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Game Day: Maple Leafs at Chicago

The show goes on, after a day of horrible revelations.

Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Yesterday, in a move very likely timed to have the Toronto media’s focus on Chicago, the results of the independent investigation into the Chicago team was revealed. In June 2021, the Chicago Blackhawks retained lawyers from the firm of Jenner & Block LLP to investigate the team’s own actions responding to a sexual assault in 2010.

The report detailed the way in which the team at the time chose their PR concerns and playoff drive over their responsibility to respond to the report of a crime. GM Stan Bowman resigned in disgrace from the team and from USA Hockey, where he was the GM of the Olympic team. Some other executives had already left the team, and senior executive Al MacIsaac was also removed yesterday in disgrace. Kyle Davidson is the interim GM.

The team was fined $2 million by the NHL — pocket change for a franchise valued at over $1 billion. Together, Chicago, Toronto, New York Rangers and Montréal hold an asset value of over $5.5 billion and are the reason the NHL is big business. The NHL is a business — the entertainment business — and stories like this one rip away the superficial layers of sport, fandom and spectacle and deserve serious attention.

John Doe and others were harmed by the Chicago team as a whole as they chose to prioritize winning that banner shown above over their obligations to their own players. They have admitted as much — after some prodding. The show stopped yesterday, the props were put aside, and painful truths about people were revealed. Because those people spend most of their time putting on the show that we usually enjoy watching, it’s too easy to forget that the game isn’t the important thing, and the disgraceful things done to John Doe and the lack of responsibility taken by anyone on the team are not entertainment. No popcorn needs to be popped. It’s not fodder for fan taunts or zingers. It’s not proof that this team is better or worse than your team. Justice isn’t served by a win/loss record.

Chicago’s overstuffed suite of executives chose to tarnish that banner. To take what was to become an epic run of hockey success and layer on disgrace after disgrace over the accomplishments of the players — not all of whom walk innocently and with a clear conscience today. The term Original Six means nothing good today.

In this milieu a game will be played. We will try to take a deep breath and treat this as entertainment worthy of our attention. But it’s understandable if that’s hard. I could have ignored this story and just given you lines and talk of power play changes and who is in or out of the lineup, but that seemed grotesque. The show does go on, however. And it’s okay to love the Leafs, particularly if you trust yourselves, as I do you, to hold them to a higher standard than Chicago kept in 2010.

The Game

Toronto @ Chicago on Sportsnet 1 and NHCSCH at 7:30 p.m.
Opponent’s site: Second City Hockey

The Maple Leafs are not expected to make many changes to their lineup based on yesterday’s practice beyond a move to switch William Nylander into the bumper spot on the power play. Jack Campbell will get the start.

Chicago’s lineup is in flux with several players in COVID protocol and unavailable for yesterday’s practice.

In case you’ve forgotten, Marc-André Fleury is now the starter in Chicago, but Kevin Lankinen is set to start tonight. The team has yet to win a game. They are tied with Arizona with matching records of near total futility as each has one loser point. Chicago actually has a worse goal differential than the Leafs.

The Leafs have lost three in a row heading into tonight, coincidentally all losses coming against American teams. One of these teams is getting two points out of this game.

Look for warmup lines in the comments.