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Finish this sentence: with the Leafs (or your favorite team) out of the picture, my season will be made if (fill in the blank) doesn’t win it all…

For a lot of sports enthusiasts there is nothing quite like (unless you are an athlete yourself and can experience the joy first-hand) the satisfaction that comes from being a fan when your team wins it all.  It’s a heady, warm feeling to see a team you’ve supported, maybe over a long period of time, work so hard to achieve something special—and memorable.

Of course, in sports, whether at the professional level or in amateur or youth sports, there can only be one ultimate “winner”, so achieving victory isn’t easy.  In fact it’s incredibly difficult to attain that kind of success, and something so elusive to attain is therefore much cherished on the rare occasions when it does finally happen for us as fans and supporters.

Now, if you’re a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the reality is that it’s been a while between championships.  I feel fortunate, I guess you could say (though it means I’m older than I’d like to be…), to actually clearly remember when the Leafs did win Stanley Cups—back in the golden days of the early and mid-1960s.  Since then, the pickings have been slim, as it were.  (For old-time sake, I've included a great old photo at right of when the Leafs won way back in 1963.  That's then captain George Armstrong and a very young Davey Keon posing with the Cup.  The Leafs beat the Red Wings that season in 5 games.  That 1962-'63 Leaf team, by the way, was probably the best overall Leaf squad I've seen in the last 50+ seasons...)

Given the lack of playoff success in the past several seasons, some Leaf supporters probably adopt a "second favourite" team come, if the Leafs don’t make it or are eliminated early.  (For example, one natural inclination for some might be to cheer for a Canadian team, as a kind of patriotic nod.  That's a little tough this season, as all the Canadian-based clubs have been eliminated already...) Others may not watch at all, because they are die-hard Leaf fans and if Toronto doesn’t advance, they figure, who cares?

Still others, in a category all their own, adopt another approach.  Their option of choice is simple: cheering vociferously against particular teams that they simply, well, loathe. That strong dislike  could be rooted in a number of things- your family history, a certain player you can't stand, a coach, a team's style of play, whatever.  For some of us, it doesn't take much.

For me, that team—through the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s—was the Montreal Canadiens.  (Yes, I hated the Flyers and the Bruins in the ’70s, as well- how could you not?)  I mean, I can't really explain my anti-Hab sentiment.  You'd have to read a number of my earlier posts here about how I came to love the Leafs and loathe the Canadiens at a very, very precious age.  But suffice to say they were more than than simply an arch-rival for me.  Guys like Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Ralph Backstrom, Henri Richard, "Boom-Boom" Georffrion (seen at left, scoring against the Bruins and future Leaf Don Simmons and the Bruins in a late 1950s photo) John Ferguson, Ted Harris, Jacques Laperierre and later of course hated foes such as Cournoyer, Lemaire, Lafleur, Savard, Dryden, Robinson and Risebrough kept my competitive flames burning...But as the Habs lost their luster over time, I did not feel the same emotion against them.  By then I also had lost my ardor when it came to the Flyers and Bruins.  Oh, I was happy if the Oilers (they won too much for my liking) didn’t win the Cup in the ’80s, but generally speaking my “hatred” (hockey terms only) generally shifted to the latest team I didn’t care for.  You know, if there were certain players, coaches or teams I simply couldn’t abide.\, that's who I cheered "against".

While it could never be as good as if the Leafs had won (though it felt awfully good back in 1970 when the Habs did not even make the playoffs...), my year was at least partially salvaged if a team I couldn't stand didn’t win it all.

So here is my question for you.  Maybe it’s a team you don’t like just this year, or perhaps there is an organization that you have disliked for a long time.  Regardless, who do you absolutely not want to see walk away with the Stanley Cup this spring?

Who is the team that, if they lose in the end, it makes your year?  I'm guessing for some modern-era Leaf supporters, it might be the Senators.  For some folks, maybe...the Canucks?

In any event, let me know your choice.  I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Michael: you raise a question that this year isn't as easy to answer as it might have been in previous years. Let's get the obvious out of the way--the Habs helped by being just as woeful as the Leafs, so that took my #1 loathed team out. Washington took out #2 in Boston.

    But as I said, this year is different, because in spite of my unquestioned loyalty to the Leafs, I, like a lot of your readers and other fans, found myself bitter and angry at our team for the way things played out. As a result of mismanagement of our team, I found myself suddenly drawn to a team like the hated Senators and actually found myself rooting for them!

    Having said that, my hatred is now directed to the Flyers. Followed closely by the Rangers. For years the Rangers and Sather have been the butt of jokes, but it looks like Sather may be getting to where Burke likes to talk about getting. And that bugs me.

    Anyway, there it is...I'll be rooting for whoever happens to be the Western Conference representative, and I won't be as resentful if WSH or NJ pulls it off. But no Philly or NYR!


  2. Perfect Caedmon...exactly what I was looking for on this topic! Thanks.

  3. "Now, if you’re a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the reality is that it’s been a while between championships."
    Michael, you are the master of understatement!

    Anyhow, for me it's those long-standing Leaf tormentors, the Flyers - no question. I'll enjoy watching them get beaten, and beat up, by the Rangers. And then I'll enjoy the Rangers getting beaten by the Blues! (Though the Yotes looked pretty impressive last night...)

