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The perils of Maple Leaf blogging

I’m trying to recall exactly what I was thinking when I started writing here about the Maple Leafs.  Few if any of you likely remember, but VLM was 'launched', if I can call it that, in late September, 2009.  That was the era of a still “new-on-the-job” Brian Burke, but also after a series of highly unsuccessful Leaf seasons that ended without a playoff berth.

What I do remember is that my original intent was to develop a site that was a bit different, at least in terms of the subject matter.  I had many fond memories of the Maple Leafs of my youth (the late ’50, ‘60s and into the ‘70s) and I wanted to share some of my personal recollections and “stories”.  Those who have followed and maybe even enjoyed the site somewhere along the way know that this is a one-man effort (with the help of some outstanding posters, of course).  I never intended to "grow" the site or add writers.  It's just me, sharing my recollections about the 'old days' and making some observations about the current team.

It’s not a hockey humour site (I’m not funny).  While I talk about the past a lot, I’m not really a historian.  I don’t do research. 

Essentially, I write about what I remember, when it comes to the olden days. And that may be the only point of differentiation about VLM.  When writing about the history of the Leafs, I basically only talk about what I saw and remember myself—I don’t base anything I say here on what others have written in books about the old Leafs.

In a previous life, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing many Maple Leafs and other hockey players as well, including some all-time greats like Jean Beliveau (right, one of the classiest individuals you can imagine, in any walk of life), Rocket Richard and yes, Wayne Gretzky.  On occasion I’ve shared some of those memories here, too.  (A couple of the old interviews are available on this site, under “Vintage audio”. I hope that feature is still working!)

I’ve also worked with some high-profile coaches in the NHL world on a professional basis, and that has no doubt shaped my perspective as well when I write about the sport and the people who are part of it.  I try to bring a thoughtful, open-minded voice to the discussions here.

Mostly, I just talk Leafs.  The new Leafs, yes, but also the “old” Leafs.  I especially enjoy reminiscing about the Punch Imlach era, which began in the late 1950s, and saw the blue and white take home four championships in that wonderful decade of the ‘60s.  Those were simpler times, for sure, and a lot of fun for a young Leaf fan—though there were many disappointments, too.  We didn’t win every year—and haven’t won since…

That said, I’ve also made it clear here that even though the Leafs have not won a Cup in 45 years, they have not always been awful since 1967, despite what sometimes seems to be the prevailing “opinion” out there.  There have been a few 'highs' and some great moments at certain points in the ‘70s, and of course in the Burns and Quinn eras.

Now, when it comes to writing about the present-day Leafs, this is where (and this I was probably not aware of going in) the challenge lies. I’m not in my “I know everything there is to know about (insert the topic)” part of my life.  You know, that heady time where younger people sometimes seem to think they have the world by the tail and are right about everything.

At (approaching) the age of 60, I’ve seen a lot, but don’t pretend to know it all. So I was caught, if not by surprise, then somewhat off-guard when I recognized how volatile the response could be when I penned pieces about the modern-day Maple Leafs.  I realize looking back now that my original intent was to write about my 'memories' almost exclusively, but somehow I started commenting on the current club, and that’s what readers seemed to want much more than talking about games that were played fifty years ago.

So I continued to comment on the current-day Leafs.

When you post as often as I have (moving toward 1,300 posts since VLM started), I guess you’re bound to say something that offends the sensibilities of some Leaf fans.  Some loved Burke, for example.  Others loathed him.  When I wrote about the former GM, it hit a nerve at times.  Some people stopped following the site.  I always thought I tried to provide a reasoned position for my views, but they were not always well-received.

It was the same with the lockout.  If you dared express a view that did not claim the players’ were absolutely “in the right”, you didn’t know what you were talking about. 

I need not list all the Leaf players who cause a rift in Leafworld.  Forget the last ten seasons.  Just the present roster:  Kessel, check.  Grabovski, check.  Our fighters, check. Reimer, check.  Phaneuf, check, check.

When I write positively and hopefully about the Leafs (goodness knows there is enough negativity about the team out there) I’m told I’m too Pollyanna-like.  If I criticize a decision or a player, I hear that I’m just acting like the mainstream media, and that I should stop being so negative on a Maple Leaf site.

Oh well.

Then there is the “stats” issue.  Goodness.  Does anything divide a fan base more nowadays than the chasm between those who seemingly truly believe “advanced stats” reveal who the really good players are versus those who rely on “seeing” and assessing the game with their own eyes? (I don’t much care myself where people stand on this question.  NHL teams have kept different types of stats since the ‘60s.  The Rangers, as I recall, under Emile “The Cat” Francis as GM and sometimes coach, first developed the “plus/minus” stat in the mid-‘60s before it became the norm to do so.  All NHL teams are well aware of the sophisticated stats that are out there these days, and utilize those numbers to varying degrees. It’s not like Carlyle and the Leafs go blithely along, unaware that such golden data exists…)

On this note, I'm not a fan of "group think", where like-minded commentators band together to search out and destroy those who see things differently.  Their view?  Everyone should hate certain writers or points of view, or whatever.  It makes little sense to me, but that type of attitude is most certainly out there.  And I guess I just don't get it.

