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A Leafs Hat


Welcome to a new feature we're trying out here. You've noticed the name of it, "Building the Narrative", by now. This feature is going to be a place for us to share fond memories of the Leafs or things tangentially related to the team, something we hope is either funny or poignant but not always either. Got something you'd like to fill this space with? You know how to reach us.

I wasn't very tall growing up. In 1994 I was in fourth grade just outside of Hartford, CT and was the shortest kid in my grade by six inches easy. My parents both worked at the time and so after school I went to daycare until they could pick me up.

Those of you who've frequented the site or even better played hockey with me will likely guess (correctly) that I got into more than my fair share of trouble as a kid. Being stuck somewhere with nothing to do was always a good time to get into mischief.

I don't remember the day anymore and I don't remember the kid who did it. He might have been tall or short, fat or skinny, I don't know. What I remember is that I was playing Blades of Steel on my original grey brick Game Boy wearing the only Toronto Maple Leafs memorabilia I owned: a ratty old Leafs baseball hat.

While amusing myself someone thought it would be funny if he stole my hat and as ten year olds do I chased him around until he put my hat in the volleyball net pole with the geared net tensioner and spun the crank, ripping the only hat I wore clean in half.

Every year when Christmas comes around I watch "A Christmas Story" at least once. I'm not religious but I like the glimpse of Americana that comes wrapped in obvious sepia toned nostalgia. There's a scene late in the movie where Ralphie grows tired of being bullied by Scut Farkas and snaps. He's much smaller than his tormentor but he goes Clarke MacArthur on Jaroslav Spacek, bloodying Scut's face while screaming obscenities.

I don't remember the fight per se, I remember that the other kid had a fat lip and a bloody nose, and I remember that I refused to apologize on the grounds that I didn't start it.

I had gotten the hat from my coach. He was a big Leafs fan and two years earlier while playing for him he first started calling me "The Cat", likely just before Potvin's emergence in the Leafs' net. I remember waiting to get my haircut and reading a Sports Illustrated story about Felix Potvin, a quiet goalie who lived across from an elementary school who thought none of his neighbors recognized him.

I don't remember watching the 1993 playoff run, I would have been nine years old and even if Center Ice existed my family wouldn't have paid for it then, but I remember getting a hat and a nickname. I made sure to watch for Felix Potvin whenever the Leafs played the Whalers and one time got his autograph as he was getting on the Leafs' bus. Thankfully it wasn't on the hat.