Before I say anything I know it’s been a while since we’ve talked. I mean really talked ya know, like we used to. And look I’m sorry for that, but there’s no better time than now.
It’s not as if you haven’t been on my mind, this you know. I’m getting back in touch with you from here at this this new thing I’m doin called TrueBlueLeafs. So if I’m going to have this place where myself and other Leaf friends can come and talk to or about you and freely and honestly, True and Blue, then I’ve got something to get out of the way first, myself.
I’ve always talked about being “born with a blue heart”? You wouldn’t remember when I was in the “Fan Issue” of The Hockey News a few years ago? No you probably can’t because right around that time you had your hands full dealing with Salutegate or getting hit with a fucking waffle. You imagine, a waffle.
Now look at ya. But anyways yeah to refresh it was a few lines in THN on what it’s like being a multi-generational Leafs fan. No I wrote because I wanted to talk about you, not me, but just let me get this out of the way.
When I was a boy, very young, my grandfather Muck (yes I called him Muck) would audio record me. Sometimes it was singing songs like “Oh Lord It’s Hard to Be Humble” (still a struggle) or “Wasn’t That a Party” (again, a struggle). So I have to tell you there was one other piece of i
It was taken during a hockey interview conducted in the early 1980’s which has turned out to be rather incriminating. And no not because at 5 years old I called Wayne Gretzky a “sissy” (it was 1982, sorry). But because I was asked who was my favourite hockey team. So I told my grandfather. And I’m ashamed of my answer. I said “The New York Islanders.”
I guess I must’ve loved a frontrunner back then. The Isles were a the dynasty of the day. Bossy, Trottier, Potvin and Smith, winners. Strong, succesful, filled with everything you could ask for as a fan, even a little one like me. Toughness (you could use a little more, just saying) with Gillies and Nystrom, grit and tenacity with Tonelli and Goring, speedsters like Bourne, add those to the mix of stars listed above and led by Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour, now this was a group to admire.
As it turned out, as tremendous as they were, the Isles turned out to be just great. Sure they were blue (some shitty orange in there too), but they weren’t true blue. Ya know? We are approaching that part of the story where I found out that in life you can have something in you and don’t even know about it until, well, you do. There was just something inside me that hadn’t been awoken. hadn’t been awoken. Then, one Saturday night, it happened.
Recreate the scene in your mind of a coal miners household in Eastern Canada on a Saturday night in the early 80’s. HNIC on the TV and everyone gathered around at Nanny and Poppy’s. The aunt’s, the uncle’s, the cousins, Alexander Keith, Captain Morgan (I thought it was his port), all there watching as the Maple Leafs won in the dying seconds, with victories scarce at the time. I turned my head from the floor, a boy up too late playing still trying to stay among the adults inconspicuously. I still remember looking up as everyone went foolish, filled with joy and rum and Leafs. I turned to the TV, then turned back to my family as life went into slow motion. I can see the high fives. The ones where you pull your Maple Leaf brother or sister in, and then it’s a hug. I can feel that moment as if it’s today, right now. Etched in my spirit forever, a Leaf from that day forward. (I also recall that even as a kid I knew the drunken praise of wild over our 59 point team or so probably was a bit over the top. But that’s us eh.
That night set the course and altered my history to the point I’m here starting up a blog devoted to even the subtlest of your moves. When I wrote to you before it made me closer to you and the closer I got I went from the enabling cheerleader willing to fight for anyone in your employment, from player to manager and especially coach. But the more I saw and the more I learned, I morphed to the skeptic. Being on the verge of what you are, it upped the anti. Knowing and conceding your flaws, this was something new to me. I lost the innocence of the fan, you weren’t an idol. You were real. And now as the relationship has evolved it’s made me love you more. Yes I used the L word. Why wouldn’t I? There’s never been a time you haven’t been there for me.