Sadly, the stats thing has become like the Hatfields and the McCoy’s.  Never the twain shall meet, I guess, though it's not that complicated to me.  Good hockey people (same with fans) see the value of both statistical analysis and the experienced 'eyeballs' approach.

Unfortunately, this all leads to a sometimes-poisonous climate between fans (forget between fans and the organization, or fans and the “media”—I’m talking about fans battling fans).  It’s not a shock that Leaf fans often see the same picture differently—not at all.  It’s been this way for as long as I can remember.  (In truth, it’s part of the reason why I prefer to watch sporting events by myself when I have a serious rooting interest.)

The disagreements are not the issue.  But how we handle those discussions can be insulting and hurtful, and that’s a shame.

My point, I guess, is that I have done this largely for fun over the years.  (Anyone would prefer to do it for a large financial return, but that’s not the reality for most bloggers.)  Sure, I recognize that when anyone takes a position in public on any subject, even something as inconsequential as hockey and the Maple Leafs, others will react, and not always in a considerate fashion.

However, when I see the acerbic tone and some taking constant shots at one another in the fan/blogger community, it's simply not enjoyable for me.  That’s one of the reasons I’m posting less this spring and will continue on a lighter schedule in the days ahead.  I don’t enjoy personal attacks (though I have been relatively fortunate over the years, I guess) and am not one for vitriol, so the “fun” of doing a blog is curtailed when the response or subsequent discussion goes from thoughtful, considered and respectful to something less than that.

Again, I’ve been fortunate.  At VLM, I could name a long list of people who post here, either regularly or on occasion, that are fabulous.  They write well, always provide perspective and a rationale for their views, and even when we significantly disagree on the topics of the day, they/we do so in a respectful manner.  They make me think.  I’m good with that.  In fact, I enjoy a respectful clash of views.

The harsher stuff has no appeal, however.  Whether it’s on blog sites, chat forums, Twitter, whatever, it’s hockey, after all, that we’re talking about—not some important life-changing social issue. I assume if someone does not appreciate my perspective, they won’t visit VLM.  If they do, they will hopefully see that the tone and tenor of this site is, by design, different than what is often experienced in the conventional blogospehere. 

I’ll be making decisions about the future of the site over the course of the summer.  If readers would like to be in touch to share their thoughts as to whether VLM still has a role to play in the Leafland discourse, let me know.  My e-mail is Michael@prospectcommunications.com




66 comments:

  1. MIchael,

    Allow me to publicly thank you for writing and creating this site. VLM has been a great place to come and talk about the team I love, almost always in a respectful way. No matter what you decide, you did some great work here. A lot of people are very happy you shared your memories with us. With many thanks,

    Jim

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    1. Thank you very much, Jim. Your support and contribution here has been tremendous.

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  2. I have looked forward everyday to reading VLM. I'll be 60 in late December and your writings (and pictures) of the late 50's, 60's and 70's bring back great memories. What a loss if VLM was discontinued but your decision I will respect with obvious great regret.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to say that, Jamie. We're of the same generation (born in '53) so we share some fond memories of our beloved Leafs of the past. Take care.

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  3. All I can say Michael is this is the first hockey blog I check out every day. It is the only blog where I check the comments at all. It is the only blog where I post anything.

    I think it would be a tremendous loss if you were to stop VLM. I certainly understand if you choose to do so but I would miss the intelligent, witty posts as well as the informed thoughtful comments. Lord knows I have my disagreements with people but I have never once felt I was under personal attack. The give and take is both funny and respectful and it would be a tremendous loss if this unique and entertaining corner of the web were to come to an end. This is the only website I have found were people are allowed to have an original thought. I really hope you continue but wish you well in whatever path you choose.

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    1. I think you know you're one of the people I've thoroughly enjoyed engaging with here over the years, Willbur. As you say, folks can disagree, but who cares? Isn't that the basis of us being fans? You root for a certain team, but we all have our own reasons and see what we see. If we are respectful to one another, that makes the experience all the more worthwhile.

      Thanks for your support, Willbur. I'll let folks know what I'm thinking as the summer moves along...

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  4. I've been verbally abused at Pension Plan Puppets and banned and my posts there have all been deleted because I happen to like our goons, Bozak and Gustavson. Maple Leafs Hotstove is a lot better but not much different in terms of 'clique-mentality' and fetishism of the so-called advanced stats. This is the only place where the opinions of elders are respected and everyone feels welcome. Your posts are thoughtful and full of insight. Your opinions are original and so are the opinions of many of us commenting here. I'm already devastated that my favourite podcast has been discontinued. I urge you to not abandon the territory to the symphony of what Carlyle calls 'white noise'. Toronto blogosphere and mainstream media is bad enough as it is. This is our last refuge. And that is exactly what it is - a refuge for the passionate and dedicated fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs who are not looking to show off the size of their egos but simply want to discuss the game and their favourite club. The format is good - keep it that way - keep it yours and low-maintenance and post when you get a chance and let us take care of the rest :)

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    1. Your comments are good to hear, leafdreamer. As you can appreciate, it can be difficult (and disheartening at times) trying to maintain this type of forum. I'll be thinking on whether it is something I want to continue to do, based on hearing from people like yourself and if it feels right and worthwhile. Thanks again for the kind words, leafdreamer.

