The stars seem to be aligning for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they head into their 100th anniversary season.
The team won the NHL lottery and will have the first draft pick on Friday. In coach Mike Babcock, GM Lou Lamoriello and President Brendan Shanahan they have arguably the most impressive (and expensive) management cadre in NHL history. These folks claim to have a plan that will restore Canada's most valuable franchise -- located in its largest and richest city -- back to its historic prominence. People forget, but the Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups -- second only to Montreal (24).
It has been almost 50 years since a Leaf captain has hoisted the Cup. To put this in perspective, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was not to become Prime Minister for another year...and Justin Trudeau wasn't yet a twinkle in his father's eye.
There is, I would argue, something noble about suffering with a woeful franchise.
Despite previous false dawn's -- thinking back to the early 90s, when it seemed Doug Gilmour, Dave Andreychuk and Felix Potvin seemed on the verge of mounting hockey's highest summit -- hopes are currently high in Leaf Nation. If not 2017, surely soon after.
I don't want to pour cold water on all of this excitement, but I do wonder if Leafs fans realize what they will be giving up by winning the Cup?
I say this from the perspective of a life-long, third generation Red Sox fan.
There is, I would argue, something noble about suffering with a woeful franchise. The feeling of shared angst; the collective gnashing of teeth; the passing down of pain and suffering, generation to generation, created a sense of community and belonging.
Sure, we talked about breaking the Curse of the Bambino. We vowed each season of misery would be our last, even as those years crept up to 86. People my grandfather and father's age vowed to their maker that they could die happy if only they could witness a Boston World Series win.
And then the impossible happened in, 2004. The Red Sox actually did it. (And, fortunately, New England graveyards did not immediately fill up with all of those who had pledged their very lives to make it happen.)
They did it again in 2007 and 2013.
But, I would argue, with all of this winning, something was lost.
There was something special about being a Boston fan -- a sense of collective woe that bound us together. Winning pried us apart. Indeed, some fans, mostly but not exclusively the younger ones, began to see winning as a Boston birthright. They began to swagger. They made fun of other fans and franchises. They displayed hubris unbecoming a genuine Red Sox supporter.
In other words, they became very much like New York Yankee fans!
Toronto, there is still time to turn back before it is too late. Forget these dreams of NHL glory; success will only make you arrogant, unhappy and ultimately disliked.
You will, in short, become the Montreal Canadiens. And where's the fun in that?
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