This final Leafs’ game seems as good a time as any to admit something that is very painful and traumatic to me. It’s something I’ve had to struggle with for many years since, and I can’t hold it in any longer.
I, dear friends...am a recovering Leafs fan.
I won’t blame you if you click away in disgust. It’s okay. But please, please let me explain myself before you judge me.
You see, this whole insanity started when the Caps acquired a young defenseman from the Hartford Whalers in the summer of 1991 by the name of Sylvain Cote. Now this may sound odd, but I LOVED Cote. Looking back I don’t really know why. Maybe it was because he wasn’t an obvious choice, my love of the underappreciated underdog continuing to this day. Maybe it was because of the way he used to skate with his tongue sticking out. Maybe it was simply because I had a little replica “jersey” t-shirt with his name on it, courtesy of the Junior Capitals Fan Club.
Whatever the reason, I became enamored with Sylvain, a sentiment that would span over a decade. I didn’t care that he had one, maybe two good seasons with the Caps. I didn’t care that the guys sitting around us at games regularly referred to him as “Sylvia”. I proudly wore my ‘Cote’ jersey, by then a real one, to every game. I held my head high as others laughed, taking particular delight in nudging me whenever Cote messed up. I didn’t care. I was sticking by Coco for better or for worse.
Then came that fateful day during the ’97-’98 season when Cote was traded away to Toronto. I was heartbroken. Sure, I had seen others come and go, so many players that I had grown to love and that I missed terribly. But Cote was the first one I had formed an attachment to, and I decided right then and there that my loyalty to him would not end just because he played for another team – I saw it as a technicality at best.
My dad, as you can imagine, was not thrilled.
So I started to follow Toronto. I got to know the players’ names and developed an affection for them that was only rivaled by my beloved Caps. I called Sundin “Sundini”...why, I have no idea, but to this day I call him that in my head, even while cursing him aloud. I had a bizarre fascination with Tie Domi, whom my father referred to as “Bullethead” just to annoy me. Steve Thomas, Sergei Berezin, Bryan Berard, Yanic Perreault and of course, CuJo – all remain among my all-time favorites to this day, and all because of a little underappreciated d-man from Quebec.
Cote’s tenure in TO was short-lived, lasting just over a season. I trotted right alongside him as he moved on to Chicago, then Dallas, then back to Toronto before making his triumphant return to DC for the final three years of his career. His return to the Caps coincided with my arrival in Montreal, thus ending for good my brief hiatus into LeafsNation and hearkening a return to sanity.
It’s funny, looking back now I don’t remember having any particular animosity towards Montreal, Ottawa, or any other Leafs’ rivals – that probably means I never got fully sucked in and am probably a better person for it. Still, I look back with fondness at my short time with the Leafs. They were a different team then; save for Sundin and more recently Yanic Perreault, everyone from those two years has either moved on to other teams or retired, so I feel I can eye the current roster disdainfully without being a total hypocrite.
And that’s my horrible confession. I hope you don’t judge me too harshly...
Damn, I hope they don't make me turn in my Canadiens flag.
People, people, people. I'm so disappointed. Here I give you a golden opportunity to do something that frankly I haven't been able to do all year long, and that is to give Jeff Schultz a nickname. Judging by the entries to the first nickname contest, I was hoping for a bit more pizzazz, a bit more creativity, a bit more oomph.
Actually, I was just hoping for a bit more, period - the number of entries was paltry compared to last time. I'm so disappointed I'm not even going to do nicknames of my own. See what you've done? You've disappointed someone whose life, as a Caps fan, has been wrought with disappointment. I didn't think it was possible.
*Sigh* I guess I should pick a winner...there were actually some good ones (I'll refrain from pointing at and mocking the entries I didn't like) and after poring over the submissions I've decided it's a tie:
Winner #1: Cathy, with her entry of Jeff "The Calgary Tower" Schultz
Winner #2: Biff, with his somewhat reluctant entry (nicknames are fun, Biff, admit it!) of Jeff "Peanut" Schultz
Okay, just because I'm feeling beneficent, here's ONE nickname for the Caps-Leafs showdown: Darcy "Mother" Tucker. It just makes me laugh every time - it's good that I at least crack myself up, right?
I'm willing to give you all another try - not because I'm so giving and kind-hearted, but because frankly what the heck else are we going to do between now and the end of the season?
Oh, yeah - go Caps.