The Leafs Are Fun To Watch Again

I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs ever since my bedtime was the end of the first period – 8pm. Before going to sleep, I made sure to tape the rest of the game on VHS and write out a label that read, “Hockey”, so no one would tape over it. If I was using a different VHS tape, the label I wrote would read, “Hockey 2”, and so on.

A lot has changed since then.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that I was able to become a sports fan before the social media era. My thoughts and emotions toward sports – especially hockey – were so raw and so pure, there was nothing that could ruin them.

Reading the sports section of the newspaper was a daily occurrence for me when I was a kid. I loved the smell of newsprint. I loved how it felt in my hands. I loved reading about the players I had watched the night before. I loved looking at the box scores and standings.

I loved it all.

I was the kid who wore a jersey to school at least once a week. I still remember the first time I wore my brand new Leafs jersey to school in Grade 5. People wanted to see it before the morning bell even rang – I had to stop one kid from unzipping my jacket.

So if you were to tell me back then that I would grow up and there would be a time in my life that I didn’t like the Toronto Maple Leafs, there was no way I would’ve believed you.

And yet, that’s exactly what happened in March 2014.

The team was terrible. The media was annoying. The fans were throwing waffles and jerseys on the ice. Everything was a disaster.

I unfollowed the team on social media. I stopped watching their games. I stopped caring.

I just wanted an escape. I wanted to hold on to the raw emotion and passion I had for the Leafs when I was a kid, but everywhere I turned it was getting sucked out of me. I couldn’t turn on the TV or radio, nor could I read the newspaper.

I used to fall asleep listening to the Leafs post game show on the radio, or some other sports talk show. I stopped doing that. For the first time in my life, I had to figure out how to fall asleep without the radio on.

You don’t know how hard that was for me.

The Leafs were my life, yet there I was, sick of them.

Deep down, I always knew I was still a fan and that I’d eventually be back supporting them eventually, but I needed a break.

Last year was the worst of it. I only watched one game from start to finish and it’s because I was there in person, with free tickets. Even then, the seats had an obstructed view, so I didn’t catch everything.

And then something happened, the Leafs finished in last place and received the first overall pick in the draft. Finally. Something to catch my attention. Something to bring me back.

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For the first time in two years, I had hope. Before that, there was just resentment.

The word “rebuild” has been thrown around this team since 2006, but the management team has never fully committed to it because they didn’t think the fans could stomach it.

Boy, were they ever clueless. All we wanted were young players we could look at and say, “Yeah, I could see him being here in a few years when we make the playoffs.” But they wouldn’t give it to us.

They were too concerned with filling the arena and taking hundreds of dollars out of our pocket.

“Come watch the Leafs, we suck, but we’re the Leafs! Use our hashtag, don’t cheer too loudly, and buy our merchandise! Woo.”

This year is different. They finally went with a bunch of rookies – I believe there are about nine on the roster right now – and lo and behold, we’re in a playoff spot halfway through the season.

A PLAYOFF SPOT.

I finally got my joy back. This team is exciting. There are players I actually want to cheer for. There is a future that is so bright that I need two pairs of sunglasses.

Whether we make the playoffs this year or not, I don’t care. It’s just good to see hope again. I forgot what it looked like.

You can call me a bandwagon fan, and say that I only cheer for this team when they’re good. You can say that a “real fan” sticks with their team during the good and bad.

And I’d tell you to shut up.

You’d be wrong. Dead wrong.

I’ve paid my dues. I used to justify every move this team made and convince myself that “this is the year” and “these are the players we’ve needed”.

Even in the two years I couldn’t stand this team, I still knew the moves they were making. I never stopped being a fan. I just needed to step back from being the fan that I always was.

It’s like not seeing or talking to a friend for a few years. Then you reunite and it’s just like old times.

That’s what the Leafs and I have done. We’ve reunited and it feels so good.

I still limit what I read about the team on social media, though. Once every few weeks I’ll put myself through the torture of reading Facebook comments on their page, just to see what the discourse is.

It’s still the same as it’s always been, even though every Leaf fan has something to legitimately cheer about.

Fans are still complaining about the small things and calling certain players a joke. The bitterness and negativity is still there, floating around social media like an undesirable in the shallow end of a pool.

I do my best to ignore it. I don’t need social media to love the Leafs. I don’t need a special hashtag. I don’t need an ongoing debate in a Facebook thread with three strangers just looking for “likes”. I don’t need any of it.

I have my small group of friends who I talk to about hockey, and that’s good enough for me.

Falling asleep in silence isn’t hard anymore. I still avoid sports radio shows and disgruntled callers who have nothing better to do at 11pm than criticize a 21-year-old kid for not skating fast enough.

I’m trying to be the fan I was when I was a kid. And though I may never be able to duplicate the raw emotions of my 7-year-old self, at least I’m still be able to fall asleep after the first period.

So, that’s something.

Go Leafs Go.

