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Andy Juniper


It's Time to Celebrate the Leafs (Or at Least to Stop Laughing at Them)

Posted: 10/17/2013 1:44 pm

The Toronto Maple Leafs have blasted out of the blocks like world-beaters -- currently sporting a sparkling 6-1 record whilst sitting alluringly atop the National Hockey League's Atlantic Division -- and Leaf fans are naturally feeling all the appropriate emotions of supporters of a squad that's really on a roll. That is anxiousness, apprehension, fear, dread and paranoia.

Actually, there are two types of people in Leaf Nation: those who plot Stanley Cup parades whenever the Blue and White tear off on a one-game-winning streak, and those who are certain that any success upon which the team may stumble is merely a mirage, soon to disappear in a puff of foul smoke.

It's the latter group that has been bringing tears of laughter to my eyes during this current stretch of good fortune. Their team has started the current campaign with a fab flourish, and to these guys it nonetheless remains all doom and gloom. Whereas the fans once flocked to the Air Canada Centre (and Maple Leaf Gardens before it) with brown bags over their heads, the level of anxiousness fans are now experiencing -- what with the team actually winning and all -- is such that one imagines them flocking to the arena wearing... diapers. Just in case. You know: just in case the team (gasp) wins again. Horror of horrors.

Ah, only in Toronto would the fans look at a stellar start as a cause for concern, something over which to fret -- chew fingernails down to the quick and strip hangnails to the second knuckle. Negativity, it seems, is a natural byproduct of being repeatedly burned, and insecurity emanates from innumerable years of unfathomable ineptitude.

Fear not, Leafs fans, I'm not about to regurgitate -- as is so often regurgitated by know-it-alls in bars and blowhards in the media -- the team's ignominious, post-1967 history. Suffice to say, for years my father called the Leafs, appropriately enough: "The Greatest Comedy On Television." Of course, there's a fine line between comedy and tragedy that my father, who was so not a Leaf fan, was unwilling to acknowledge.

Tragedy, comedy, who cares? Certainly not Leafs followers who have bigger fish to fry. Like, say, the goaltending controversy that has the underpants of all Toronto Sports Talk Radio callers twisted in knots. The controversy? The team has two young goalies (Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer) who are both playing very, very well. Keeping the team in games, standing on their heads and making highlight-reel saves. And obviously that's a very, very bad thing...

I turn on the aforementioned Sports Talk Radio in Toronto. I hear the squawking. The offense sucks. The defense sucks. The special teams suck. The coach and his staff surely suck. Management, yep, they suck. And the guy driving the Zamboni, yeah, that dude sucks, too.

Listen: The team ain't perfect. No team is... Alas, to quote Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul: "It's not like we can be too upset with 6-1. It goes both ways. You don't want to come in and say we're playing perfect hockey because we know we're not, but 6-1 is 6-1..."

The Leafs are at home tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes and then on Saturday they get a true test of where they're at in the BPPO (Big Picture Pecking Order) when they travel to Chicago to face-off against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks. Heaven help them -- or, at least, heaven help the fan base -- should they win. Parades will surely be plotted and diapers donned.

Regardless, Toronto hockey fans, you already have cause for celebration: your suddenly laudable Leafs are no longer the league's laughs.

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  • Stompin' Tom Connors "The Hockey Song"

    Nothing else comes close to Stompin' Tom's perfectly earnest and jocular celebration of hockey that takes listeners from the regular season straight through to the Stanley Cup finals. Whether it's being blasted from an arena's speakers, covered by the likes of The Hanson Brothers and Corb Lund, or sung by the Canadian country legend himself, "The Hockey Song" is the best song you can name about the good old hockey game. And the best song you can name about the good old hockey game is "The Hockey Song."

  • Bahamas "Hockey Teeth"

    Most musical tributes to the aesthetic byproducts of hockey tend to focus on the mulletesque hair that the sport still manages to promote ("Hockey Hair" by Pansy Division, "Ice Hockey Hair" by Super Furry Animals, etc). But Bahamas prefers to reference the gapped teeth (or "summer teeth" in the parlance of Wilco fans) that can result from a good puck in the mouth or a good fall in this love song about a fella's perfect lady friend and her imperfect dental records.

