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Walk On With Hope In Your Heart

Last night's game was enough to tremble the foundations of the most loyal Leaf fans. It certainly has not been the first and it will not be the last. That is the dichotomy of being a fan. There are no highs without the lows. Red Wing fans had to endure 42 years of mediocre, incompetent, and mentally weak teams before they were able to celebrate a Stanley Cup. The Rangers went 54 years of the same. Neither franchise ever really got close (lopsided Finals defeats aside) but the fans stuck with their team and in the end they were able to savour reaching the mountaintop.

aquietgirl's post serves as a reminder that as bad as things get there is always tomorrow. I have been a huge Liverpool fan and You'll Never Walk Alone, the team's anthem (no God Save the Queen in Liverpool) serves to remind the fans and players that they are inexorably bound.

When you walk through a storm
Keep your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.

I have had the privilege of travelling to Anfield to sing YNWA in the stands and I have heard it sung at various times. I have heard it before every game, seconds after a last minute goal has consigned Liverpool to a bitter defeat, and after important victories. At that point, the players and fans struggles are validated as they have seen the fruits of their labours. A perfect example is during the 2005 Champions League semi-final versus Chelsea. The Chelsea players were visibly shaken when they entered the pitch and were met by a wall of sound.

The most spectacular rendition came at half-time in Istanbul during the 2005 Champions League Final when Liverpool trailed 3-0 and seemed destined to lose in embarrassing fashion. The 60,000 strong contingent belted out one of the strongest renditions in the club's history. Down the tunnel a jubilant AC Milan could hear the thundering voices and feel the shaking stand while a seemingly beaten Liverpool was given new life. Their coach, Rafa Benitez, used the fan's commitment to inspire his players on to one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.

"I said: ╢Donâ•˙t let your heads drop. Weâ•˙re Liverpool. Youâ•˙re playing for Liverpool. Donâ•˙t forget that. You have to hold your heads high for the supporters. You have to do it for them. ╢You canâ•˙t call yourselves Liverpool players if you have your heads down. If we create a few chances we have the possibility of getting back into this. Believe you can do it and you will. Give yourself the chance to be heroesâ•˙."

On Saturday night, Leaf fans will have to play the part of a 7th man for the team. Their commitment to the team and the team's response have been evident over the Leafs eight game winning streak at the ACC and game 82 will require more of the same. Too often over the course of a season the rink can be quiet but as the importance of the games has risen so has the level of vocal support from the fans. Both the fans and the team will have to be at their best in order to beat the old enemy, a team that the Leafs have not met in a meaningful game since 1979, a team that stands between them and the post-season. If the Leafs succeed in stretching their winning streak to nine games they will still need some help from the Flyers and Devils to ensure that the Islanders do not pass them but they will have taken the chance to be heroes.

At the end of the day, playoffs or no playoffs, the bond between supporters and players will remain as it always has, waiting on the end of the storm and that golden sky. Go Leafs Go!