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  5. Michael, I quite agree with your sentiments, but I don't thnk that should stop you from sharing your point of view. I sincerely hope it doesn't! I have less and less time for Leafs blogs, but yours is one worth checking out, precisely because it lacks the tension of some of the others,

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    1. Good to hear from you, JTL in MTL. As I alluded to in my post today, I've been grappling with this for a while. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  6. Michael,

    As a long time fan of your site - I just wanted to say thank you for everything you have done to date, and to express my sincere hope that you continue this blog going forward. I also wanted to let you know how much I have appreciated your views, the great nostalgic looks back, and how you have always taken the time to interact directly and thoughtfully with people who post comments at the end of your articles (which is a real rarity). I understand what you are saying about groupthink but, for me, the blogs (or Barilkosphere, I've always liked that tag) have become my refuge from articles posted in the Star, the Sun etc where the real groupthink (and, sadly, lack of thinking at all) problems seem to be.

    Your site, and your particular style of writing, both have filled a niche that I have always found very enjoyable to read. I might be a bit younger than you are, but I still love to learn more about Leafs lore, and get frustrated seeing lists of all time great Leafs dominated by recent players like Mats Sundin, while missing earlier greats like Teeder Kennedy, Conacher, Primeau, Broda et al.

    I really hope you keep this site going, it is one of the best ones around, and just might be the single best example among all Leaf writers of how one can (and why one should) break out of the groupthink mindset in the first place.

    Your friend and reader, Slider.

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    1. Hi Slider- I meant to respond here- see my note below...

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  7. This is definitely one of the top leaf blogs out there. I notice some blogs do attack and effectively expel or shun anyone with differing views either by design or simply in defending their opinion. Some fans are inherently nasty and jealous that journalists get to write about the leafs. The fan base represents and incredible spectrum from "we want a cup", to eternal optimists at MLHS to the perma-leafs sucks at PPP and to sharing the lore of leaf past with the team today at VLF.

    If only more sites were examples of tolerance and acceptance of different opinions like your site then I think we would be even better fan base and humanity for that while. At the end of the day, do what you feel is in your best interest but do it because you choose to and not because some narrow minded, nasty spread sheet crunching fan has forced you into silence.

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    1. The best part of my "work" here, leafkesselkadri, is the relationship that I've been able to develop with so many fellow hockey lovers. We all come to our love of the game from different backgrounds and experiences, yet we all recognize the good things that hockey has to offer.

      There is also a strong connection here with those who respect the Maple Leaf legacy, which someone like myself appreciates very much. Thank you for taking the time to comment today. I appreciate you thoughtful words very much, leafkesselkadri.

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  8. I was quite touched by your post today, Slider. I'll leave it at that, but it was awfully nice to hear. Thank you.

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  9. I'm not sure I've ever commented on here, Michael, but I've certainly read and enjoyed a number of your pieces. Rest assured you're not alone in feeling a little frustrated/disappointed with some of the heavy-handedness with which differing opinions on the Leafs are dealt, particularly when those opinions aren't in line with the established opinion of the primary posters/commenters on particular sites. But, it's not all like that - as you know, there's some great, intelligent conversation out there, all throughout the Barilkosphere, including people who really do try to bridge the gap between the 'advanced stats' crew and those that prefer the 'feel' of the game in less quantifiable terms, without resorting to attack mode. You're part of that intelligent conversation; like others, while I respect your decision to pull back a bit, I hope you continue to post occasionally. Many of us truly appreciate your writing!

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    1. Good to hear from you, Marvin. I agree, there is some very thoughtful commentary throughout the Barilkospehere (and some fine blog sites), and I know that will always continue, with or without my presence. Thanks for taking the time to post, Marvin.

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  10. Hi Michael,

    This post hit me. It's something I have felt for a long time. Now I admit, I really never got comments on my own posts, maybe that was a good thing. But, from Twitter to the comments sections of the newspaper websites to the current events TV shows, I find what you describe is evident.

    Maybe I too am getting to 'that age', but I find there's no discourse, no discussion and true exchange of ideas. Everything is chopped down into short bursts, you either agree or don't, and your first thought defines your position - progressive, dinosaur, idiot, genius, comrade, whatever. I'm almost guilty of it with this post - generalizing for the sake of my argument.

    Maybe that's the nature of things now. If you allow for compromise or that are any way sympathetic to another view, then you aren't committed to your beliefs. You must seek out the like-minded, and defend the group position – be part of the solution or else you are part of the problem... even if that problem is that player X gets far too much ice-time which is representative of the incompetence of the coaching staff and an obvious symbol of the franchise's lukewarm commitment to actually winning a championship.

    For my part, I try (and sometimes fail) to avoid the temptation to shout down or minimize opposing viewpoints. I hope that my commentary here has stayed out of that vein.

    In that light, I completely agree with what you've written above. It can be tiring, frustrating, to express a view or thought and have it met not with intelligent disagreement but a label and (sometimes) condescending list of reasons why everything you think is wrong/outdated/not true... whatever.

    Whatever your decision with the site, I enjoy VLM and have a great deal of respect for you, your knowledge and that you enjoy connecting with other fans and sharing in all that comes with following this team.

    Mark

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    1. Your third paragraph stands out in an all-around really good comment, Mark. Thank you. The issue you cite in that paragraph goes well beyond those of us who opine in the world of hockey/sports, and you've captured the problem/challenge really well.