  • Warren Zevon "Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)"

    American singer/songwriter and cult hero Warren Zevon truly captures the Canadian spirit in this ballad about Buddy, a farm boy who loves hockey but is only good for fighting. Following Buddy's career from frozen backyard rinks to the big leagues, "Hit Somebody!" digs deep into the existential angst of a goon who would give anything for the chance to score just one goal.

  • Tom Cochrane & Red Rider "Big League"

    One night before a show, Tom Cochrane met a man backstage who had lost his son in a car accident the previous summer. Touched and inspired by the <a href="http://www.tomcochrane.info/songstory/bigleague.php" target="_hplink">story</a> of the boy who had been on the verge of a hockey scholarship when he died, and by the doting dad he left behind, Tom Cochrane sat down and wrote one of hockey's most iconic and heartbreaking songs, "Big League," in one pass.

  • Kathleen Edwards "Hockey Skates"

    "Hockey Skates" isn't actually about its titular sport; it's about the complexities and strain of a broken relationship. It does briefly employ hockey as a metaphor for those issues, though, when Edwards sings "I am tired of playing defense, I don't even have hockey skates." And there might be some real life truth to this statement, as Edwards didn't exactly display skating proficiency when she fell while <a href="http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/musicians-lose-to-retired-starts-at-juno-hockey-game-1.623858" target="_hplink">attempting </a>a penalty shot during the 2011 Juno Cup.

  • Chixdiggit "(I Feel Like) Gerry Cheevers (Stitch Marks On My Heart)"

    For a hockey fan there is, perhaps, no better way to describe a broken and battered heart than to compare it to the <a href="http://www.sikids.com/photos/9176/best-nhl-goalie-masks-1967-82/9" target="_hplink">famous mask </a>of Boston Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers, which sported a stitch mark for every shot its owner had taken to the face. And that's exactly what Calgary punks Chixdiggit did with this tune.

  • Super Furry Animals "Ice Hockey Hair"

    What's truly remarkable about "Ice Hockey Hair" isn't that a Welsh band saw fit to write about ice hockey at all (according to Wikipedia, Wales boasts three indoor arenas and Cardiff has at least two hockey teams), but that they sing about the largely infamous phenomenon of hockey hair favourably. They go so far as to say "it's instamatic and it has such flair," which makes us wonder if hockey hair looks different over there.

  • The Pursuit Of Happiness "Gretzky Rocks"

    You want to know how much Canadians love hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, a.k.a. "The Great One?" When this adorable and glowing ditty was released in 1995, The Pursuit Of Happiness actually received a fair bit of grief because some people thought it wasn't complimentary enough of the hockey star and his family. They took issue with the fairly innocuous line "everyone hated Peter and Janet for trading the best player on the planet," a reference to Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington and Wayne's wife Janet Jones, who were cast as villains in his trade to the Los Angeles Kings.

  • The Rheostatics "The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Parts 1 And 2"

    It took multiple parts and multiple songwriters within the band for The Rheostatics to properly capture both the goal-scoring and fighting prowess of Toronto Maple Leafs captain Wendel Clark in this mid-'80s Canadian cult hit. The song also features a little taste of the beloved Hockey Night In Canada theme.

  • Every song by The Zambonis

    How can you pick just one great hockey song by Connecticut rockers (and Zamboni Company licensees) The Zambonis when they've managed to cover so many different aspects of the sport in their career? Whether you want tunes about gear ("The Helmet Song," "I'm A Puck") , love ("The Referee's Daughter," "I Got A Concussion (When I Fell For You)," goalies ("Goalie," "The Goalie Is Drunk") or their ice-making namesake ("Zamboni Race In Outer Space," "Zamboni Stuck In The Snow," "The Great Zamboni Of Devotion," "I Wanna Drive The Zamboni") The Zambonis have you covered.

  • The Tragically Hip "Fifty Mission Cap"

    The narrator of this song knows the details of the strange life and death coincidences of Toronto Maple Leafs legend Bill Barilko because he stole them from a hockey card. Nowadays, most people know that Bill Barilko disappeared in 1951, that the last goal he ever scored won the Leafs the Stanley Cup, and that they didn't win another until 1962, the year he was discovered... because they stole it from the lyrics to "Fifty Mission Cap."

  • The Tragically Hip "Fireworks"

    The Hip juxtapose cold war paranoia, burgeoning young love and national sporting pride in this clever tune about a boy and a girl who doesn't give a fuck about hockey and how they fall for each other during the all-important 1972 series between Russia and Canada.


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