Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Toronto Deserves Its Leafs

With the play-off hopes of the Toronto Maple Leafs all but dashed, it is indeed starting to look like spring for this embittered, fair-weather hockey fan. The Maple Leafs inspire all manner of absurd behavior and opinion. To my mind, they embody everything that's screwed-up in Toronto: as a sports franchise, they're the goose that will never stop laying the golden eggs, no matter how sick it gets. Back in the day, the Maple Leaf Gardens was a sold-out venue for every single game. Team owner Harold Ballard did his utmost to infuriate his players and his paying fans, and still the venue remained full.

When he finally died, Leaf fans held out hope their team could finally pull it together and win a Stanley Cup. HA!! It seems ownership remains bent on testing fan loyalty -- and why not? The Air Canada Centre has almost twice the capacity of the Gardens, is even more uncomfortable to sit in, and is filled to capacity every single game.

Toronto sports fans deserve the Maple Leafs, they really do. Meanwhile, home-grown CFL football star "Pinball" Mike Clemons coaches the Toronto Argonauts to Gray Cup victory and ... has to shop around for a stadium to play in?! "Pinball" is an absolute mensch -- a community-minded family man who insists education ought to be the chief sell of each and every professional athlete. Toronto doesn't deserve him. They deserve hot-headed louts like Leaf coach Pat Quinn and GM John Ferguson -- who aren't speaking to each other. They deserve a goalie my age(!), just to raise the team's median age to over-35. A forty-year-old goalie! And Quinn needs Ferguson to tell him the goalie's out for the season with a back sprain?! I could have told him that in November, when I strained my back raking leaves.

Yeah, that's right: "leaves", not "leafs". Toronto deserves its Leafs.


DarkoV said...

Damn, you're funny when you get all crotchety about your "Leaves". I too will miss seeing Toronto in the playoffs, especially Tie Domi, that impish lout. Remember that fight in the penalty box in Philly?

They just don;t make 'em like they used to.

Whisky Prajer said...

In Philly, of all places - who'd of thunk it? Yes, Domi certainly plays an "old style" of NHL hockey. But for the last six years, Toronto in the playoffs has been a sad, sad spectacle. Pat Quinn's team kept getting older, so that when playoff time rolled around, you could set your watch to the injuries they suffered - one respectable veteran after another, going down for the count. Except Domi. That guy never gets hurt! At this rate chances are pretty good he'll be around for another 20 years of hockey - like chippier version of Gordie Howe.

Trent Reimer said...

Not that Gordie was especially reluctant to throw elbows and start (or finish) fights! I imagine that may be part of the appeal Brendan Shannahan has for some of the older Red Wings fans.

DV - you may be on to something. It was no less than Mario Lemieux who said the new NHL is great for young players. Still chafing that we didn't send younger legs to the Olympics but that balances with good sentiments toward Sweden who in recent tournaments have not realized outcomes properly commensurate with their prodigiuos talent and fine sportsmanship.

In my humble opinion this season is something of a wash for over half the league as everyone from the GM's, coaches and players themselves adapt to the new rules. This evolutionary spurt is leaving some former power houses in the dust and allowing others to make ground. Evince Anahiem, now managed by Brian Burke, coming out of nowhere to being a genuine threat in a strong conference.

All of which is to say I doubt coach Quinn or manager Fergusen know what they're doing anymore.

Whisky Prajer said...

Oh, Ferguson knows exactly what he's doing -- he was the GM of the Winnipeg Jets, remember? Remember all those Stanley Cup wins under his management? I'm starting to think the Leafs' owners have engaged in a very pointed conspiracy, and it works something like this: the worst thing that could happen to the franchise at this point in time would be a Stanley Cup win. Just look at what happened to the Toronto Blue Jays after they won two World Series: the fans don't bother with them anymore because they're a young team still trying to develop some character. The Leafs' owners know if they want to keep packing in the Air Canada Centre, they have to deliver a reliable product. Bring in John Ferguson and viola! any worries that the Leafs could amount to anything grander than reliable losers is put to rest.

