Your 2014-15 Toronto Maple Leafs
1. On The 1932 Leafs Cup Win, And Thomas Wolfe. The late, and extremely great, American novelist of the 1930's, Thomas Wolfe, was both an early, and a fiercely-loyal, Toronto Maple Leaf fan. Visiting friends in Toronto in 1932, Wolfe happened to follow along to one of the very first games in the new Maple Leaf Gardens, a 6-0 win over the Montreal Maroons.
Exhilarated by his first experience of hockey, Wolfe (a big man for his time, at 6'6") not only became a convert of the Leafs, but a particular devotee of Charlie Conacher, "The Big Bomber," and the way he blasted down the wing... and of rowdy "Red" Horner, and the way he took care of business on defence.
In fact, so strong was his devotion to the Leafs that Wolfe brought together an entire train-car of fans to attend the Ace Bailey tribute game on February 14th, 1934. And while a lesser-known tale than the Bailey trip, both Conacher and Horner appear [under other names], in Wolfe's 1935 memoir/novel, "Of Time and the River."
With that in mind - and hewing to our theme of loss - I am sure that if Wolfe were alive today, he would be entirely comfortable applying his famous lines from "Look Homeward Angel" to the Leafs today, for whom they are remarkably apropos. Amended, they would read:
Lost, among bright stars on this most weary, unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly, we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. McDavid? Eichel? O lost, and by the wind grieved, Dave Keon, come back again.
Thomas Wolfe knew. He knew there was a place. For Leaf fans. Beyond the seas of thought. Across the streams of hopes and dreams. To the land... inside your mind.
And later... when Wolfe was gone, and hope was lost, there came... the Nuge. The Nuge, who challenged us. All of us, to come along. If we dared. Do you dare?
I will dare.
2. On Likeability, UnFuckingLikeability, And Jonathan Bernier. Why do we like certain hockey players or coaches or managers? Well, sometimes we like guys for their humility. Like a James Reimer. Other times, we like the blustery barn fighters like Burkie. Sometimes the smooth, sweet play of a guy like Kaberle. Other times, guys that hurl themselves around the ice like madmen, like Ovie. Sometimes the hometown guys, like, for me, Crosby (being from Nova Scotia.) Other times we like individual players because they’re old or young or underpaid or small or they have energy or grit or a willingness to take one for the team.
In truth, there are a lot of reasons to like individual players.
Lots of reasons. Except perhaps, for today’s Leafs. You don't often hear this from me, but I think the critics have this one right. These Leaf players have given me an almost endless set of reasons to not like them. And almost nothing in their favour. This isn't about whether they saluted or shit like that, or whether or not they talked to some goddamn reporter, or even whether Ron "Suckerfish" Wilson liked them. It’s more the other stuff, that the players say or do.
Like, I give a rather large damn about what has happened, historically, in South Africa. And so, the comments by Jonathan Bernier were - for me - basically too much. I mean, you have millions of dollars, you have nothing to do with for 8-10 of the waking hours of your day, it's just been made publicly apparent that you're as clueless as an empty goddamn jar, Jonathan, and you don't DO anything about it?
Then go away.
Just. Get. Away. From. Me. Because I no longer want to listen to funny stories about you or interesting post-game explanations from you. Fuck off somewhere where they’ll love ignorant shit.
Like Montreal. Ottawa. Both. Wherever.
Or take Dion. You know, that whole "glower face" thing he's developed? Well, my life’s been full of idiots who made that face. The ultra-serious, "BigFuckingCompetitor" guys. And all my life, I’ve relished taking those ass-clowns down. Which tends to be quite doable, because they think that their dreadful po-face can substitute for actual creativity, or leadership.
That, and the shoes, Dion. I mean, what the fuck is that about? Look. Sell the fucking shoes and give the money to the poor or something, willya?
Because I really do not have one single fuck left to give for you and your Sneaker Pimpin' ways.
