I remember the day as if it was yesterday. My friend Ian, who lived down the street, called. His family was going to the Expo ’67 World’s Fair. Did I want to join them?
It was May 2, and the fair had opened just four days previously, so while I had a season passport I hadn’t been yet. That evening I had planned on watching the hockey game on television. I had a choice to make.
Back in those days there were only six teams in the National Hockey League (there are 32 now). Montreal and Toronto were dominant and the Stanley Cup playoffs were only two rounds, not the four of today. That meant the playoffs ended no later than the first week of May, instead of stretching into June as they do now. .
That night was game six of the best of seven final. Toronto were up three games to two. For some reason I was cheering for the Maple Leafs instead of my hometown Canadiens. I felt the Leafs would wrap up the season with a win that evening, and I wanted to watch.
Instead, I went to Expo. I can’t remember if I initially said no and my mother convinced me to reconsider, or whether I immediately said yes. I do remember thinking I could just watch the Leafs win the Cup the next year.
That was 56 years ago today. Not only have the Leafs not won the Stanley Cup since, they haven’t even made the finals. Any Leaf fan would tell me I made a horrendous choice. Some superstitious ones might blame me for the ensuing drought, though i don’t see the logic to that. Of course superstition defies logic.
This year though there is hope. They managed to get through the first round, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. Last year they collapsed when they faced the Lightning.
As Leaf fans were well aware though, even a first round win didn’t mean much because then they would face the Boston Bruins. Not only did the Bruins set a record for regular season wins and points, but they are the team that has embarrassed the Leafs most in recent playoff appearances.
Except they won’t be facing the Bruins. In a surprise upset, the Bruins got knocked out in seven games in the first round by the Florida Panthers. Leaf fans are confident they will beat the Panthers – and they may be right.
Not that many Leaf fans will travel to Florida to watch – the team has banned ticket sales to Canadian credit cards. My guess is that they were concerned the rink would be awash with blue and white with nary a Panther fan to be found. Which would have been embarrassing and unsettling to Florida’s players.
I’m not a Leaf fan. Though I will cheer for them as the only Canadian team still playing in the east. In the same fashion, I am also cheering for the Edmonton Oilers, the last Canadian team playing in the west.
It has been 30 years since a Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup. This year I am dreaming of an all-Canadian final. The odds are against it, given team performances in recent years, but sometimes it is good to dream.
Who are you cheering for in these playoffs? Or do you just not care?
It’s hard to care if your team is Vancouver Canucks. The playoffs are hardly mentioned in the Vancouver Sun. It used to be diiferent when the Sedins were in their prime.
Next year I’m thinking Powell River Kings though last season they finished lower than the Canucks. At least they play just 10 minutes from here. Junior hockey can be good!
As a former Pembroke Lumber Kings season ticket holder, I agree about Junior hockey. Actually, that’s another reason for me to cheer the Leafs this year- Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe began his coaching career with the Lumber Kings.