The NHL lockout ended a little over a week ago and when the pucks finally drop this Saturday night, for the first time since the L.A. Kings won the Stanley Cup last June, I’ll bury the hatchet and dutifully shift my frustrations away from the league’s shamelessly prolonged, fiscally bloated money battle. A handful of groups are encouraging a boycott of the NHL all together. But, in the interest of enjoying what’s left of this amputated intra-conference half-season, my hockey hatred will instead be focused once again on the most loserish team in the league: the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I know, hating something as inconsequential as a sports team is silly and vaguely xenophobic, in the same way you might consider everyone from your rival high school or university a big bunch of douchebags. A deep-seated feeling though, whether irrational or not, is still a deep-seated feeling. And that counts for something, right? Doesn’t it? I’m not sure. And frankly, my rational non-xenophobe dears, I don’t give a damn.
They Keep Losing
The last time the Leafs won the cup, Neil Armstrong hadn’t stepped on the moon yet and your mom hadn’t even met your dad. It’s been nearly a decade since they made the playoffs, and almost 20 years since they even came close to winning the Cup:
This purported high stick during overtime in Game 6 of the 1993 Campbell Conference Finals is still griped about amongst Leafs fans who argue that it should’ve been a penalty, and claim that it led to Gretzky scoring minutes later. The series then went to Game 7, where the Kings won the series, and the Leafs returned to being big stupid losers. I took a few close looks at the replay and it didn’t look like a penalty to me.
Their Goalie Hype is Bullshit
Hang in there, Jonas.
Toronto loves to hype up its goalies with badass but undeserved nicknames. Jonas Gustavsson, nicknamed “The Monster” for his six-foot-three-inch frame, turned out to be a huge puss with heart murmurs who couldn’t stop shit. Their current goaltender, James Reimer, aka “Optimus Reim,” is equally boring and overhyped. The Globe and Mail reported Matt Likely of PuckingHilarious.com saying, “I guess you could say Reimer has transformed the Leafs' subpar goaltending situation into something not just average, but pretty damn respectable." Nice endorsement, Matt. Even the Leafs’ press are underwhelming.
Even Santa Claus Hates the Leafs
A dramatic reenactment, care of Billy Bob Thornton, of the Santa/Leafs Suck controversy.
This past Christmas, a Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market Santa was fired for telling a three-year old boy, “Oh, you're wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs tuque; you shouldn't be wearing that, they suck.” Maybe Santa should’ve kept his cool, but still, this kid can’t live in a fantasy world his entire life. If he’s eventually going to get over the fact that Santa isn’t real, maybe he should take some baby steps towards realizing the rest of reality's crushing truths. Why not start with being told that the Leafs suck?
The Five-Dollar Bill Depicts a Story about Hating the Leafs
A tortured young boy, reeling in horror at the idea of wearing a Leafs jersey.
The Hockey Sweater, by Roch Carrier, is a classic Canadian short story about a young boy whose mother orders a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey by mistake and forces him to wear it with his teammates in rural Quebec (all of whom worship the Montreal Canadiens’ superstar Maurice Richard and wear his famous number 9 on the back of their jerseys). Unsurprisingly, he is taunted and traumatized for donning the uniform of les opponents and eventually asks God to send him “a hundred million moths that would eat [his] Toronto Maple Leafs Sweater.”
"We lived in three places - the school, the church and the skating rink - but our real life was on the skating rink" is inscribed on the fiver. The excerpt from Carrier's short story is code for: Leafs suck.
A quote from the book is shown on the back of the five-dollar bill, along with a depiction of outdoor hockey. Maybe I’m reading a little too deep into this, but in the same way conspiracy theorists speculate on the symbolism on the American one-dollar as being linked to the supposed New World Order, doesn’t it seem like the Canadian government is subtly letting everyone know how they feel about the Leafs through their fiver? Perhaps the unwavering losing streak of the Maple Leafs is more deeply engrained into the order of this country than I had initially suspected.
They Don’t Like Cool Moustaches
A lamer looking Lanny under the Leafs' strict grooming policy in contrast with the inconic burly stache he'd later grow with the Calgary Flames.
Lanny McDonald began sprouting his trademark old-timey Texas Sheriff moustache during the 1974 off-season while signed to the Leafs. Like the late George Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees and George’s Costanza’s boss on Seinfeld, whose famous grooming policy did not allow players, coaches, and male executives to sport any facial hair besides a reasonable moustache, the Leafs didn’t allow beards at the time Lanny was stuntin’ on all of the ladies with his killer moustache. Lanny settled on a “normal-looking” moustache.
After being unshackled from the Leafs’ Draconian grooming policies and traded to the now defunct Colorado Rockies and then finally to the Calgary Flames, he rocked a moustache so bushy and badass that some Calgarians to this day grow theirs out during the playoffs in tribute to the monster-stached man who led the Flames to their first and last Stanley Cup victory in 1989.
All in all, tolerance has no place in the long tradition of hockey rivalries. I come from Quebec, the most xenophobic province in Canada, where both fans and commentators of the Montreal Canadiens infuse a relatively inconsequential game with politics, religion, and other heavy shit that has no place in something involving toothless millionaires on skates.
Case in point: last season, Quebec separatists protested the fact that the interim coach Randy Cunneyworth couldn’t speak French. While I’m not one to go to protests, it was taking place just a couple blocks away and seemed too ridiculous to pass up. So, I went with a cardboard sign that read, “I love Randy.” This caused quite a stir when Shaun Majumder from This Hour Has 22 Minutes interviewed me and protesters began yelling and blowing horns so loudly that the clip was completely unusable. A cop then told me to scram.
While I completely disagree with those protesters, they barely hold a candle to how lowly I think of les maudits Toronto Maple Leafs.
If you’re a Leafs fan, Greg doesn’t want you to follow him on Twitter: @GGRPike
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