With Toronto Maple Leafs fans still nurturing their sweet baby boy John Tavares back to health after the mean and nasty Islanders crowd attacked him on what was to be his most special of nights in his return to Long Island, I have just one plea for Canucks fans ahead of the Leafs’ lone visit to Vancouver on Wednesday night.
Look, normally I wouldn’t advocate helping out Leafs fans in any way. There is a deep and storied west coast/east coast rivalry at play, one that is embedded into our very being. To fight against it is to fight against our very nature. The last time we ignored that, scientists filled in incomplete dinosaur DNA with frog DNA and I don’t have to remind you how that turned out.
It’s just, the Canucks season has been hard enough already. Watching their limp effort against the Vegas Knights just underscored how far this franchise has to go before they are a true Stanley Cup contender. The last thing we need right now, as the Canucks try and gut out the remaining games on their schedule, is another Leafs moment where all their fans stand up and rally around the latest person who had possible hurt feelings due to sports.
And look, I get it. Leafs fans after a few drinks can get a bit rowdy. Rogers Arena will most likely be filled to the brim with them, and there’s no doubt some trash talk will start getting tossed you way. And maybe you’ve had a soda or two as well, and the urge to chirp back at them starts building up.
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But if you are attending Wednesday’s game, all I ask is you try to show constraint. If anything, try and follow these five simple rules, so we can at least avoid mass triggering Leafs fans into organizing another emotional outburst that TSN will run seven different articles on while bringing the panel in to break it down for an hour.
Follow these rules, I beg of you.
1. Do NOT make fun of Tavares
This may seem like an obvious one, but the direct route to the hell that was the standing ovation for the returning hurt-feelings-hero Tavares was when Islanders fans started chanting about bed times and pyjamas.
So you might be thinking “ok, easiest way to avoid this is to not mass chant anything derisive at Johnny T, then we good.”
I am here to tell you that is not enough.
It’s not just chants you have to avoid, you have to avoid saying anything about Tavares, even in hushed whispers.
In today’s day and age, can you ever truly be sure you aren’t being overheard in a private space, much less a public one? Sure, you leaning over to whisper to your buddy about what a donkey Tavares is for missing that wide open net seems innocuous at first glance. But then you wake up the next morning and there’s a Sound Cloud dedicated to your trash talk because some Leafs fan surreptitiously recorded you on their iPhone.
The next day, a remix auto-tuned version of your comments is the No. 1 downloaded song in Ontario. Now you’re all over the internet hurting Leafs fans feelings everywhere.
Before you know it, Go Fund Me accounts are springing up left and right to try to pay for a “John Tavares Hug Festival Parade of Recovery” down Yonge street, and Mike Myers is rumoured to be writing a script for a sequel to the Love Guru starring Don Cherry and Tavares, with a guest appearance from Eric McCormack who is clearly only in it for the money so he mails in his performance, and a song collaboration between Drake and Anne Murray called “Eternal Sadness in My Soup” that ends up being surprisingly good and hits No. 4 on the Billboards but doesn’t quite make up for the rest of the whole mess.
Does the world need this? Can it even handle this right now? Of course not. But that’s the direction you’re taking us in if you say anything bad about Johnny T.
In fact, looking in Tavares’ general direction is probably something you should avoid at all costs, because at this point knowing looks, or arched eyebrows, could set Leafs fans off if they feel you’re attacking their boy. Therefore anytime Tavares has the puck, kindly turn your back to the play until it is over. An usher will signal you with jazz hands to let you know when you can resume viewing.
2. Don’t talk about Mats Sundin
Look, for some strange reason, Leafs fans have this sick fascination with former Canucks superstar and icon Mats Sundin. Something in their brain sort of snaps when you talk about the time the big Swede beat the Leafs in a shootout aka ‘The Game’.
Apparently Mats played a handful of games with the Leafs (I assume he had a couple of exhibition games with them on a tryout at one point?) and now they want to claim ownership of him. Some have even gone as far to Photoshop Sundin into a bunch of Leafs jerseys, which just shows you the depth of their depravity.
But again, we don’t want to cause any issues for our brothers and sisters in the 416. The last thing we want is to wake up the next day to videos of Leafs Nation singing Kumbaya to pictures of Sundin with candles all around it while they moan and gripe about Vancouver celebrating one of “their” legends. They should be focusing on more important things, like how to prepare for another potential playoff loss to the Bruins. The least we could do is try not to talk about Vancouver’s favourite adopted son for one night.
There is one problem, however. Recent polls suggest that Mats Sundin comes up in 43.55% of conversations held at Rogers Arena on game night. So while we can’t avoid discussing him completely, we can come up with a code word so as to not trigger any Leafs fans who happen to be close by.
