Rivalries between friends who share a passion for different hockey teams is a tireless tradition. Making fun of friends whose team has performed poorly is almost as fun as watching your own team win.
Blogging sites such as this one have allowed strangers to debate tirelessly on endless topics often escalating to virtual fighting.
As a Canadiens fan I have personally ventured into some hot Leaf topics and decided to throw out an unpopular opinion. Simply put, I believe Leaf fans have been lulled into accepting successes that would be unacceptable to fans of a winning franchise. The Gilmour / Clark jersey honouring is a fine example. Now, let me make this perfectly clear. I think both were exceptional hockey players that provided Leaf fans with years of great memories. Young or old their highlight reels are full of entertaining moments that put smiles on the faces of many Leaf fans. I threw out the idea that maybe they are not completely worthy of this planned honouring ceremony because they never attained the ultimate prize with the Maple Leafs. A Stanley Cup. The very cup that has eluded the Leafs organization for 41 years. At the mere suggestion of this I have been called by Leaf fans a retard, a moron and more importantly, one of the many Hab fans who ignorantly bashes the Leafs.
I can take an insult with the best of them but I find it quite funny that Leaf fans can become so defensive. Raise the bar of expectation. Am I such a Leaf basher for innocently suggesting that? Apparently so. And perhaps that is the problem with the Maple Leafs. A losing tradition lowers your expectations. Getting your team to the semi-finals, in my book, is not a reason for a jersey ceremony. That's a fine example of accepting mediocrity. Doug Gilmour was a player in a class all by himself, a prototypical skilled hockey player with a heart the size of the moon. And he won a Stanley Cup...with the Calgary Flames! Wendel Clark. He was probably the hardest working player to ever don a Leaf jersey and his body constantly broke down under the weight of his huge heart. Sadly, his work ethic didn't propel his team to the promised land. Worthy of a jersey ceremony? Not in my book.
You see, I'm not trying to belittle the achievements of two wonderful hockey players. Two players who deserve all the credit in the world. I'm highlighting a point that drives Leaf fans crazy. You don't honour mediocrity because that sets a bad example for future players and fuels a culture of losing. They see these two players as great warriors who wore the sweater proudly, even though they returned from every battle on the losing end of the scorecard. Many Leaf fans just don't seem to understand that. And heaven forbid a Habs fan even remotely makes mention of this fact, we are labeled as Leaf bashers.
Even though I enjoy watching the Leafs lose, I would love to one day feel the true Habs/Leafs rivalry of the 50s and 60s. There really isn't any real rivalry anymore. It's all on paper or in these blogs. In reality, the Leafs have not won a cup since the NHL first expanded. Sure they've beat the Habs in the regular season. Even knocked them out of the playoffs a couple of years ago. But when was the last significant win over the Habs that inched them closer to the Cup? Unless I check the history books I would have no idea. It hasn't happened in this blogger's lifetime.