The Miracle At Maple Leaf Square
Imagine your average Maple Leafs Fan, watching this game at home.
He’s sitting there, maybe in his basement. He’s speaking in hushed tones on his phone to one of his Buds. He’s drinking Steam Whistle, or some other craft beer.
He’s wearing a checked shirt, and he’s got a beard. On his head he is wearing his childhood Good Luck Charm: His childhood Maple Leafs’ Hat, signed by Jason Allison.
It’s his Good Luck Charm, and he wears it for every game. But every important game they lose. Yet, he wears the hat anyway.
Such is the life of a Leafs Fan.
He’s sitting there in him basement wondering how this always happens. How many times must they suffer? Are Leaf Fans not humans too? If you prick them, do they not bleed blue?
“Have we not sufferrreeed enough?” he hears himself slurring into the phone. His Buddy simply burps his response.
These long-suffering fanatics don’t know what it’s like to win. They don’t even know what it’s like to be in the Finals. They kind of remember Doug Gilmour in ’93, when they were 5. But these are the stalwarts. The salt of the earth; the Leaf of the Tree.
To be a Leafs Fan, you need to be-Leaf. No matter how many times you lose. But it's hard. Year after year.
For a team which hasn’t even come close to winning in 53 years, asking a fan to be-Leaf is like asking a grown adult to believe in Santa Claus.
Sure, he’ll play along for a while.
And after all, it isn’t impossible Santa Claus exists.
Its just that it doesn’t seem very likely.
This is what it is like being a Leafs Fan.
He’s drinking his beer, he’s mumbling into his phone to his Bud in Richmond Hill. They don’t want to hang up and face reality alone.
His hat is pulled over his eyes. He imagines the famous “Paper Bag Leaf” Fans. He wishes he had a Paper Bag right now. He doesn’t even have a Paper Bag.
His buddy is blabbering on about Nylander – “… that Nylander contract is really where things start going sou…” – he's tuned it out.
He's in the familiar Perennial Daze. The Great Annual Lamentation. The Yearly Airing Of Leaf Grievances. The Blood-Letting Of Suck.
When suddenly, irony of ironies, Nylander scores. It's 3-1.
Our Leafs Fan turns his head towards the television. His buddy has stopped talking. There is a brief pause.
Nah, he thinks to himself. Better not to dream. This is the Leafs after all. He takes the final swig of his beer.
But what is this feeling? He sees a brief glimmer of Hope. He doesn't understand Hope.
He only understands Dread. Is Hope what the other team feels when they play us?, he asks himself.
He allows himself a brief moment to dream. He steals a glance. But, no. It's not going to happen. He brings himself back to earth. He remembers: This is the Leafs.
Miracles don’t happen for the Leafs. Miracles happen to the Leafs.
He doesn’t want to deal with this silly emotion of Hope. Hope is pain. Hope is that silly voice inside you telling you to get your head off the mat. But honestly, you’re usually probably better just staying on the mat. You remember 2013. You remember yesterday. These are the Leafs after all. These are the Leafs.
The next few seconds are a blur. Auston Matthews makes the pass in the slot to John “I’ve only ever won one Playoff Series” Tavares. A quick two-tap in the slot top-cheese, and suddenly it’s 3-2.
The Leafs’ Fan slowly stands up out of his chair, his phone drops to the side. He is dimly aware of his Bud yodeling in the phone.
He does not understand this feeling. A comeback. Isn’t this supposed to happen against the Leafs?
But wait. It is 2020. Easily the craziest, zaniest year in history. What usually happens doesn’t happen this year. Everything is in reverse.
If the Leafs are like George Costanza, 2020 is like the Opposite George.
Then it all makes sense. Of course, the opposite happens in 2020. He grabs another beer.
He checks himself and remembers it’s still 3-2. He cracks open the beer anyway.
He doesn’t know if he’ll need for a longer game, or to drown out the sorrow of not quite coming back.
He doesn't want to get his hopes up too far. These are the Leafs, after all.
The next two minutes seem to drag on forever.
Andersen has to stay in net, when should we pull him… We need to get control of the puck! Goddamn Dubois again. Oh my goodness, he just barely missed the empty net! Okay, we got the puck. Okay, get into the zone…
Zach Hyman gives it to Matthews. Matthews takes the puck, and makes his signature dash to the net. All 32 eyes in the building, and all 1,247,367 eyes watching on tv are on Matthews…
…But then at the last second, he passes the puck back to Hyman. A wide open, completely forgotten, left alone Zach Hyman. He slides it along the ice and…
The Leafs Fan jumps out of his chair.
He lets out a huge whoop, and starts jumping up and down.
Then he remembers he’ll wake up the children.
He starts quietly fist-pumping around his basement. He's now fist-pumping quietly in a circle around his basement.
His Buddy is yelling on the phone discarded at his side. His wife yells something down to him. He’s spilt beer all over himself. He realizes he’s on his knees fist-pumping in a puddle of spilt Steam Whistle. He’s in heaven.
This is the moment.
This is the Boston Red Sox coming back from 3-0 down. This is the Reverse The Curse Moment. This is the Turning Point.
The Leafs Fan has been waiting his entire life for this moment. Winning a Playoff Series. What does that even feel like?
He remembers they haven't won the Series yet. But he allows himself a moment to dream anyway.
He goes to bed a happy man. A happy Leafs Fan. A Stalwart. A Guardian Of The Buds.
He sleeps peacefully for the first time in decades.
While Visions of the Stanley Cup, danced in his head.