Leafs and the Lost Parade
By Charlie Hodge.
Silly as it sounds (and unlikely as the scenario is) there appears to be a sad, almost cruel Murphy’s Law, bad-luck shadow attached to the legendary Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team.
Discussing recent bans and cancellations of large public events due to coronavirus the sports commentator jokingly suggested, “Can you imagine the Leafs finally win the Stanley Cup and no one is allowed to watch the championship parade? Only the Leafs could have that happen to them.”
Har har har. Yet wait a minute. Ironically the spontaneous, witty babble comment may perhaps prove a tad profound in a perverse bad luck way. Little (or nothing) the Maple Leafs touch turns to gold.
For more than 50 years since winning their last Cup, Leaf fans have painfully anguished between one heart break or another during close losses for the coveted trophy. The team has struggled through numerous injuries, deaths, or other tragedies impacting players and or management.
In addition, major NHL expansions occurred so selecting young stars to bolster the team during drafts has been tougher than back in the original six-team league. What draft picks they made trended towards terrible. Bad trades, dominating, cheap, archaic ownership and management by the Ballards, Smythe clans, and others cemented the club as bottom feeders and heart breakers for decades now.
Toss in a few problem players, a ridiculous amount of bad luck and it is little wonder many fans fled to other teams. Moi included.
However the past few years have seen new owners and management turn the club around. With the arrogant old boys club management gone the healing return to respect on and off the ice was kick started. Today the club boasts true Cup potential with young stars such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. While the club consistently finds ways to shoot themselves in the foot with bad luck, injuries, or just playing dumb hockey at crucial times, the hope and dream is alive again.
Last year and this many hockey pundits hoped the long sought after Cup may be in reach. While the odds are still bigger than fans hoped this could, “be the year.”
Yet no one saw the dangerous, deadly disease as another hurdle in the Leaf’s leap back to legendary status.
Earlier this week the San Jose Sharks announced (based on a county-enforced ban on large gatherings of people) they will not host the next three home games – at least not with fans in the building. When the team returns from a road trip next week it must decide what to do: play in San Jose with no fans in the rink, play at another arena in another city, or …
The NHL has not decided how to deal with cautions surrounding the pandemic infection. While fatalities are a tragic reality of the disease its true severity compared with other flues and strains is still not clear. Certainly the virus has caused significant panic and concern.
The Columbus Blue Jackets announced (just before column deadline) to continue playing home games with audiences. Meanwhile professional hockey leagues in Europe including the German Elite League have cancelled the season. In turn, soccer, the Olympics, and other large sports and entertainment events around the world grapple with the impacts.
All jesting about the Leafs is in part a humorous attempt at coping with these traumatic times or events. Still, for long-time Leaf fans there is some minor trepidation of the ironic, bad luck possibilities.
Speaking of wins and losses readers within the central Okanagan should be saddened by the news that veteran writer Al Waters is no longer with the Kelowna Capital News. Earlier this week Alistair announced he is no longer with the paper, meaning readers will not be able to follow his coverage of Kelowna City Council or other news items. Waters, a 27 year veteran of the media game is well respected by co-workers, competing media, and the majority of those who attracted the attention of his sharp pencil.
In a time when competent, dedicated and trustworthy journalists seem to be a disappearing commodity it’s a sad day to see folks of Alistair’s class leave the industry. In all my years of knowing Alistair, regardless of what hat I may have been wearing (journalist, politician, environmentalist…) Waters was always accurate and balanced in his approach and reporting. He was the rare style of reporter one could trust.
For Al ‘off record’ always remained that way, integrity was foremost, and the truth his ultimate goal – not just getting the news out. You will be missed Al.