If you’re like me, the off-season represents a time of bitter-sweet reflection.
The Toronto Maple Leafs decided to play the minimum number of games possible this season. No extended playoff run for them and no early exit either. I guess this is the price of inconsistency (and mediocrity).
For most Leafs fans, the story is now familiar: the season starts with promise, but ends in disappointment.
This leaves the faithful denizens of Leafs Nation in a difficult situation. While the Boys in Blue & White make an early appearance on the greens, we’re left to ponder the futility of another lost season. Making matters worse, many of us are also forced to watch in shame as the teams of friends, family and foes alike continue their fight for Lord Stanley’s legendary cup.
The situation isn’t entirely lost, however. There’s a way to maintain some of the passion that drives Leafs Nation this off-season. We can escape to a winning season through NHL 14.
We can also revisit the Leafs’ storied history through paperback. After all, there’s a reason why we remain unconditionally devoted to the Leafs despite their many indiscretions and perennial losing ways.
As the current season slowly comes to a close and a new season begins to appear (or disappear?) on the distant horizon, here are some of my favourite Leafs classics. They may, or not may not, help bridge the gap between disappointing seasons. In either case, they’ll help keep the Leafs at the center of your life. What more could you possibly want?
It may be a children’s book at heart, but no book does a better job of capturing the spirit of the greatest rivalry in hockey. It also captures the importance of hockey in general to Canada and Canadians/Canadiens.
Beyond hockey, The Hockey Sweater delves into the English-French divide that has defined Canada for much of its history, and it alludes to the past importance of Eaton’s, the once great commercial giant of Toronto that still bears its mark on the city.
I cannot say enough about the significance of this book as a Canadian, hockey fan and proud member of Leafs Nation. These’s a reason it graces the $5 bill.
If The Hockey Sweater ultimately belongs to Habs fans, then this book belongs to Leafs fans. It tells the story of young Bill Spunska and his quest to make the big club out of training camp.
This is a dream that many of us shared as children, and the book’s ending speaks to the importance of pride, determination and loyalty – all qualities that define Leafs Nation.
Moving away from fiction, A Fan for all Seasons retells the triumphs and failures of Leafs Nation through the eyes of a life-long fan, Tom Gaston.
Rich in history and anecdotes, I strongly recommend this book as the perfect gift for any true Leafs fan. The opening chapter alone brought tears to my eyes.
This is our story.
This book is really dedicated to the great Terry Sawchuk, who helped pilot the Leafs to their last Stanley Cup in 1967.
It offers a unique take on Sawchuk’s impressive career and tragic personal life by retelling his story through a series of short poems.
Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems is a deeply intimate and rewarding story. Any fan of the Original Six will appreciate its insights, candor and craftsmanship.
Why the Leafs Suck and How They Can Be Fixed picks up after that last Stanley Cup victory, stretching from the Harold Ballard years to the dawn of the Brian Burke era. As its provocative title suggests, a highly critical take on the Leafs over the past 40+ years is provided.
Although the book only briefly touches upon Burke’s tenure – it was written shortly after he came to town - it’s interesting to see how Burke addressed (or failed to address) the many challenges laid out for him.
This book speaks to the frustrations of many Leafs fan, and it’s likely to attract interest from all of the Leafs haters out there as well. All I can say is that only the Leafs can warrant this much attention.
Moses spent 40 years wandering the desert before he finally brought the Israelites to the Promised Land. Unfortunately, he wasn’t destined to enter the Promised Land himself.
Leafs Nation has spent the past 47 years wandering the hockey desert. In this time, we have seen numerous guides come and go, but our destination has always remained the same: a magical parade down Yonge Street.
Is Brendan Shanahan our new Moses or will his time at the helm simply prove another detour in our larger journey towards the Stanley Cup?
Shanahan has inherited quite the mess, which suggests that the latter scenario is closer to the truth, but this shouldn’t deter him. He wouldn’t get to see the Promised Land anyway.
Let’s hope some new hockey stories come our way in October.
Photo credit: The Globe and Mail (May 3, 1967)