May 3, 2013

Maple Leafs in the spring


I have often reflected on the psychology of the sports fan, which, remember, comes from “fanatic.” How does one explain the obsession that leads one to scour every word written on the Internet seeking explanation for Tyler Bozak’s mystery injury or Phil Kessel’s favorite breakfast cereal?

I don’t know these guys personally or necessarily even like them. None of the Leafs come from my hometown, only five are from my home province, none are from Quebec where I live. They are very rich, very well-treated and can become a member of an enemy team at any given time before the trade deadline.

Yet, they are the Leafs, the bearers of a torch of hockey history that goes back, depending on whether you consider the Blueshirts, Arenas, St. Pat’s or Maple Leafs the starting point, more than a century. They are in my blood, my closets and my head. The team slogan is: “The Passion that Unites Us All.” More likely, the Mania that Drives Us All Nuts.

I am old enough to have logged lots of emotional Leaf ice time. I have had my own treasured moments following the blue and white. I got Tim Horton’s autograph as a child, one of my hometown pal’s brother was a Leafs’ goalie, I got Wendel Clark’s first French autograph when he was traded to the Nordiques (for Mats Sundin, and look how that worked out).

What’s worse, of course, is being a Leafs fan in Quebec, the prideful turf of Les Glorieux (in the absence of the Nordiques). Last Christmas, our office secret Santa (a secret Habs fan, to boot) gave me a Leaf’s T-shirt (yay) with lettering on the back: The red light district in Toronto (boo).

The only consolation for the abuse I’ve taken over the years is the fact the minor hockey league in Quebec City uses Leaf socks — the only ready-made blue and white hockey hosiery available to match the sweaters.

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