      I will keep your thoughts (and those above) in mind as I try to determine the road ahead. Thanks very much Mark.

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  11. There are some very wonderful comments posted above and I find them thoughtful and encouraging - something that you have long-striven to model on your site.

    VLM is a refuge for the like-minded (pertaining to how we would like to interact with others who have the same passion) and a gentle 'mentoring' for others who have not yet fully appropriated such effective and conciliatory communication techniques that foster community and respect. In a word, your quiet gift to this community becomes 'work' when the intent is overwhelmed by the insensitivity of those who have not learned that 'to give respect is to gain respect'. A passion can be diminished when it becomes an obligation instead of a joy.

    In light of this, I would respectfully suggest that one way that you might balance the good with the 'bad' might be to use the moderated comments a little differently (should you decide that your service to this small community can bring you more joy and less 'drainage'). I was thinking how there are many commenters I enjoy reading and trust to function in line with your wise standards. Perhaps you could make a list of trusted posters who could keep that 'title' so long as they continue to abide in the trust you would give them.

    This would allow you to avoid the 'interruptions' of our comments throughout your workday, but allow them to post 'timely' for your readership. Then you could comment at a time convenient to you later in the day.

    I would also suggest putting a clear disclaimer about comments (for the uninitiated/insensitive who may drop by) that at the first sign of inappropriate/rough/harsh elements, you will choose to disengage and not allow the comment to denigrate your site. If you have the time (and technology) perhaps you might feel like taking the time to teach them how we would all like to enjoy your site (if it's possible to respond to them directly - however unlikely I think that may be). Conversely, you could post with a label describing what may be offensive to you and comment further if you so choose.

    My hope is that we could easily skip reading these people's comments (on the days when we're not 'up for it' either) and be able to focus upon and enjoy what is great about coming & commenting here... to truly appreciate the forum you have given us.

    Do feel free to step back in whatever way you choose, just know that we will miss you if it is more 'permanent' than the suggestions I'm providing. I empathize with the stress that some posters must create, when all you want is a healthy dialogue... perhaps these thoughts will encourage a new placement for the fulcrum where you place your time and energy in the new balance point I suggested at the outset!

    I know you realize I first posted to encourage you to 'carry on' when previously unsure about your gift to us - now I am hoping to have provided a way for you to do so :)

    Sorry for not commenting in the past 2+ weeks, but a broken (casted) arm makes typing less of a joy (even if I still check in and enjoy the reading part)!

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    1. I see you're "playing hurt" today, InTimeFor62. (Conn Smythe would be pleased!)

      Your suggestion obviously has merit- I'd like to think on it and see if that would ease certain self-imposed 'demands' I've sort of placed on myself over time.

      You know that I appreciate your contributions here- and your support as well. The summer is a good time to think, and I will endeavour to do just that.

      Tentatively I plan to post on occasion, and see how things feel come September. Thanks, InTimeFor62.

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  12. Dear Michael:

    I just completed a workshop - let's call it "personal development" - where I wrestled about constructively adding a voice and going public on certain issues. It's a blood sport for those who dare. Yet to suppress that which is within is even more cruel. And an offense to those of us who hunger for wise dialogue, such as yours.

    What others say actually doesn't matter. God bless 'em. They are allowed. But it has no impact on your "truth." Unless, of course, something sparks an awakening of some sort, and then one gets to fine tune one's contribution.

    This blog and your podcast are and were constructive and innovative contributions to sports journalism - and journalism overall. Too many in the print and broadcast business are paid to 1) have an opinion (actually often an impulse); 2) entrench that opinion; 3) defend it to the death, even by diminishing another who challenges it and 4) scream louder when not getting one's way.

    It is a false reality show full of bluster, gladiators, clowns, silly puns, medieval thinking and face paint.

    Not you: you are real. The real deal. Considered, thoughtful, humble, insightful.

    I invite you to maintain this site if that is (part of) your calling. Goodness always attracts goodness. Though often it feels glacially slow. Peace bro. Peter

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    1. Your comments stand on their own, Peter, so I will only say that they are a breath of fresh air to hear. Thank you.

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  13. Michael, you have to do what you have to do, you certainly owe nobody - the blogosphere is a better place for you having visited. You have already provided a valuable service because of the content of the site and its civil nature. A few months ago I started to try out a few Leaf blog sites, and after a while I ended up being a visitor to just two - your terrific site and the Leafs Nation - I readily admit to being a fool for Steve Dangle's zany videos, and I have a lot of time for the way Cam Charron and others present their statistical concepts (although I'm by no means a convert). But, as with others, my first read is VLM.

    I would encourage you to continue if you can. I'm also of that era (61 now), and I think it's nice that there is a bridge to that time, via VLM and yourself (and we bloggers as well, I suppose). It's not exactly "from failing hands", but the thought that there is that continuity among the Leaf fan base is comforting. Also, people are finding their way on the 'Net, with more success in some cases than others. I think that the older generation can help to point the way here, by bringing some "analog values" to the digital age - for example, don't say anything on the 'Net that you wouldn't be prepared to say in person to a very large man. Having said that, it was my kids who taught me the universal maxim, "never feed the trolls."

