Lee Stempniak, Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, Jonas Gustavsson, Brett Lebda, John Ferguson Jr. Those and others like them have plagued the Maple Leafs for the past eight seasons and gave us fits of hopelessness, despair, and rage. Tonight represents the the culmination of Toronto’s retooling; the first playoff game in the Air Canada Centre since May 4th, 2004.

As much as our excitement over a first round series has been mocked , it’s generally falling on deaf ears. Are we over doing it for a first round series? I don’t think so. I think the hockey world is just getting reacquainted with how real hockey fans support their team in the playoffs. Hockey in Toronto is not confined to the arena, it spills out across the entire city.

When Boston lands at Pearson Airport they will be walking through a terminal filled with Leaf jerseys. When they merge onto the QEW they will get stuck in traffic behind a sea of cars flying Leafs flags. They’ll turn on the TV in their hotel room and they’ll see wall to wall coverage of how much hope and pride Leafs Nation has. They will quickly learn that while the playoffs have been old hat for them, they will be going up against a team that is treating this as much more than a first round game without elimination repercussions, and a team that knows an entire city is watching and supporting them.

Inside the Air Canada Centre I am expecting the quiet Leaf fans narrative to die a painful death. Obviously that myth should have never really applied to the upper bowl, but with the return of the playoffs there will be a loosening of ties in the platinum seats. Presumably some have sold kidneys to get corporate tickets, and those reserved fans who may not normally let their hair down during a midweek game against Florida will probably be more comfortable letting the Leafs freak flag fly. Some of these people have spent over a $100,000 waiting for a chance to see a Leafs playoff game from their seats. I don’t doubt that they are just as excited as the rest of us.

That’s one of my sticking points. How do we exorcise the demons of the Air Canada myth? After a goal, do we throw briefcases on the ice (too big), throw cuff links (too small), throw the neckties (not going to get good distance), or how about throwing Blackberries? Odds are everyone is sitting on an old outdated cell phone they can toss. It fits with the image of the ACC with the suits checking their emails instead of watching the game, it recognizes that two cell service providers own the Leafs, and it’s a pretty obnoxious thing to do.

If there ever was a day that I was homesick for Toronto, it’s today. I am jealous of all of you who have the privilege of walking the streets of the GTA on game day, not to mention the jealousy I have of those of you at the game tonight. I’ll be doing my part by reppin’ Leafs Nation in Edmonton. My Gilmour jersey will be on under my suit at work, but the car flag will be flying all day. The second the clock hits four I’ll be tossing on my Kadri jersey and becoming the most insufferable hockey fan this city has ever seen.

While I am all for being insufferable in my support of the Leafs, there’s something to be said for human decency. I’d hope that Leafs fans are capable of not childishly directing hatred of the Bruins at Bruin fans. There’s no need to dump a beer on someone who is just cheering on their team, or cursing at the Boston fan trying to watch the game with his kid. The attack on the Leafs fan in Boston was absolutely disgusting, and it was equally appalling that no one bothered to hold the attacker for the police. Bruins fans have set the bar pretty low, but let’s show how much better we are. I think Aaron summed it up nicely here:




I’m going to follow Aaron’s lead on this (except for the classy part, class waved goodbye to me a long time ago), let’s make the most of this great day.

Monday Morning Links…

How the Leafs got Kessel away from Chara in Game 2 (The Leafs Nation)
The fun loving sequel to The Secret of my Success

Carlyle’s Creativity Sparks Leafs to Game 2 Victory (TSN)
If Carlyle coached like this every game I’d write much happier blog posts

The Leafs Hybrid Approach to Beating the Bruins (Blue Chip Prospects)
Speed Kills, but knocking Chara on his ass does help too.

The Bruins Don’t Look Quite So Unbeatable Now (Vintage Leaf Memories)
Hopefully there aren’t any more monkeys on the Leafs backs.

Maple Leaf Square Live Stream

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