  4. Flyers= ah, that brings back memories of the Broadstreet Bullies, Gerund O'...Hated them dearly.

    So I can't argue with that selection!


  5. Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Remembering when the Leafs won their third Cup in ...":

    Gimme the coyotes! The confused look on Winnipeg fans faces would be priceless. Do they rejoice or feel bitter for having their original team win the cup in another city?!?

  6. Thanks Anon. I'm thinking, at the very least, there would be no parade in Winnipeg.....

  7. Interesting article.

    I'm old but can only remember back as far as Bobby Orr's flying through the air Cup winner, so you must be ancient. :P

    I'd have to say I select my teams the way the Hockey Gods select them. Generally, that is the character of the individuals, or the team as a whole, that influences my selections. Familiarity is also a factor.

    For example, even though I live in the Vancouver area (origininally from Ontario) I've never warmed to this Canucks team, I just can't stand guys like Burrows, though I do like Kesler and Bieksa.

    I too found myself pulling for Ottawa by the end of their last series. Mostly out of admiration for Alfredsson's play, talk about heart and leadership, he was the best player on the ice lifting the entire bench with his efforts, ultimately to fall short (like another Swede used to do that we're all familiar with).

    I'm pulling for LA and Philly it seems at this point, as I like the make up of those teams
    I know very little about Pheonix and St.Louis. I like Nashville's chances, liked the Caps first round performance, the Rangers were uninspiring.

    Sometimes, you want an individual to win it as was the case with Ray Bourque. Though I'm not pulling for New Jersey this year, despite Brodeur, I guess 'cause he's won it three times before, the sentimentality rule doesn't apply.

    GetStanley from MLHS

  8. Anon/GetStanley - Love your post. (Side note - I prefer "long-time observer", but "ancient" works, too...)

    I hated the "Big bad Bruins" in those early '70s days so the Orr memory has never been a warm one for me...

    I can appreciate your Canuck experience. Really good team, but you just haven't connected with them, it sounds like.

    The Ottawa thing is interesting. Caedmon mentioned that feeling as well. I've really come to admire Alfie over the years. I know Leaf world (at least many) still doesn't/don't like him, I guess, based on the early 2000s Ottawa rivalry, but I just think the guy plays hard and has been a loyal Sen. And I admire what the team did this season, when I thought they would be lucky to win 20 games, if that.

    I get your point on Bourque and Brodeur as well.


  9. Oh, I forgot one factor. I often root for the underdog. I guess the Caps are playing that role at the moment.

    As for Alfie, my love for the game overrides rivalry sentiment in most cases. Admiring an adversary is honourable and expected by the Hockey Gods.

    I remember many years ago being at the Montreal Forum for an exhibition game (I was living there at the time), and after the game I went down and spent some time standing behind the net, admiring the history of the building, and pondering all the great goalies who had played in that net, Vezina(?), Plante, Dryden, and all the other greats who had passed through like Tretiak.

    Like the Roch LaCarriere(sp?) story, the Hockey Sweater, which is as much a backhanded compliment to the Leafs and their fans as it is a Habs tome, it is the love of the game that makes the rivalry rich and worthy of discussion, and in that context their greats are our greats.


  10. Evocative and nicely said. Thanks GetStanley.

  11. I just can't seem to work up any apathy to anyone really. I'm guessing it is a function of not really having a rival per say. Back when the Leafs and Ottawa played all those playoff series I hated them. That carried over for a couple of years, so much that so that I loved seeing them get close only to get shellacked by Anahiem.

    Really though the only way to build up a good rivalry is to play in a couple of playoff series. Watching the Leafs go 7 straight years between meaningful games has really dampened my hate for other teams. On a side note it has also dampened peoples hatered of the Leafs. Most of my friends and a lot of people I meet through work are Oiler or Flames fans and they stopped hating and started sympathizing last year and espicially this year.

    I don't like Vancouver but that is more a side effect of the fans rather than the team. Living in Vancouver for three years really soured me on the fans. The team itself other than a few bozo's is actually a pretty skilled team. What I'm saying is even that hatred is only half hearted.

    One team I'm kinda following is St. Louis. This is a team that is everything Burke promised the Leafs would be. They are young, fast, skilled, have excellent goaltending, good defense and are tough. I can only hope for the day when the Leafs can be a St Louis.

  12. Willbur...interesting that you mention that many fans who historically would like to see the Leafs lose don't have quite that same negative sentiment now, given the team's recent struggles. And that's your point, I sense, about the Senators, for example. You just don't have the same intense feeling about them any more.

    I like what the Blues have built, too. We'll see if Carlyle makes that kind of a difference here, once some of the young Marlies start to make an impact next season.

    Thanks Willbur...stay in touch.

  13. I think I'd like Washington in the East L.A. in the most despised teams in order (Leafs fan since 1960 so I remember the 60s cups) 1. Montreal 2. Flyers 3.Ottawa 4. Oilers 5. Canucks 6. Pittsburgh and 7. Boston (used to like em' then the fans became very rude) no use for them now. Other teams I like Detroit (my late dads team)Chicago, New Jersey, and the Sharks the rest are filler. GO LEAFS 2012/13

  14. Glad to hear from a fellow '60s Leaf guy, Anon. I admire the Wings, too. Thanks for sending your list along.