And Bozak? Christ, he comes across as an inflated Bozo off the ice, and lazy on it. And lazy? I may never get over just how lazy JVR looks, and it got worse with each passing game. This tool just cannot be bothered to play defence. In fact, I'm done with that whole line.
The list goes on. I mean, thank God that Clarkson is gone, because for completely personal reasons alone, I couldn't stand to even watch him anymore.
Ok. Let's be positive. Who do I LOVE out of this shit-heap of a team?
Well, Leo Fucking Komarov, for starters. Oh sure, I know he's not an All-Star, and I know what he’s paid. But the fucking guy did a good job. And he didn’t mail it in. Plus, he’s smart. And he’s funny - on ice and off. PLUS... he REALLY wanted to be a Leaf. That all counts in his favour.
Rielly and Jake, I like both of them. They’ve got talent, more grit than they’re given credit for, and above all, they’re interested in LEARNING and becoming better. And Reimer, obviously I like. It’s like gravity - he's hard not to like. Kadri.... Mmmmmm.... I guess I need to be convinced that he hasn't rotted out. Playing too long in a rotten place can do that. I’d like for Kadri to look like he LIKED playing again. And he's not a kid now, at 25. So it's now or never, Naz.
And... all in all... holy shit that’s thin for a team I LIKE. Because I’m not even much in love with our more marginal younger guys, like Holland and Panik. And even some of the Marlies - no thanks Granberg and MacWilliam.
Now, what I WOULD enjoy is a Leafs team that gave real ice-time to Nylander and Loov and Johnson... and brought up Percy and Frattin, or maybe Connor Brown and Leipsic for a serious, 10 game trial... I think you see where I’m going.
Basically, I’d rather see a Leipsic than a Lupul next year... even though I’m sure Lupul is the more talented.
People change. But some people never do. And I grew tired, 2014-15 Leafs, of waiting on you.
3. On The Hocku. Apparently, the Japanese are trying to make their new "Haiku" a thing. Which is pretty cute. I mean, "cute" insofaras this is a fairly transparent attempt to copy the better-known Canadian literary form - the "Hocku."
And of course, the Japanese, and that amazing, resilient, sense of humour. First "Pearl Harbor." Then "Fukushima." And now - "The Haiku." What kidders. Still, even a cursory inspection reveals the Haiku as a thing unlikely to last, lacking as it does the literary snow chains required to handle this World’s heavy, post-nuclear Winter. In particular, it lacks the 3 elements which lifted the Hocku to the pinnacle of Canada's post-Wendelian literary Renaissance:
1st. The Hocku always focusses strictly on Hockey - God’s chosen microcosm for life. In its place, the Haiku has flowers and shit. So, frankly, ha ha haiku, you've diffused the power of poetic focus right from the start, so fuck you, loser.
2nd. The Hocku also follows a strict per line syllable count, known even to the youngest Canadian hockey fan: "1-9-6-7." Whereas the "Haiku" uses some other fucked up set of numbers, about which, who cares?
3rd . And of course, the innovation which firmly separated classical Ullmanian Hocku from the Shakespearean Sonnet... that every Hocku must contain a reference to an old dog. Because, let’s face it, any poem that doesn’t have an old dog in it can go fuck itself.
Traditional Hocku (1968)
old dog Mike used to chase the puck in
to the corner, when we
played on the back pond. he died.
2001 Pulitzer Winning Hocku
went Mats, and how the Snes tears fell. then
we laughed when their dog died too.
out in fuckin‘ Kanata.
Innovative Recent Work (2013)
fuck sake Randy, where’s your goddamn head?
you’re gonna dress both Orr
and McLaren? they’re dog shit.
And of course, with the Hocku, it's all about the Rhythm. Its manacle, its demonic chant. The rhythm.
4. On Losing, Life, And A Bit Of Redemption. Losing. It happens to us all. Not just to Leaf fans, or just in sports... but in life. I’m a bit older than some here, and perhaps have had more time to become acquainted with loss. To see how it changes people, up close. And maybe most important, time to try to learn how best to respond to loss.
