I could not tell you exactly where this all started. I’m a Toronto girl, but my family was not a hockey family. My father had season tickets to the Jays but hated Leafs games as an extension of his deep aversion to being “ripped off” (he had a point). My mother hates hockey with almost as much passion as I love it, mostly because of its “brutality”. But at some point during the past two years I became a passionate hockey fan, and of course, a Leafs fan.
The first hockey game I ever watched was the gold medal game between Team Canada and the U.S. in the 2002 Olympics. I think it just seemed like the right thing to do, to go and watch my country beat the Americans at our sport. I felt giddy watching the pre-show on the CBC as someone confided to the cameras that he had hidden a loonie in the ice. As soon as the game started, I was hooked. When the game ended I ran outside and started honking the car horn. It felt right.
Six years later I found myself going to school in the U.S. By some random chance I ended up at a college with a strong hockey culture. .At the time, I didn’t really care. I didn’t follow hockey in high school. I watched whenever it was on at a friend’s house, but I really couldn’t call myself a fan at that point. Of course, now in these dark times with no playoffs in sight, I regret my lack of dedication. But my Toronto upbringing gave me the wonderful arrogance that apparently the rest of Canada hates us for; I couldn’t imagine the Leafs not being one of the best teams in the NHL. So yeah, I missed out.
I came home from my first semester of college a changed girl. I don’t know exactly how, but being exiled to New England transformed me into not only a fervent hockey fan but a diehard Leafs fan. I went to every school hockey game and followed every Leafs game. When I say “followed” I unfortunately do not mean “watched”. I was only afforded the privilege of watching the Leafs when they played the Bruins. Every Leafs game I would obsessively refresh the CBC or ESPN website for the score, then hunt down highlight reels the next day. My month-long winter break only pushed my addiction to the brink. The prospect of being able to watch every! game! and the world juniors too! was like a gift from God. I somehow got tickets to a game. Even though we lost and the fans started booing and we were sat next to some asshats who barely looked up from their blackberries AND our seats were directly behind Raycrap (yes, he sucks just as bad from up close) it was one of the best experiences of my life. It sealed me into what has up until now been my doomed love affair with the blue and white.
Since the beginning of July I have literally had dreams involving Mats signing. I always wake up and check first thing, just to make sure. I talk about the Leafs with almost everyone I know who has even a mild interest in hockey. I can’t not. I smack-talk teams that I have no business smack talking, teams that could probably have beaten us this year with their fourth line alone. There is a stick autographed by Sundin in my office; sometimes when everyone else is out I’ll play with it. I believe Mats will make the right choice come August 1st. I believe Luke Schenn will save us all. I believe that sometime in the near future we’ll pull things together. Even though it’s hard sometimes, I’m putting my faith in Cliff and I believe in the rebuilding. I can’t imagine my life now without them now. I believe in the Leafs.