Whisky Prajer said...

I should add that the one thing worse than living in a geographical point where Leafs games get preeminent broadcast scheduling, is having to wait until the wee small hours before you can watch hockey being played well - in the West. In fact, even when teams in the Western Conference are doing poorly, they're interesting to watch. Until this became his personal annus horribilus, my curiosity was piqued by Gretzky's decision to coach the Coyotes. This was a team with undeniable talent, waiting to get steered in a winning direction. Maybe if enough snakes get put back into the basket over the summer, the next season will be theirs to claim. But Calgary and Edmonton play compelling hockey. Anaheim, as you point out. My goodness, even San Jose can be worth the time spent watching...

Out East we've got Ottawa, followed by a big line of nothing. Right, Darko?

DarkoV said...

Well, WP, I do enjoy watching those warm weather teams, Tampa Bay and Carolina, play. The Rangers are set ot fall; even today's NYT, while acknowledging that Jagr is having a terrific year, admitted that the long-in-the-tooth New Yorkers will be having their come-uppance soon, most probably in the 2nd round.

I'm still a Devils fan...yeah...yeah, I know Scott Stephens is never comiong back, but Martin Brodeur still has something in the tank. Besides, their coach?G.M., Lou Lamierrelo is always an interesting guy to watch, the Bill Belicek of the NHL.

I'll reluctantly go along with you on Calgary and Edmonton, especially Calgary, as two greatly interesting teams to watch.

But here's the question. Aside from Toronto, which you've alread disected, what the hell is up (and has been up for a while) with those old tiem teams of Boston and Montreal? They're a disgrace to their uniforms; they shouldn't even be playing with those uniforms on. "Get different jerseys until you strighten up!", I say.

DarkoV said...

Forgot this. WP, you are absolutely right that John Ferguson knows what he is doing. As a long-time Montreal Canadienne, he was always trying to keep the Leafs down. That was his purpose in life as a player. Now, as a GM, he is continuing his oath to Les Habitants to keep the Leafs in Hockey's 9th circle. And, to twist that knot even more, he is doing the bidding of the Bleu et Rouge while being paid by the White and Blue! How genius is that?!?!

DarkoV said...

..on the other hand, WP, I know not of what I speak! I had thought that the Leafs' GM was John Ferguson...Sr. instead of his offspring, John Ferguson...Jr.. So that previous rant was totally fact-less. You have exuded that world famous Canadian diplomacy by ignoring my previous comment and I appreciate that.

Whisky Prajer said...

Well, I'll extend the world-famous Cdn diplomacy a little further by admitting my silence wasn't so much deliberate as it was a matter of happenstance - this is the first I've logged on since my last comment. Re: Boston - it's been so long since they've played decent hockey, I've concluded their success in the 70s was a fluke. Of course, Don Cherry would be quick to credit Bobby Orr's skills as D-man (and rightfully so), but I simply don't understand how a franchise can fall from such grand heights to such pathetic depths. Why is it that Edmonton, while not the team it was when Gretzky and Messier were running things, has a fraction of its former budget to work with, yet still plays a game to be reckoned with? As for Montreal, I'm stymied. Perhaps the talent pool of French players has grown thin? And when did the Montreal fans become so fickle? The present team torpor hardly rates mention in la belle Provence. I'm sure Fergusons Sr. and Jr. are somehow implicated in this pathetic state - I just have to figure out how!

Scott said...

I, of course, have no business participating in this discussion -- I don't follow hockey which, in this country, makes me feel like an atheist visiting the Vatican -- but I just wanted to say that your 'back sprain' quip was pure gold! I laughed out loud. At work.

I did hear on the radio this morning that the Leafs are making no changes to their management which made even me shake my head in disbelief for the Leafs fans.

I just hate seeing people in pain.