Toronto. Hogtown. The Big Smoke. Canada's New York, at least in the eyes of some folks that reside there. I suppose that makes us Canada's Los Angeles ( I vote for San Fran' instead ) . Regardless. It seems like the East / West thing is something that inspires talk of rivalries and hate and whatnot.
With all that, I did not grow up in rural B.C as a Leaf hater at first, personally. That came a bit later, when, after becoming a fan of the team we had of our own (finally) in the province, I was told the tale of how the team that was coming off of winning the damn Cup decided to tell hockey fans in B.C and Vancouver that we were considered the "territory" of the Mighty Maple Leafs ( and Habs, though the Leafs were the driving force by all reports. They did not want to split TV revenue back then as well) It is what brought hockey to the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and the white skate clad California Golden Seals sideshow to the NHL, as they scrambled to accede to the wishes of Toronto. ( hell, look at the wording in the Wikipedia entry for God's sake. The Vancouver bid was "very weak"? I could not find it online, but the Book of Vancouver has a great essay on the subject. It counters that assertion quite handily )
From that time forward, that rivalry has grown and festered, waxed and waned. The zenith might have been, for some fans,defeating the Leafs on the "Greg Adams...Greg Adams" goal in 1994 on the way to the Final. Make no mistake though. It all started with the arrogance of Toronto looking at the West like it's personal territory. We felt like we were denied three years of NHL hockey until threats of court action forced the Old Boys Club to open the door. ( Up yours Clarence Campbell, you weak toady. Same to you Stafford Smythe ( Conn Smythe's son ), John Bassett and Harold Ballard. )
So, in the latest East vs West manifestation of that old thing, we look forward to a Saturday night rife with storylines and colour. More after the break.
EDIT : From the archives, some rarely seen footage of the Leaf and Hab owners upon learning of Vancouver fan's reaction to blocking their team in 1967...
Ahhh, Mike Milbury. Let us start there. Twitter is probably broken already with the many memes and jokes that are sure to be flying after he was charged with assaulting a 12 year old player on the team that his son was playing against, and he was coaching as well! It makes the trite "hockey dad" defense that at least one member of the HNIC crew will probably reference ( everyone says Ron, but I am voting young gun Elliote Friedmann ) as they try to laugh it off ring a little hollow. A "coach" should know better, regardless of what was going on with his kid and another kid. You know the worst of it? The arrogant bastards will probably have Mike smugly smiling all the while on the show, instead of fired or at least suspended while it works it's way out. Though, you know, check the date. He was on last week when this event had already occurred!
It will probably have little to do with how Glenn Healy will soldier on. With the help of Ron MacLean, you can almost guarantee that there will be more than enough Hate for you to Embrace. Some of it will be cutting, some understanding, and a few of the folks will even jump in to provide "balance" before they dismiss the Cup Finalists to talk about the Leafs' chances. But it will be there. Mike Gillis made sure of that when he said as much on TEAM recently, basically dismissing Ron MacLean. With the way Don Cherry eviscerated him last week, and this current backing of the player at the centre of all that misplaced MacLean angst ( both on Don's rant and the follow up of the GM and President of an NHL team that brings HNIC some of their best per capita numbers whenever they get on the big Saturday show, according to Eliotte on TEAM this AM ) , the ability of the long time CBC company man to be relevant and not a punchline will be tested. Expect them to protect the asset. painting the guys that they have already invested plenty of time portraying as the "black hat" guys as the villains on Saturday night. It might even distract from the very real problems two of their main voices have in the legal or professional lives.
So, #embracethehate . Remember that this is the city we live in that will have our own fans saying worse. TEAM is playing one now, about how its deserved, and adding to it every chance they can. The current caller as I am writing this just said that Mike Gillis and AV obviously plan to have players to dive and coaches that way, and "everyone knows Mark Recchi is a great guy..." This was a guy that introduced himself as a "Canuck Fan" ( though he ended up sounding like a San Jose one ) It is non stop with them. It is obviously because it gets people to call in. The next guy agreed with the "valid points", before wailing about "not being a Canuck fan, never been..." ( sounded like an old Leaf fan ).
See? These are the people we live with. We have members of the family that took the other side, or became fans of the Habs or Leafs long ago and that is it. It is why embracing the hate does not just mean doing it when discussing the finer points of the game with our friends at PPP (Solid folks. I mean, any community that has a guy that can knock out something like this article( is some funny, funny shit. ) . Canuck fans have nothing on Leaf fans for passion either!) can't be that bad. It means in your own city, and sometimes with some "friends", embracing the hate can be fun, and you might even learn something!!! Ignore the "No Cups" thing though. If you must respond to that triteness, remind them that the Leafs have never gotten as close as often as the Canucks since teams actually had to go more than two rounds. If you want, perhaps try to sell a "curse". Its no mistake the Puck Gods decided to torture the Leaf fans with the Canucks in 1994, nor is it that since the karma incurred by selfishly blocking a team for puck lovers for three years out West, the Eastern team most responsible has had the luck of...say, the Chicago Cubs. Hell, they have not beaten the Canucks since 2003, before the lockout!
Never be ashamed of being a Canuck fan folks. The growing numbers on the road and in this city attest to the fact that even with ALL the bad press and mud thrown at this team, they prosper. I hope the team embraces the hate themselves this year. Wear the black hat with pride guys, and a fuck you attitude to those that want to be negative. Us against the World has won more than one championship. We tried the turn the other cheek bullshit last year, and had it broken on an uncalled slash.
So, #embracetehhate . It means different things for the fans and the players, but if the team can embrace it and just smile smugly at the refs, say nothing, and just play the beautiful hockey our treasured team plays instead of the trap everyone hates anyhow, maybe some will come around. Who could not watch this...
...and not melt their cold Eastern heart? ( that was two years ago! They have even more tricks now...pretty right?)
Fuck Em if the can't take a joke.