Let the record show that on Thursday, Oct. 14, the Toronto Maple Leafs were the best team in hockey, all by their lonesome. With a pristine 3-0 record, the Buds would be joined at the top that night by Dallas, Nashville and Tampa Bay, but it is worth mentioning nonetheless.
How the season continues for Toronto is an unknown, but there certainly is a lot of goodwill floating around the city right now. Inevitably, snark and laziness will prompt someone somewhere to write that Leafs fans are “already planning the Stanley Cup parade,” a reference used as often as that of Philadelphia fans throwing snowballs at Santa Claus in old Veterans Stadium.
But has anyone in Toronto actually pre-planned a parade route, ever? I've lived in and around the city for 31 years now and have never heard of it. I do remember the city of Vancouver holding “Vancouver Canucks Day” last year after the team's first round victory over the Los Angeles Kings (but before their second round defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks). And I also remember Montreal Canadiens fans torching cars after the team's first round victory over the Boston Bruins two years ago.
(And as an aside, people who say vandals aren't “true fans” are just wrong. People can be fans and idiots at the same time – just look at soccer hooligans. They've got tattoos supporting Millwall or Lazio, so clearly they feel some sort of lasting affinity to the guys running around the local lawn for 90 minutes. Call them criminals, fine, but they also like sports.)
It is true that Alexander Mogilny, after winning a Stanley Cup in New Jersey, was flabbergasted at how excited Maple Leafs fans became when his Toronto squad merely won a round in the post-season, but there was no parade planned – just a lot of cars honking in joy. And is that really a crime?
The Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series in more than a century. The Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and New York Knicks have been unwatchable for years. But they all still have a fan base. Critics will say “act like you've been there before,” but why? These are fans, not professionals. Toronto Maple Leafs hockey is an outlet for them and people cheer for many different reasons.
To live and die by a team (not literally, of course) is a divine thing and a true unifier in a time of so many competing interests. Karl Marx may have sniffed at sport, but his hobbies clearly lay elsewhere.
If someone wants to follow the Maple Leafs from cradle to grave without seeing a title won by the boys in blue, is it really anything to chortle at? Is it any less of a pursuit than stamp collecting or gardening? Of course not. Fandom is about ups and downs – or going over to a buddy's house to watch the game and forget about the drudgeries of the day.
Ask Chicago Blackhawks fans if it was worth the wait. I'm sure they'll tell you one of the best days they can remember was when their boys marched down Madison Avenue with the Stanley Cup in tow.
And while it may take a few more years before the Maple Leafs need to plan a parade route, here's hoping people get a little more creative in the interim when they're having their fun at the fans' expense.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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