The bond between a sports team and its fans is one that is hard to break. Through thick and thin, the unshakable link endures, almost like a marriage. In the context of Leafs fans, it might be one that seems one-sided and in serious need of counselling, but the metaphor is there. And in that vein, let’s look at the current state of Toronto’s beloved (and bemoaned) hockey team by borrowing from an old marriage trope...
Crushing disappointment. Sure, this isn’t the highest note to start on, but this is a rare year. It is a year where no one is kidding themselves about the state of affairs, and that state is dismal. It’s another “rebuilding year,” or series of years, and fans can’t be blamed for wondering what happened to the last rebuild. Since the lockout of 2004/2005 the Leafs have gone through four head coaches, three general managers, and two team captains. Now fans find themselves with a team that has just 21 wins in 64 games. In this new era of overtime losses and extra points, it’s still the wins that everyone looks at.
The team. The Leafs have undergone major changes, as has its management and coaching staff at all levels. Only those who are die-hard NHL trade followers would be able to name more than half of the current Leafs, and figuring out where all of the old pieces went would take an experienced forensic team. Notable trades include James Reimer to San Jose and former captain Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa. Many fans were at least a little saddened to see Reimer go, but it is nice that he is going to a playoff-bound team. Meanwhile, Phaneuf was here this past Saturday in a victorious visit to show fans what they’ll be missing.
Next year’s logo. Since we’re certainly not borrowing any players this year for a playoff push, the borrowed in this case comes from more successful seasons past. The new logo is supposed to inspire a lot of things: nostalgia, hope, and with any luck our hockey team. It’s also supposedly got a lot of symbolism packed into one small icon. Its 17 veins allude to the 1917 establishment of the team, the 31 points reference the 1931 opening of Maple Leaf Gardens (now a Loblaws), and 13 veins atop the team name stand for the number of Stanley Cup wins the team has had. The number 50 is conspicuously absent, which is the number of years since the team won one of those Cups.
Leafs fans, naturally. Whether they are feeling blue from hockey season, wearing blue to show their pride, or blue in the face from screaming at anyone who will listen, it’s their colour of choice. To close with some positivity though, Leafs fans have a lot to look forward to. When you’re stuck in the basement, there’s nowhere to go but up. Chances look good that Toronto will retain its last-place position until the end of the season, meaning with a bit of good fortune they’ll get the top pick in this year’s draft. Thanks to past trades there are also many more picks to look forward to, and the Leafs in a couple of years will in no way resemble the team that started this year’s season. Let’s wish them luck.