    You have my unqualified support, and my promise to be an avid reader (and contributor, as appropriate) going forward. Be assured of the good wishes (and appreciation) of your reasonable and sober-minded readers, and frankly to hell with everybody else :-)

    Mike Allen

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    1. I smiled throughout your post today, Mike- it was positive and uplifting to read. And I very much like the notion that we relative 'elders' in the community may have something to contribute and pass along.

      Like you, I have learned some valuable lessons from my sons- in a whole host of ways, and I thank God for that.

      It is easy to say 'thanks', as I have to those who commented above. But I mean it sincerely. Thank you, Mike.

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  14. Ha, after the season and particlarly how the end came I completely understand how one might feel a bit disinterested this spring, Michael, I myself have watched barely a single period of the post-Leafs playoffs.
    However, the community discussion you foster here is invaluable and your knowledge of Leafs history is of great service to those of us who weren't around in the true 'Glory' days and are interested in the roots of our beloved team. Your knowledge of the game balanced with your refreshing admission that you do not, in fact, claim to 'know it all' is something that attracts me and I know many others to your site, and I think that anyone who walked into the Gardens and shot the breeze with King Clancy certainly has some bragging rights that should be envied by the big media guys and bloggers alike!
    During this past season your site was always the first stop to check in with an hour or two after the game and you will be missed if you step back from that. I also want to thank you for having me on the podcast, what an honour to be part of the 'fan roundtable' and I look forward to keeping in touch on twitter and elsewhere!

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  15. Thanks for the kind thoughts, Sean. I always look forward to your contributions here and was very happy to have you on the podcast (back when I was involved myself). And thanks for remembering my King Clancy story, Sean!

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  16. Michael, I enjoy your blog, and appreciate your style and effort. I can't comprehend what it is like to have to read some of the comments I see on some blogs (more PPP than yours), but it must be disheartening. Have a great summer and maybe we will hear from you in the fall. Take care.

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    1. Thanks Greg- much appreciated. I may chime in from time to time this summer, if I have something that might be worth saying!

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  17. Michael,

    As a recent Leafs fan who lives in Australia, I enjoy both your memories of the Leafs in the past and your thoughts on the present-day Leafs. I have always found your writing reasoned and fair. Please be assured I will continue to visit VLM for its balanced, friendly content. And maybe even make the odd, rare comment :)

    David

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    1. It's wonderful to hear from someone in Australia, David. One of the things I have enjoyed so much about the VLM site is the opportunity to chat with fans from around the world- Australia, New Zealand, Croatia, Japan, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, throughout the U.K. and of course the United States. The Leaf legacy lives across the globe, and it's great to see. Thanks David.

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  18. Michael. For a number of reasons I have been less active reading blogs and posting on twitter of late. After the Leafs' loss in game 7, I was left with an empty feeling, but also some new hope. Any blogs or news stories I've read recently about the Leafs, have been focused more on "new info" rather than opinions. Once the draft and FA season opens up, my passion of course will be renewed. For that reason I want to apologize for not posting recently.

    Michael, I fully appreciate everything you wrote in today's post, and many of the comments already provided (by fellow readers) have shared why they value your site and your thoughtful posts and replies. Just like many of your posts, I was "nodding" in agreement as well with their comments.

    As someone who is also rapidly approaching that 60 year mark, I certainly value the perspective of those who have watched the Leafs for many years. I'd like to think that with age comes some wisdom, and that is readily apparent in many of your posts. Most of your readers not only value your opinions, but also feel comfortable in sharing their own in a respectful and open/sharing way.

    Anytime a Leaf fan dares to express an opinion, they open themselves up to several types of replies, whether it be acknowledgment & agreement, open & respectful discussion, or a tirade of arguments. Just comes with the territory of being a Leaf fan. I have little time for those that live in a world where their opinions are beyond reproach.

    Michael, I have always been amazed at the frequency of your posts and the length of them as well. Your writing is eloquent and thoughtful. Frankly I have no idea how you've been able to do it. I certainly enjoy reading them, as well as reading the comments. I have no expectations as to what you should choose to do with your site, but hopefully you will continue in some fashion.

    Someone suggested perhaps "moderated" comments, or "registered" users to help keep the blog civil. If that helps you move forward and keeps the blog enjoyable for you and your readers, then maybe that is an option to be considered.

    I've always got time for knowledgeable and well-spoken Leaf fans, and you're high up on that list Michael.






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    1. Good of you to visit and leave such a supportive comment, Don (TML_fan). You've helped bring a thoughtful perspective to this site for a long time. Take care.

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  19. I really enjoy reading the articles, posting comments and interacting with the other Leaf supporters on VLM It's sort of sad, but these moments are often among my happiest and are frequently the highlight of my day.

    I like the rich storied flavor and the historical context that is added to discussion the current team and its future. This elevates the discussion above other Leaf sites and you take a notch further with by setting a polite respectful tone. I always feel like I am visiting a gentleman's forum here.

    "...I’m told I’m too Pollyanna-like."

    Then I must be Pollyanna in the flesh, because I am one of the most optimistic posters here.

    Keep it up the good work. I notice that all the Leafs sites always give you a link on every new piece of content. I think that tells you how good you are and how much your peers appreciate your work.

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    1. Thank you, DP- that means a lot. When you comment, I know a gentleman has visited the site.

