We could go over the reasons, the accusations, the missteps and even the painful truths of why this season, which when the New Year rang down was looking so bright, now stands as close to a utter and complete rout as hockey allows. But I've carried those arguments around to banter with other fans of the game who ask me about my self destructing love of my life. I come home to witness massacres as the Bruins and Flyers inflict. The little painful knives teams like Carolina leave in our stomachs. I don't even watch the highlights. I read the reports of horrors from recaps left on this website like a French general in 1940. If I want to hear a play by play of sadness, I read the comments of my fellow fans who beared witness to the moment by moment unfolding of the flower of pain each game seems to be.
The only thing which seems to be the positive about this season is that it will soon be over. However the truth is, eight long years stand between a season I haven't echoed that sentiment. Playing for a draft pick would have been a legitimate excuse five years ago. Now it feels like we've ran only a treadmill to realize we expended energy without moving. I know Burke will spin the situation and blow smoke to his benefit so far as he can. He's a salesman, and at this point he's selling a load of his own Grade A. I'd argue the worst thing we can suffer from is hubris in this life. It is impossible to fill a cup which is already full. Once you believe you've got the answers, you'll never have the possibility of learning or growth. I don't want to say Burke is the sole reason for why we are here, but I'd argue he may be the one impediment to us moving from here. He's too focused on destroying criticism of his methods and resistant to the idea that errors made can be admitted without failure being the result. Maybe he can change, and maybe he will. I hope I eat my words this time.
I was enamoured with the man when he came here. My exact exclamation was: The saviour has arrived. However we should be cautious of those elevated to deities. The gods were capricious and egotistical creatures. Prone to madness, hubris and vengeance as common emotions. We'd be best to hold our hearts for heroes. Those who speak through action, and often suffer the same dark nights of the spirit, full of questions as we mere mortals.
I hope Brian Burke realizes we don't want a salesman as GM, or a perfect image of hockey perfection in his acts and choices. We want to see a banner ascending, with that sacred symbol we all worship emblazoned on it like a blue and white sunrise. Heralding a victory which we've wept over and wanted so many times. How we earn that battle flag, who leads and who follows, who charges and who defends, we don't care. The Toronto Maple Leafs, the ideal they represent, the emotions they carry for each of us is bigger than any one man. All that matters in the end is the victory.
And for a man to swallow his pride and create something better, if that's how it begins, show me that man by being that man. Earn this trust we place in you, tell your players when they put on that jersey it's not just another rag. It's as close to wearing the clothing of a hero as they can get. They carry hopes and dreams with them. And if they forget that, if they forget the magic they can summon they forget what it means to be a human being capable of being so much more. To become a hero, an immortal.
This season is over. We stand at the bottom of the hole. I want you to know I still believe. Contrary to my better thinking, I'll share with you another part of that email to my father that tastes like ashes. May it sustain your light in the dark places you may go.
I have always known how the team would be when its moment came round again, call it a premonition of their energy from myself watching the twelfth be revealed, knowing I can die happy with a perfect vision to grace my eyes. They will not be the fastest, nor the strongest, skill may not be their power on all nights nor domination their chosen path. Often they will be outmatched, the paper tigers will roar and blow them away every day, yet they will prove those who have nothing to lose can win everything and they'll have one weapon to which their opponents find constantly wielded against them: the will to win and persevere against all odds. A pure decision made in the heart of pain and struggle to say to defeat: not today. The team will not believe themselves to be a team graced by any destiny, in fact they'll be accused of thwarting or challenging it, an accusation they will wear as a badge of honour. The team will be infused with a different belief: There is no destiny, there is only what is earned by those willing to leave nothing to fate, and if required to sacrifice for what is desired.