Feschuk: So all will be well forever … right?

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

A very good coach has joined the Maple Leafs. Naturally, everyone is calm and rational about it.

It’s an exciting time for hockey fans in Canada. Edmonton has a new GM, a new coach and dibs on Connor McDavid. Calgary and Ottawa have youth and momentum. Montreal has the best goalie on Earth—and a defence that generously allows him to prove it each night. Vancouver has, uh, mountains and stuff? Winnipeg fans have the thrill of knowing that winter will return in about three weeks. And now even enthusiasts of the Toronto Maple Leafs—the Leafs!—have a reason to look on the hockey bright side.

Let’s parse the introductory press conference of Mike Babcock, head coach of the Leafs and—to judge from reaction to his hiring—possibly a resurrected deity or Wonder Twin of some kind.

“This is a great, great city, unbelievable fans.” 

Indeed, the fans are so rabid that only rarely do more than seven minutes elapse in a period before they return to their platinum seats from intermission. I assume these patrons also have their own post-game radio show that takes phone calls on the sashimi. (“I thought the hamachi tonight was unforgivably bland, Percy. I’ll hang up and listen to your answer.”)


“I never came here to make the playoffs. I came here to be involved in a Cup process.”

I, for one, look forward to four years from now, when the Leafs finish 13th overall and subsequently raise a banner at the Air Canada Centre to celebrate “Involvement in Cup Process 2018–19.”


Download Sportsnet magazine now: iOS | Android | Windows

“You don’t win without good people, and we’re going to have good people.”

Surely it was a surreal experience for current Leafs players to listen to Babcock’s remarks. He rarely spoke more than a couple dozen words before circling back to his key message: The Leafs, as currently constituted, bite the big one. He really rubbed their faces in it: “Long journey . . . a hard spot . . . there’s pain coming . . . massive, massive challenge.” One can only imagine what players were thinking.

Dion Phaneuf: “I better get to the gym!”

Nazem Kadri: “I better start packing my bags!”

Phil Kessel: “Man, this hammock is super comfy!”


“[This fan base] understands we are going to be in
a long process here to get them where they want to go.”

Babcock is highly regarded, but it’s too soon to tell if this will be like Bill Belichick walking into New England or Ned Stark walking into King’s Landing. In the short term, Babcock is going to great lengths to Whac-A-Mole every hint of emerging hope. But Leafs fans are a damaged and desperate bunch. They’ve been exposed to more heartache than a well-meaning fella in a country music song. They’re bound to overreact to the slightest sniff of the possible.

Babcock: “Our team is the worst. We are literally years away from competing for the Stanley Cup.”

Fans: “He said Stanley Cup! THE DROUGHT IS OVER!”


“I came here with my eyes wide open...I have a burning desire to win.”

Since signing his contract, Babcock has been praised as a great coach, a visionary leader, a brilliant strategist, a 17th-level magic user and a generous lover. Is it possible he will succeed with the team? You bet. But quotes like “burning desire” are a direct challenge to the hockey gods. And that rarely ends well in Toronto.

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS: | Broadcast Schedule
Rogers GameCentre LIVE | Stanley Cup Playoffs Fantasy Hockey | New Sportsnet app: iTunes | Google Play

Thump, God of Forechecking: “Regard! Another has come to the forsaken land with the hubris to believe he can triumph.”

Crotchnor, God of Groin Pulls: “Shall I smite him? Preferably with a groin pull, which is kind of my specialty.”

Bing, God of Crossbars: “Patience! We must allow optimism to grow. Allow confidence to blossom. And that’s when we hit him with the 12-game losing streak and Morgan Rielly abruptly retiring from hockey to open a B & B.”

Crotchnor (after a pause): “Can I at least tweak his hammy?”

This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.