      And thank goodness for (including yours) optimism/hopefulness- goodness knows there is enough negativity and cynicism out there. While it's good to be realistic, how many of us would still follow the Leafs if not for "hope"?

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  20. For my first comment "post playoffs", I´ll just say that this is the only place I comment or chat on. The other sites and blogs mentioned don't do it for me. For some younger fans they might do the trick, but VLM seems more... what's the word??... smarter. Diferent opinions. No name calling. Perfect.

    As for your international readers you mentioned above, don't forget Portgual, the Azores to be exact. Thought you would have remebered me for my opinions on Reimer's (and other players') "quirks".

    All kidding aside, next season I look forward to staying up (very) late watching games and making mental notes on what to say here on VLM the next morning.

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    1. A morning smile- you know I didn't forget you, portuguese leaf! Yes, I should have included that wonderful country on my "list" of international visitors to VLM! Thanks portuguese leaf- let's stay connected.

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  21. Michael,

    I will chime in briefly to state the obvious, that I thoroughly enjoy visiting here and discussing our collective Leafs passion. Like most others here, I have waded through other sites, and tired of the "professional" media and have naturally gravitated here because of you and your efforts to keep your site an open, vitriol-free zone where we value each others thoughts and opinions.

    I simply can't stomach rude, know-it-all people who apparently feel they know more about this game and business than those who are paid to do so. We have learned a lot from you, from each other, and I certainly suspect you are humble enough to proudly acknowledge learning a lot from us in return. What I wouldn't give to open the papers and read columns from professionals who could treat their medium this way!

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    1. It's funny, Pete- it seems that, as we get older, we really do realize just how much we still don't know. I guess sometimes when we are younger that may escape us.

      I have learned a great deal from the relationships I have developed here. I may not "know" people personally, but the interactions here reflect something about a person- their decency, thoughtfulness, courtesy- and yes, wisdom. I genuinely appreciate what the regular readers and posters here contribute not only to the site but to me personally. Thanks for sharing that today, Pete.

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  22. Simply put, VLM has become a must-read site for me. I enjoy the give-and-take of your various posters, and being one of the more senior readers (it appears), I love reading about the old days and teams.
    I think what hits so close to home for me, Michael, is that continuity of fandom which the site represents so well. In many ways, I'm still the same kid who watched Armstrong, Keon, Horton, Bower et al when I watch the Leafs today, with the same passionate hopes (or crushed dreams!) as I was way back when. Honestly, days are just a little bit brighter when the Leafs have won the night before!
    This site has seemed like a conversation between old friends somehow - friends who've made me laugh, made me think, made me see things differently - all in a respectful atmosphere. Like you, I'm not a stats guy particularly. They're interesting, but as I said a while back, if they were the whole story, Billy Beane would have a World Series ring on every finger. And my memory can also be a little fuzzy at times - did Eddie Shack really knock out two players one night with head butts? (I swear I can see the photo in the paper, a prone body in each face off circle, in my mind's eye). But the river that runs through it all is being a fan, and you've captured that brilliantly in your posts.
    It goes without saying - but in typical O'Malley fashion, I'll say it anyway - that the site would be sorely missed if you decide to shut it down. I know how much work it takes, and appreciate the effort required - particularly with the quick turnaround you're able to achieve! I hope you'll find a way to continue - after all, next year is looking awfully good for our team!

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  23. That's some fine O'Malley magic, Gerund O'- you know how much I appreciate your engaging here on a regular basis.

    We both have such fond memories of those golden days, and yes, those special names you mentioned.

    (Like you, by the way, I often have these visions of hockey moments past, but like your Shack example, can't always fully "confirm" in my own mind that they actually happened...we do know that, in his second incarnation with the Leafs in the mid '70s, the Plager boys from St. Louis ran around the ice after him at the Gardens; that's a "for sure"!)

    The comments here the past couple of days have helped me to recognize there may be some reason to continue, at the very least next season, with maybe some occasional posts this summer. Thanks Gerund. Take care.

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  24. Dear Mr. Langlois

    I am a 28 year old Canadian living in Australia (the center of the field hockey universe). I have visited quite a number of hockey and Maple Leaf related blogs, but I have to say that yours is my favorite. I have never written in the comments section until today, but I feel compelled to share my thoughts. I'll keep it short and sweet.

    Something that has impressed me over the years is the intelligent, respectful way in which you write. This pertains not only to your articles themselves, but also to your taking care to respond to the vast majority of those commenting. I think that in general this results in attracting similar individuals to the site, ones who will share their own opinion, but respect others at the same time. Yes, I am sure that there are some who get a kick out of posting some form of lurid diatribe in the comments section, but the percentage is certainly a lot lower on this site than others. In the end, it is your decision, but this site would certainly be missed. Compared to other hockey related blogs, it is an oasis of civility in a desert of contempt.

    Thanks very much
    Gordon

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    1. I was touched by your note, Gordon. Thank you. It's especially nice to hear from a "younger" person who finds a reason to visit this site. Thank you for taking the time to connect.

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    2. Hi Michael. I'm a first time poster of any blogs, period. I just wanted to say that as a Leaf fan for the past 45 years, I feel a kinship with you and many of the followers of your blog. During the years of being a Leaf fan I often questioned why I spent so much emotional energy following the Leafs. I think it's just a normal phase one goes through to question ones actions. I also think you have talent as a writer and I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts all the way from Israel.