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About Paul

This is the part where I'm supposed to write something interesting about myself and you'll read it and think, "That's not that interesting." So let's not do that and just think about pizza instead, on the count of three. One, two, three. Donuts. Now, wasn't that interesting?
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33 Responses to The Leafs Are Fun To Watch Again

  1. Tony Burgess says:

    The Maple Leafs should be the Canadian hockey equivalent of The New York Yankees. It should be the team that defines a sport in a way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Absolutely, in an evil empire sort of way. They used to be like that until the NHL got a salary cap 12 years ago and they weren’t able to spend their money at will. They’re just figuring out how to win with a salary cap in place.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. They’ll face Montreal in the first round maybe. Do you know the legend of Bill Barilko?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Myka says:

    I had never watched a hockey game until I started interning for a minor league hockey team back in – 2012 maybe? It was A LOT of fun. The hockey players were hot, so that probably helped. But the game was entertaining, too. I didn’t expect that. I don’t like when people get hurt, but somehow the hockey fights really did it for me. I miss hockey.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barb Knowles says:

    It must get boring being complimented by me all the time. But I truly think you are at your most passionate when you write about sports. I’m not a huge hockey fan. It’s one sport where I think it’s 100 times better if you are at the game than watching it on tv. But reading this post made me want to watch a game. Now. And be a fan of the Leafs (it’s odd to write that and not Leaves).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      The stereotype we have of Americans is that a lot of you don’t like watching hockey because you can’t see/follow the puck. How true is that? Also, it’s weird for me to say Leaves instead of Leafs lol

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        I don’t think so. Hockey in New York is as popular, or almost as popular, as football and basketball. It is a lot of fun being at a professional football or baseball game because of the hoopla, but much harder to see the action. Different now with screens, but still. I think hockey is the opposite. Because the rink isn’t that big, and the fans aren’t a mile away, when you’re at a game, you’re THERE. On tv it’s like basketball. I feel exactly the same way about basketball. Back and forth, back and forth. I feel like I’ll get a neck ache. Tim thinks I’m nuts. He loves watching basketball. I just asked him about hockey. He said every time he goes to a game he says he should go more often. But he doesn’t like watching it on tv as much.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        I love watching basketball too. I’ve never really enjoyed going to a football game. Probably because I couldn’t see anything since the seats weren’t sloped properly. Back in the early 2000s when FOX was showing NHL games in TV the put a tracker on the puck because their American viewers complained they couldn’t see it. So whenever someone shot the puck, a colour trail would follow it. Lol silly Americans.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        That’s really funny. Perhaps it’s because you had national health care and therefore, by definition, Canadians have better vision? See? Everything in my life lately comes back to vision.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. kirkhsmith says:

    I got the Original 6 Maple Leaf patch jersey as a 4-year-old, then as a 17-year-old lived with Cliff Fletcher and family while playing junior hockey in Calgary. A few years later I visited Toronto when Cliff was GM there, and he took me into one of the gift shops of what must of been the Gardens. He told me to pick out anything I wanted… of course I went for the Original 6 sweater. Glad they brought the old look back, but on the shoulders of the future!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As the years rolled on without the Leafs being relevant it amazed me that city didn’t take to the streets with pitchforks and torches. That kind of absence from the post-season for a franchise as storied and steeped in tradition as Toronto wasn’t easily tolerated by me…and I’m in Philly. I recognize the value of having strong, vibrant Canadian clubs in the NHL…and when Las Vegas crashes and burns maybe Quebec City gets back in the game. Great to see the Leafs getting it together. I remember the Fox puck tracker all too well…embarrassing to all who thought that was helpful. Nothing like a hockey game in-person. I’ve seen people who swore they’d never go for the sport get completely hooked once they went to a game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Oh trust me, people haven’t been happy here since the Flyers eliminated us from the playoffs in 2004. When Sundin left, the team had no clue how to deal with it or how to find the next superstar. I think what helped is the Raptors and Blue Jays got good within the last few years so that’s been a good distraction for us. I’m interested in seeing how Las Vegas does. I also want a team back in Quebec City and one out in Seattle when they’re ready for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. peckapalooza says:

    Like most sports, I have a hard time getting into a hockey game on TV. But I love a live game. When I was living in North Carolina I got to go to a few Hurricanes games and it was super fun. And the town I grew up in, when I was a kid, had a minor league team called the Express. Again, always a good time. I’ll be honest, though. I don’t know a ton about hockey. But I did just watch The Mighty Ducks last night. Is the Flying V a feasible play?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Unfortunately it’s not a feasible play, though it would probably work really well in rugby! I think Canadians are more accustomed to watching hockey games on TV because tickets here cost and arm and 3 legs, so we don’t have any other choice.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. jflem81 says:

    Take it from a Philly sports fan. We’ve had it pretty bad for the last few years (Decades?). I feel your pain. The Leafs are already doing better and will be back in contention before you know it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Call me crazy, but I think the Leafs will be at the top of the conference within two years. I like the Flyers, you guys just need a goalie, which I’m sure you’re tired of hearing. Embiid looks promising – he’s already a matchup nightmare.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jflem81 says:

        Its always something with the Flyers. Last year we had a great goalie tandem but weak offense. This year the opposite. Embiid is great. A shot in the arm for a city that needs it bad. Can’t wait to see what he does with his career.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m a Blues fan, and I can relate to not wanting to follow the team sometimes. Like you, growing up I would read the sports section every day, which my dad would leave for me before going to work. It was harder to follow them because it was before social media.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Your Blues have come close in recent years, but haven’t been able to get over the hump (Chicago) it seems. Do you have any idea what they’re going to do with Shattenkirk before the trade deadline?

      Like

  10. What a post! I can just hear the passion in the way you write and it’s awesome. I’m glad that you’re a Leafs fan again. GLG!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Thank you! I guess all I needed was something to be excited about again. Even if we weren’t going to make the playoffs, I’d be more than satisfied with how this season has gone.

      Like

  11. Anthony says:

    I’ve been watching the leafs for 40 odd years. This playoff run has been exciting and interesting. It is amazing how much talent the young guys have.

    Liked by 1 person

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