, Salem, MA


May 1, 2013

Sticking with the Blue and White: A Maple Leaf fan's lament

I’ve lived on the North Shore for nearly 25 years and in New England for 30. This is my home, and I love it here.

But when it comes to my rooting interests in hockey and baseball, I’m still devoted to my hometown: Toronto.

This can lead to some divisions at home, as my wife and daughters all root for Boston teams with varying degrees of interest (although I also root for the Patriots wholeheartedly).

These differing opinions are especially obvious this week, with the Blue Jays hosting the Red Sox in Toronto and more importantly, the Maple Leafs taking on the Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Some folks may wonder why I don’t just switch allegiances to the local teams, since I’ve been here for so long anyway and have no plans of ever leaving. It doesn’t work that way, at least not for me. I’m old school, and I take my sports seriously.

I was born a Maple Leafs fan, which is not an easy cross to bear. As one of the NHL’s “Original Six,” the Leafs were once a mighty franchise and still rank second to Montreal in total championships. But Toronto last won it all in 1967, a few months before I was born, and the team hasn’t had so much as a sniff at the Cup since. They’ve intermittently had good teams that have made it as far as the third round in the playoffs, but haven’t been able to even make it to the finals in the expansion era (1968 to the present). In recent years, the Leafs have been mediocre to awful, with this trip to the postseason their first since 2004.

I’d compare the futility of being a Leafs follower to the plight suffered by Chicago Cubs fans (and Red Sox fans until 2004). Toronto is the most profitable team in the NHL, valued at $1 billion in a recent Forbes ranking, with sold-out games every night no matter how lousy the home team is playing. But the team has rarely been considered a Cup contender in the last 45 years, either saddled by cheapness or mismanagement or both.

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