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  25. Really nice to hear from you all the way from Israel, drgreg. Your point on "emotional energy" touched a chord with me, and likely others as well who visit the comments section here.

    Somehow, at some point in our lives, young or not so young, we all fall in love with a game, a sport, whatever. It can be a family tradition (or in my case, bucking the family tradition- they were all Hab fans!), a player you develop a liking for, or, as a child, something as simple as liking a team's logo, cap or jersey.

    Whatever, we become emotionally connected and the highs and lows follow. Precisely why we all continue to "care" is hard to pinpoint- it's not our "lives", after all. Yet it still matters to us.

    You've given me an idea to re-post a piece I've put up here before, about why the Leafs still matter. Thanks for that, and for visiting VLM- and taking the time to write, drgreg.

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  26. Michael,

    I would like to heartily agree with the myriad of posters who have eloquently expressed support for your efforts in making VLM the best hockey blog on the internet. You have created an atmosphere of respect where Leaf fans can express opinions without fear of some scathing rejoinder.

    I like to think there are many Leaf fans who are more introspective in their thought processes, are willing to see the other person's point of view and are able to rationally discuss differences. You have attracted many readers and posters of that ilk through your measured and rational approach.

    I sense that you have become somewhat discouraged lately about how VLM is received. I hope that the outpouring of support has shown you just how much we appreciate and enjoy your efforts.

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    1. I mis-placed my response, Pete Cam- see below!

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  27. Hello Michael,
    I am not one to usually post my opinions or ideas online for various reasons, including the sometimes-poisonous climate between fans and being victim to groupthink. Although I do find your site more welcoming than others when it comes to expressing opinions and having someone agree or respectfully disagree. Still, I rarely post on VLM either as I am more of an observational person and I find it interesting just to hear the different points of view from fans. Having said that, I often find myself nodding in agreement while reading your posts and I thoroughly enjoy visiting regularly. The blogosphere can be very frustrating, if not discouraging at times, so I respect and understand your position of disconcertment. However let me just say that it would be a real shame if you were to close the door on VLM as I think that you succeeded in trying to develop a site that was a bit different from the rest. Whatever you decide, thank you for sharing your stories and rationale over the years. I hope that you will continue to do so.

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    1. I'm not one to post very often on other forums or blogs/sites myself, Cartsy, so I particularly appreciate that you took the time to do so in this instance. I appreciate your kind words and support a great deal.

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  28. Thank you so much, Pete Cam. As a fellow "oldster", I appreciate your words a great deal.

    I agree fully that there are many, many thoughtful Leaf followers and I've been fortunate that so many of them have, over the years, become a part of this site. I thank them- and you as well, Pete Cam.

    It has indeed been reassuring to hear from those who have commented on this post.

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  29. There's no way I could articulate things any better than the previous posters, but this site is a rare jewel in the blogging community. It's 'old school' in its emphasis on respectful discourse, even as disagreements naturally arise. It's a welcome break from the smack-talk/comedian culture that dominates elsewhere.

    Regardless of your decision, Micheal, please know that many appreciate your thoughtful approach. Best wishes, always.

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  30. I know there are some fine hockey sites out there, Anon, which makes me especially appreciate those of you who take the time to visit here at VLM. Thanks for posting.

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  31. A few last reflections on the atmosphere at VLM.

    I spent a lot of time at Maple Leaf Gardens during my teen years watching Leaf hockey, first in standing room and then as a season ticket holder in 61-62 and 62-63. The crowds were well dressed (jacket and tie for males) and well behaved. Outstanding plays by the opposition were even given polite applause. It was, in the main, a large group of serious fans who appreciated good hockey but who also loved the Leafs.

    The atmosphere of VLM hearkens me back to those kinder, gentler Tweetless times where people actually took time to analyze situations and comment intelligently on them.

    I appreciate your thoughtful and insightful blogs.

    I appreciate the many outstanding posters here with their well written intelligent comments.

    I appreciate that you take the time to respond to each comment and look forward to those replies.

    I appreciate the effort and time that goes into each blog and I can only hope that you can see fit to continue.

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    1. I did not go to my first Leaf game (I lived in southwestern Ontario) until the 1964-'65 season, and not again until 1972-'73, I think it was. I became a season-ticket holder as a university student in the mid '70s when greys were only $4 a seat- amazing.

      I envy (in a good way!) that you had the opportunity to go to Leaf games on a regular basis in those golden days, Pete Cam. That '62-'63 Leaf squad was (from a distance) the best I have ever seen, the most complete Leaf team of my lifetime.

      Speaking of things that we can appreciate, I truly appreciate the gentlemanly nature of your posts here Pete Cam. I look forward to them and remember them all fondly.

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  32. Hi Michael,

    The first time I posted on VLM (last year, or the season before, I think), I hope I made a point of thanking you for providing this rare haven of reason and respect for Maple Leafs fans. Living in Japan, I'm starved for meaningful Leafs talk. I'm sure this sentiment has been expressed to you many times over the years, as it has in the comments above, but thank you for providing this unique forum!