Therefore, this Wednesday Mats Sundin shall be known as Jean Pantalones.
“Remember Jean Pantalones and ‘The Game’?”
“Hell yeah I do. Pantalones wrecked the Leafs in that shootout.”
3. Avoid slumping over in your seat
Sometimes when you’re watching a hockey game, the urge to slump over in your seat can be quite strong.
Maybe you’re super tired from playing Fortnite with Patrick Laine and his crew all night. Maybe you’re watching the Canucks get their asses kicked by the Vegas Knights so badly, you physically don’t have the energy to support your weight any longer. Your soul has actually left your body and all that remains is an empty husk. A good chair-slump is the falling-to-the-ground-in-the-fetal-position of any true hockey fan.
And Toronto? They have some really good offensive players. It might turn into a bit of a blowout if the Canucks recent play is any indication. Once Brad Richardson gets four goals against your team, it’s scientifically proven they are dead inside until next season. All you can really do is sit back and watch the corpse of your playoff hopes coast slowly past the finish line, while eating some buttered popcorn.
So if that happens, if the worst case scenario occurs and Tavares gets four goals and takes advice from Joe Thornton on proper goal celebration technique, and you just cannot bear to look at what is being exposed on the ice, please, please, please remember, do not slump in your seat.
Why you ask?
Because in 1994, Greg Adams scored in overtime in the Western Conference Final to send the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final. Their opponent? The Toronto Maple Leafs. Why does this matter? Because if you watch that goal, and slow it down, you can see the exact moment Felix Potvin’s heart breaks.
Look at poor Felix. Adams takes the shot, Felix looks to his right, hears the crowd, and he knows something terrible has happened. He looks to his left, and sees the puck, and then tries to get up but he can’t. His heart has stopped beating. His spirit is shattered. He cannot find any energy to stand up so he just sort of….slumps over into his net. He’s a broken man, hiding in a net he promised to defend, the very net that ultimately ends up betraying him and causing him so much pain and suffering.
Even worse? He gets like three seconds to think about life before the on ice crew is out there taking away the net, leaving him exposed to the world, watching his failed dreams get tread upon by the Canucks players. It’s hard to watch if you’re a Leafs fan.
Suffice to say, if at any point you feel Potvin-levels of sadness start to overtake you, make sure you resist the urge to slump. Because if you don’t, you know Leafs fans will track Felix Potvin down at whatever job he has now and randomly give him a standing ovation. Which as discussed before, means three hours of TSN dedicated to talking about it.
4. Don’t mention Gretzky
Way back in the early 1990s, the Leafs had one of their most beloved teams of all time. Filled with household names such as Darren Puppa, Sylvain Lefebrve, Mark Osborne, and John Cullen, it was a veritable who’s who of Leafs legends. It was a team that looked like its destiny was to bring the first Stanley Cup to Toronto since 1967. So you can imagine Toronto’s surprise when they fell short of that goal in 1993, after they ran into Wayne Gretzky and his high-flying Los Angeles Kings in the Conference Final.
Look, losing to Gretzky is something nothing to be ashamed about. In fact, for the young fans reading this who only know him for his award winning wines and toasters, he was quite the hockey player back in his day. But for some reason that series loss to The Grape One really upset Leafs fans, despite the fact that NHL referee Kerry Fraser blew a huge call in their favour.
To set the scene, it was Game 6, and the game had gone into overtime. The Leafs were up in the series three games to two, so a win here would send them to the Cup Final. Toronto, however, took a penalty in overtime when Glenn Anderson illegally checked someone into the boards, which I don’t have to tell you, is a very violent act.
It was during this penalty kill that scrappy fourth line grinder Doug Gilmour had a spirited shift defending Gretzky. While defending Wayne, Gilmour cut himself and was openly bleeding. Upon seeing this, Fraser refused to give Doug a penalty for not immediately leaving the ice. This despite the fact he was bleeding all over his hands and jersey, which is a clear health violation and could possibly endanger those around him.
You would think Fraser would be hailed as a hero for showing reservation in this scenario, but Leafs fans to this day still get upset that Kerry didn’t randomly assign blame, to Wayne Gretzky of all people, for Doug’s reckless disregard for human life. It’s bonkers but there is rarely any logic when it comes to extreme emotional responses. Wayne would go on to score moments later, but at least Kerry gave them a chance to kill off a regular penalty instead of a 5-on-3.
Still, as clear as it might be to us, Leafs fans refuse to view Fraser as anything but a villain. Therefore due to this storied past, and to avoid an angry Steve Dangle video the next day, it’s best to avoid bringing up anything to do with the 1993 Western Conference Final.
5. Never mention grapefruit
Just don’t. Trust me.