When this season started, I didn't have the highest of hopes for the Leafs. I was hoping for the best and expecting the worst, which I think I can safely say is how we all think when it comes to this team. I've said it time and time again, if you were to look up the term "Unconditional Love" in the dictionary you would see a picture of any one of us wearing a Todd Gill jersey looking like they had just been punched in the stomach.
After the first four games of this season, despite my best efforts my expectations started to rise....I should have known better, I really should have, but I couldn't help it. The slide we've been on since reminded me of Christmas last year.
I've been told that shopping for me is a real pain. I don't know why, I think I'm easy to shop for. I love the Leafs, I play guitar and have a love for Brett Favre that boderlines obsession. Despite these things, my girlfriend gives me crap every year that she never has any idea what to get for me.
It was right around this same time last year that Wendel Clark released his autobiography and like any good Canadian, I was pumped. Thinking ahead I decided against buying it for myself that way I could tell the missus that I wanted it for Christmas.
A few weeks later, my girlfriend comes to me looking for my Christmas list and on it front and center was "Wendel Clark My Life In Hockey." She says to me "What's that?" to which I replied that it was the autobiography of my favourite Leaf. Fast forward a few weeks and the missus is out with her friends in Ancaster where she was working at the time and she asked one of her friends what they were doing for a job these days. He answered that he was working at book warehouse in Hamilton and that there was some hockey player that had been in recently signing books. Apparently this random hockey player was just about the nicest guy around, bringing in Tim Horton's coffee and buying lunch for the guys in the warehouse. My girl asked who the hockey player was, but her friend didn't remember his name. "It was some wierd name, it it was like Warren or Walter or something. But I know his last name was Clark" which led to the following exchange
"Yeah that sounds about right"
"The Wendel Clark?"
"Well he's a Wendel Clark"
"Ummm can you do me a favour?"
She went on to ask him if she had bought a copy of the book and gave it to him, would he ask Wendel to sign it for me. Well off her friend goes the next day to work to ask Wendel about this favour. When asked about the autograph apparently Wendel replied "I'll do you one better. How about an autographed shirt?"
Once told of the offer my girlfriend immediately went out and bought a Leafs shirt for the occasion, and handed it over to her friend for signage.
Christmas morning arrives and my girl hands me the prized gift with a glowing smile and watched as I opened my present. Slowly I open the present to see a replica Clark T shirt complete with captains C and number 17 on the back. As I turn the shirt to see the Toronto Maple Leafs logo I see the writing
"To A Great Fan and Thanks for the Support, To Kim, From Wendel Clark"
My eyes and shoulders drop and my knees buckle
My girlfriend turns to me with worry in her eyes "Kyle, what's the matter?" she asks me
I turn the shirt around to her and reply "Kim hunny, my favourite player in history of the game signed a shirt to you for my Christmas present. Merry Christmas dear"
All of a sudden it dawned on me that this was the most Leafs-centric gift I'd ever been given. It was beautiful all the way to the end when without warning my heart was ripped from my chest.
After last nights loss I woke up and went out to Michaels craft store and bought a frame for the infamous shirt and hung in on my wall. My girl asked me why I would do that
I replied that it was to remind me to never get excited till the final whistle because you just never know