The Ottawa Senators are skating at the doorstep of hockey supremacy. Across the country, millions are cheering for the club to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup home to Canada for the first time since 1993. Cheering are fans in the west. Cheering are fans in the east. Cheering are the fans in… Leafs nation?
A few weeks ago some buddies and I went out to watch Game 2 of the Buffalo-Ottawa series. Born and raised a Leaf fan, with memories of intense Battle of Ontario playoff clashes still fresh in mind, I was pulling for the Sabres to win the series. Actually, that’s not quite true. I wasn’t hoping Buffalo would win the series. I was hoping Ottawa would choke, fail and be embarrassed worse than the kid in high school who showered after gym in his bathing suit.
Early in the game a friend of mine -- a die-hard, raised with blue blood Maple Leaf fan -- casually explained that he was cheering for the Sens. Excuse me, what? I should have stabbed him in the eye with a fucking fork. After all the blood, sweat and tears the two teams exchanged over the last few years, how could any true Leafs fan possibly root for those nation capital pricks? Shouldn’t we hate them to our very core? It wasn’t just my friend, either; the entire bar, rooted in a city filled with Maple Leaf faithful, was raucously celebrating each Senators goal.
Is there any chance in hell this would have happened three years ago? If Ottawa knocked Toronto out of the playoffs would Buds fans cheer for the Sens “Because they’re the last Canadian team” (which, by the way, perfectly exemplifies Canada’s inferiority complex doesn’t it? Wouldn’t that be the same as Yankee fans getting knocked out and saying they’re going to cheer for the Mets “Because they’re the last New York team”? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen)?
Admittedly, it’s not the real fans causing problems, not the ones who live, eat and breath Maple Leafs hockey (I don’t necessarily put myself in his category, by the way. A lot of these guys would pass up free sex to watch an October Leafs-Blues tilt, a sacrifice I am not yet willing to make). The real fans think the no-call of Gretzky’s high stick in 1993 was a conspiracy to avoid a Leafs-Habs Cup final. The real fans still throw up in their mouths a little when they remember how close Gary Roberts came to being a Senator. The real fans think it’s awesome Tie Domi kept banging away after he retired, except he shifted from the ice to Belinda Stonach’s vagina.
It’s the fair-weather fans giving us Leafs nation a bad name. Talk to most non-Leaf fans in Canada and they already loathe us. They claim Leafs fans are overbearing (true), they think we’re ridiculous optimists constantly claiming this is “The Year” (true), they think we live too much in the past (true) and they think we’re assholes (probably true). At least, amid our ignorance and obtrusiveness, Leaf-haters acknowledge we really care about the Leafs, however misguided our passion may be. Why take that away? Do we really need to add bandwagon jumping or selling out our own team for a hated rival to that list?
Half of Canada is cheering for the Sens right now and I’d wager a healthy handful of those people are mostly doing it because they know that for Leafs fans, watching Ottawa bring home the Stanley Cup is like watching your girlfriend bang your worst enemy on national television (well… ex-girlfriend whom we still love, I suppose, since it’s been so long since us and Stanley hooked up). They want to see us suffer. And I respect that. Yeah, I’m bitter and jaded, but considering we reminisce about the Doug Gilmour-era Leafs like they were the ’70s Habs, so should every Toronto fan be at this point. So for the next few weeks, each and every Leaf fan should be unofficially enroling as members of Ducks Nation.
But not everyone is. Some are sleeping with the enemy. Fair enough. If you’re a “Leafs fan” and you’re been cheering for Ottawa “because they’re the last Canadian team,” great. Go cheer for the Senators and stay there. One more good reason to hate those bastards.