With three of Canada’s six NHL teams making the playoffs this year, all things seemed possible. There was a palpable feeling of optimism as hockey fans in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa considered the possibilities. Maybe this would be the year that a Canadian team would finally bring home the Stanley Cup.
Although the Canucks and the Flames have bowed out, fans from coast to coast still have great hopes for the one remaining Canadian team - the Ottawa Senators. Could this be the year that the Sens go all the way?
But in the midst of all this joyous anticipation, don’t forget to remember those less fortunate. Take a moment and pay your respects to the saddest creature in the land: the fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While most of us revel in our team’s success, there will be those who will not experience the joy of a playoff victory or even the “could haves”, “should haves” and “might have beens” of a playoff loss.
Isn’t it bad enough that many of these poor souls have to live in Toronto? How sad it must be that such a woeful existence cannot even be rewarded with a few measly post-season games.
How must it be for the members of Leafs Nation to turn on their television sets and not see the blue or white maple leaf skating across North America’s hockey rinks? What cruel deity has deprived them of their birthright? Is it too much too ask for at least one preliminary round series with a victory or two?
Yet it is not to be. The Maple Leafs fell short again, leaving their fans aimless in this cruellest of springs.
But there is life after failure, even failure of such longstanding and durable tenure. So if you see a disconsolate Leafs fan wandering the streets, stop and lend him a hand or a sympathetic ear.
Tell him that this year isn’t so bad. Remind him that his team hasn’t won a Cup in forty years so waiting one more can’t hurt. Tell him that everything will change now that the Leafs coach/GM/President will be leaving or whatever else he wants to hear. Humour him by saying that T. S. Eliot must have been a Leafs fan since he wrote that April is the cruellest month.
Take pity on the mournful Toronto partisan. Ask him to join you in cheering for the last remaining Canadian team in the playoffs. Urge him to trade in his blue and white sweater for one of a different hue.
And if the Leafs fan should decide to join you in your playoff viewing, don’t get upset by his ceaseless references to Bower, Brewer, Baun and ‘67. Just gently remind him that, bad as things seem, they could always be worse. After all, he could be a Blue Jays fan.