In my life, I have lost a great deal. Sure, I've also won my share of victories. But loss is its own thing. A Big Thing. For starters, due to divorce and then illness, I lost both parents very young. As I grew older, I went through a more usual series of losses: I lost a spot on a hockey team I valued very much. I lost a job, after receiving a major promotion. And most recently, in middle age, I lost my health (since recovered), lost a brother (gone, lost, and by the wind grieved), and then almost lost my wife to cancer (she recovered.)
If you live long enough, your list of losses - sadly - will grow this long. And longer. So. Was I broken by these losses over the years? Well, in fact, I was.
I was broken, and I wept. I drank. I drove the roads like a madman. I collapsed into spells of depression that took months, even years off my life. The by-now almost cliche responses of a broken man.
And yet, of all the options open to me, there is one I never chose. One path I avoided, one depth to which I would not sink. One warning which my family had drilled into me, a commitment that became the rock-solid center of my molten moral core.
No matter how devastating my losses... I never became a Canucks fan.
Or even gave the Snes a smell.
And fuck the Habs.
As Wendel 17:17 says, "YEAH VERILY, FUCK THE HABS, AND THE YELLOW-EYED CREATURES THAT WALLOW IN THEIR FILTH. ALSO RE: THE CANUCKS, WHO CAN EVEN BE BOTHERED? I MEAN... ZERO CUPS. EVER? LOL. AND THEN, IMAGINE ONTARIO HAVING TWO TEAMS! MIND... BLOWN."
This refusal to stoop, I believe, is at heart of what it means when they say, "Losing... shows a person’s character." Because... no. Such a choice could not be prettied up, made palatable. I am no sniffer of high-quality bandwagons. In my moral universe, low-life ass-biting creeps who will only put on a team’s sweater once they're winning are, ummmm, ok, I may have overshot the runway there, anyway, they’re... low-life ass-biting creeps.
Now. Am I saying I’m better than the fans of these other teams?
Damn straight I am. What the fuck’s wrong with you? I thought I pretty much just spelled that out.
We... are better than... them. There. Clear enough?
And what this means is that when these clown fans lose, it’s because they fucking well deserve it. And no, this is not just some shallow "Hot Take" analysis based on how they're bad at being fans, and how they riot and shit like that. Which they do.
It’s because they’re bad people. Immoral people. The kind of people who - in addition - have bad hair-cuts. The kind of people who volunteer to visit your Granny, but only because it’ll look good on their CV when they apply to Med School. And then, when they visit her, they’re hung over, and so, are incontinent on your Granny’s prize couch. But these fans? Pffft. They're the kind of people who will rub their stinky fat incontinent asses right in there between the cushions.
It's the way Canucks-Snes-Habs fans are.
Whereas the rest of us? We're making a living the old hard way. Taking and giving it day by day. We dig snow, and rain, and bright sunshine. Dragging the line.
Ok. I think I've made a pretty strong case here, so I should probably move on to another subject.
5. Obligatory Top 5 Women List. Not wanting to cause any controversy, but the best and most significant 5 female rock and pop artists of the last 50 years are, in precise order:
#3 Patti Fucking Smith.
#4 Carole King. A surprise to some of you dingos perhaps, but lookit ---> 118 songs she wrote or co-wrote were Billboard Top 100 hits. That's a bit better than goddamn Mariah.
#5. Now, 5th is always the toughest choice, on any list. And I love me some Laurie Anderson AND Annie Lennox AND Lucinda AND obvs, Jane Siberry. And they all should be in the Top 10. But sooner or later, we all get wrecked and wretched over love, and when we do, we turn to Fleetwood Mac. Who were wrecked and wretched ALL the time. Over love. Thing is, it was with each other. Which made making music even better, right? So. Choosing Fleetwood Mac, you get the wrecked and wretched thing, PLUS it's like you get to draft BOTH Christine McVie AND Stevie Nicks with the one pick. And you have to do that. You have to make that call.
So I’m making it.
Oh yeah. And if you missed the meaning this time... here comes another one.