Following last night’s 6-2 beat-down by the Bruins, Leaf lovers invariably found it difficult to sleep. Instead of staring up at the Dougie Gilmour poster over their bed all night, they should have got up and watched one of those late night TV infomercials featuring motivational guru Tony Robbins. Tony has all the answers and he’s always harping about how we have to be nicer to ourselves and raise the bar when it comes to our personal expectations.
And that’s the perfect message for Leaf Nation.
Up until the Bruins burst their balloon, it was kind of fun watching the Leafs’ last gasp effort to try and punch a ticket to the post-season dance. The team seemed to band together down the stretch, especially the five “heck no, we won’t go” veterans who refused to waive their no-trade clauses. In the face of ridicule for holding their noses at the chance to leave Toronto and take a shot at the Cup somewhere else, Mats Sundin took his game up another notch and Pavel Kubina looked like the second coming of Bobby Orr. In the end, of course, we’d seen this picture before. For three straight years, the Leafs have staged a late rally, only to miss the playoffs because of their sins earlier in the season.
But close just doesn’t cut it, especially in a city that loves its team like Toronto. Hockey fans across the country often laugh at Leaf Nation for being so blindly loyal to a team that hasn’t accomplished squat since ’67. However, in my mind, Leaf backers are the very definition of what a true fan represents. Rather than it being scoffed at, their passion should be treated with respect because no matter how bad things get, blue and white fever never seems to fade.
That’s why this annual sprint for 8th spot is such a huge insult. In a market the size of Toronto that features an organization rolling in dough and a devoted fan base, it’s a joke that the Leafs have been so pathetic for so long. Considering all of their advantages, the Leafs should be on the same level with franchises such as the Red Sox and Yankees; legendary clubs that boast consistent winning records.
For instance, look at how the Yankees conduct their business. Joe Torre led them to twelve straight playoff appearances, including another one last season. However, because the Yanks haven’t won a World Series since 2000, the owners were getting restless. They low-balled Torre on a one-year contract offer and, as expected, he decided to balk at it and leave for the L.A. Dodgers. Yes, the Yankees play hardball but they make no secret of the fact that they’re trying to win a championship each and every year. Leaf fans should be so lucky because they’re definitely entitled to the same kind of commitment to excellence.
So, forget about the annual race for 8th place. Leaf Nation deserves a whole lot more than they’re getting. As our old buddy Tony Robbins would say, it’s time to “Awaken The Giant Within” and demand a lot more respect.