…there’s a party goin’ on right here, a celebration to last throughout the years, so bring your good times, and your laughter too, we gonna celebrate your party with you, come on now, celebrat…
Oh, hi! Didn’t see you there. Don’t mind me, just singing along with Kool & the Gang for the 91st time since Sunday BECAUSE THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS SIGNED JOHN TAVARES!
Sorry, I’m still learning to control my sudden outbursts OF PURE ELATION. See, there it was again. I’ll tone it down, I’m sorry FOR ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. WE DID IT!
Okay, for real. Calm Paul is here now. The one who does the thing with the words, that brings emotion through the letters and makes you feel, instead of read.
I am on an ego trip today. My bags are packed, I’m ready to go.
Alright, Paul, find your centre. Find your centre. Find your NEW NUMBER ONE CENTRE OF THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS, JOHN TAVARES!
I’m so sorry. I’m done with the caps lock key. Really. J’ai fini.
NO I’M NOT! OH MY GOD, IT HAPPENED!
Alright, that was the last of it. It’s out of my system.
The National Hockey League free agency period opened up at noon on Sunday, July 1st. The biggest name on the market was John Tavares – a 27-year-old superstar, who was the Captain of the New York Islanders.
Or if you speak Canadian: “A good ol’ Ontario boy”.
And if you speak Don Cherry-Canadian: “He’s a beauty”.
Prior to July 1st, Tavares and his agents met with six teams. They got to know each other over the course of a few groups dates and cocktail parties, hosted by Chris Harrison. Oh man, if only.
No, each team went to an office building in Los Angeles
– PowerPoint presentations sent to their email – to meet with Tavares, as media personnel stood on the sidewalk and wondered why their dress shirt, made out of “breathable material”, was failing them.
The six teams Tavares wanted to meet with were:
- New York Islanders
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Boston Bruins
- Dallas Stars
- San Jose Sharks
The Montreal Canadians did not get a rose. They thought they would get a rose.
At first, I thought the list was a bit random and tried to figure out what the angle was. He was always going to meet with the Islanders because that was his team. They are there by default.
But everyone else? Did he just want to go to a winning team? Did he select one team from each time zone?
Yesterday, it hit me like a litre of maple syrup.
The five other teams he met with all have a legitimate star as their incumbent number one centre. The addition of Tavares would give that team a 1-2 punch, just like Crosby-Malkin in Pittsburgh.
That’s my theory, at least.
So in the days leading up to July 1st, I was expecting news of where Tavares was going to sign to drop at any minute. My closest Leaf fan friends were all on Twitter watch.
Personally, I think I refreshed Twitter every time my heart took a beat. And what did I get?
Then Sunday rolled around and by that point the anticipation had taken over my life.
And then there’s a tweet around 12:55PM saying to head to Tavares’ Twitter for something soon. I’ve never boarded an imaginary bus so fast in my life.
At 1:01PM, Tavares posted a message written in a note on his phone, thanking the Islanders for everything they’ve done and the closing line was, “but it’s time to live my childhood dream here in Toronto.”
“YAY HOORAY, HE SAID TORONTO. YAY! THAT’S WHERE WE LIVE. WE LIVE IN TORONTO. YAY!” – The Rock, Monday Night Raw, 2003
And then at 1:06PM, Johnny Toronto tweeted out a picture from his childhood, where he’s sleeping on a bed straight out of your first year college dorm, with the Maple Leafs logo on his sheets, pillow case, and comforter!
It also looks like he had a dinosaur-themed drool rag, so he was definitely a Raptors fan too.
I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I couldn’t message my friends fast enough. The caps lock key got a workout that afternoon.
John Tavares is a Toronto Maple Leaf. If I type it out, it must be real.
Now for an anecdote.
Nine years ago, I attended my high school prom. It would’ve been June 26, 2009. I only remember the date because it was the day after graduation – the day Michael Jackson died.
Don’t ask me why our prom wasn’t during “prom season”. I know the answer, but that would be off topic and I never, ever go off topic.
So I’m sitting at my table, and a few seats over is my best friend Chris – you may know him. That night was the NHL Draft and John Tavares was expected to go first overall. The Leafs had the 7th pick.
I told Chris that my sister would be texting me draft updates throughout the night and I’d let him know what was going on.
That was the first night I ever sent and received a text message, believe it or not. I had a flip phone and thought calling people was the superior method of communication.
*Hold for laughter*
A bit later in the night, I created a lie.
“Chris! We traded up in the draft and got Tavares!”
Chris freaked out just enough to have all his hopes and dreams shattered by me subsequently saying, “Just kidding.”
For the last nine years, he has been skeptical every time I’ve told him breaking news related to sports. Now, I am vindicated. We did get Tavares. It just happened nine years later and through free agency.
End of anecdote.
If you can’t tell, I’m excited.
Before we got Tavares, I believed Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander would bring the Leafs great things. I thought Matthews would become the Captain and be the guy accepting the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman, some day.
I still think/hope all of that will happen, but I believe Tavares will be the Captain of the team. Just hearing him talk at the press conference, he is kilometres ahead of Matthews in terms of communicating with the media.
But of course he is. Matthews is only 20-years-old. Tavares has been the Captain of the Islanders for the last five years. He knows what he’s doing.
Or if you speak Mike Babcock-Canadian: “He’s a real gud pro.”
With all of this excitement, I need to remember that I’m a Leaf fan and nothing comes easy. It’s no secret the team needs help on defence.
And just looking at the possible line combinations, I fear we’re a bit undersized and lack toughness on the first three lines. You can’t use your speed to skate around guys if you’re picking yourself up off the ice.
I wrote that sentence while picturing the Boston Bruins throwing us around like bird food.
The next 12 months will be interesting. The Leafs need to give new contracts to the three young kids. The words “Cap Space” will be uttered at least 980,000 times in Toronto.
This is good, though. It means the Leafs are back. I haven’t felt this way since 2004.
Sports, man. You hold on long enough and the ride eventually gets better.
John Tavares is a Toronto Maple Leaf.
No, I’m calm. I’m calm.
Celebrate good times, come on.