it could mean to the city if and when the franchise does find its way to the top of the NHL.
So the next time you hear about the Bruins having a shot at Taylor Hall thanks to the Leafs' first rounder or Jeff Finger collecting $3.5 million this year as he sits in the press box, get pissed off. But also know that there will come a day that the Leafs will reach the promise land, raise the Cup (or whatever digital facsimile may exist at that time) and all these years of futility will only serve to make that moment all the sweeter.
In the meantime, it will be my pleasure to cover the good, the bad, and the ugly of Leafs Nation with a few laughs and some hair-pulling frustration along the way. Hope you all enjoy it!
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Written by Ben Fisher