    Just as a few posters have commented already, yours is the only site where I actually read comments and post my own. I do read mainstream Leafs media and other blogs, but I have no interest in sifting through the excess of hyperbole and virtiol in the comments sections just to find a few morsels of insight, when I can visit VLM for a feast of thoughtful (rather than knee-jerk) opinions, stemming from your wonderful posts.

    Oh yeah, thanks for always responding to my posts too; I look forward to your positive and affirming replies...

    Matt

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    1. In fact, I remember when I first noticed that you posted here, Matty D.- I was glad you started connecting and still am.

      While, as I noted in my original post, there can be frustrations as an erstwhile hockey blogger, it has also been a privilege to be a part of this community. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Matty.

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  33. Michael
    As you can tell, I have not recently been a frequent visitor to your blog since the hockey season ended for me with the demise of the Leafs. Better late than never to respond to this particular post!

    I must echo all the positive and encouraging comments of all of the above commenters. I too appreciate the tone and content of this forum and enjoy each of the topics you raise during the season whether it is remembering the past (which brings back great memories for me) or discussing the current situation. If you can find the time and energy to do so, I would urge you to continue this fine blog.

    For the record, this is the only Leaf related website I now read. I really enjoy the comments of the regular posters and have begun to feel that you and they are part of my Leaf "family" which adds greatly to my enjoyment of being a Leaf's fan.
    I gather you must receive a number of nasty comments each day that you choose not to put on the blog (and rightly so) because they do not fit the tone of the forum that you have said you would maintain. Please do not be discouraged by them as they are not worthy of your consideration.

    If you decide you cannot continue, I will understand as you obviously devote considerable time and thought to it and apparently are receiving much unwarranted aggravation for your efforts. In that event, your many posters and members of my "Leaf family" will be the poorer for it.
    Should you decide to continue, even on a limited basis, your many faithful readers and thoughtful posters will surely rejoice.

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  34. You are one of the true 'elders' of this community, Ed, and I thank you for taking the time to express those kind thoughts. You have always, when you found the time, contributed significantly to the discussions here. Having followed the blue and white for so long, you offer a unique and valued perspective.

    Many thanks. Take care, Ed.

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  35. Michael,

    I always like visiting your site for the very reasons you cited above. Generally it's respectful, even when people disagree. It seems as the internet age has grown that has been harder and hard to find. That's why I appreciate this little gem you have here at VLM. Keep up the great work :)

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    1. Very nice to hear that heading into a weekend, Sasko- thank you and best wishes back your way!

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  36. Whether you realize it or not, you have found a niche in the world of sport's writing, and I for one am glad you did. From the mid sixties on, it seems to me, and I am not an expert, just a fan, that a tone set into the discourse that was snide, superior and destructive. My mother told me, back in 1964, that I should never put my name to anything to which I may later be ashamed. I may not have always followed that advice, but I have not forgotten it. When I read your writing, I get a sense of you as a person, as a man of integrity and as a writer we truly need in what I would call our bloody, black and blue, Leaf family. When my grandfather was exasperated by vitriol, he wrote the object of his wrath saying, "Your article did not improve your stature as a journalist, nor did improve your stature as a man." The opposite of those tough words could be said of you. Your website captures your stature as a writer, and more importantly, gives us all an example to follow in that you are obviously a good man doing good work. I do hope you keep it up. You elevate all with your writing.

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  37. I can only say thank you for the kind words, Elizabeth. That they come from you is important in itself, but that you also represent the Maple Leaf legacy, as a grand-daughter of Conn Smythe, makes it even more special. Warm regards to you and the entire Brinton and Smythe clans.

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  38. Hey Michael,

    I have commented here a few times, but much less than I have read your fine site. Reading this post I realize that some of my posts may have come off antagonistic and I want to apologize for that. I really enjoy your writing and when I agree or just enjoy your pieces (the majority of the time) I usually don't bother posting. It is only when I disagree that I usually post, thus I realized I have probably come off as contrarian. I really hope my posts haven't felt antagonistic to you and I just wanted to say how great a site this is.

    All that being said, while I hope you continuing writing for selfish reasons (I enjoy reading), I truly hope you do what you think is best for you. If the blogosphere is stressing you out do what is best for you.

    Thanks for the great site!
    BCapp

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  39. Please don't worry, BCapp. I well recall some of your posts here and I was never offended in the least. As I have said here often, I'm happy that people feel free to voice their opinions even when their views differ significantly from mine. That the interaction is respectful makes it all the better. Sometimes we need to be "contrarian"! It can make for healthy dialogue. Thanks BCapp.

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  40. Michael, I am not sure exactly what you are experiencing, however I know how unfair and demoralizing personal attacks can be. And, of course, why would anyone volunteering their time put up with personal attacks? I could not counsel anyone that such behavior was acceptable, or that they should soldier on irrespective of personal cost. I can only say that VLM has brought me more of worth as a fan than any other media out there, by a long shot. For me, its value is indisputable, and as much as I am gratified that such a forum exists, I obviously see the other, regrettable side of public media -- the petty minds, jealousies and diverse inane behavior that VLM so effectively shelters me from. I don’t really have an answer to your dilemma because it is personally felt, just a strong hope that VLM is going in full force when training camp opens and the Leaf players hit the ice once again.

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    1. You know how much I value your perspective and input here, Bobby C.- thank you.

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