Something monumental has happened. A seismic shift in my thinking. In my very being. Something I never thought would happen. But it has.
I’m rooting for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While I’ve lived in Toronto more than half my life, the Leafs have always been my sworn enemy. I’m a Montreal fan, remember, so for me no team is as despised as the Leafs and Bruins, and my annoyance at the deluded nature of Leafs fans these past two decades has — if anything — made the Leafs and Bruins 1 and 1a respectively. Not to mention my dread at how insufferable this city becomes if they win so much as a playoff series. So the Leafs may be the only team I have actively cheered against for most of my life.
But things have changed. At least for this year.
First of all, despite collecting 96 points during the regular season (which would have comfortably earned a playoff spot in the Western conference) the Canadiens missed the playoffs. That Columbus, the team who barely squeaked into the #8 playoff spot, swept the #1-ranked Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round makes it particularly disappointing. Anyway, all today: I don’t really have a dog in this playoff fight.
Second: I would very much like to see a Canadian team win the cup again. It hasn’t happened since Montreal (yay!) won it all in 1993, and of the three Canadian teams who did qualify Toronto seems to have the best chance. Calgary, the #1 seed in the west, has already been knocked out. Winnipeg, certainly the team I’d have loved to see win it all, went into the playoffs cold and got knocked out in six games. Toronto, on the other hand, is leading in their series and — given the sweep of Tampa and the Pittsburgh Penguins — has a real chance to come out of the east.
Third, the Leafs are playing the Bruins in the first round, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend, even if in this case I’m being selective about it.
Fourth, and this is how I can justify the hypocrisy of the previous point: I actually like some of the players on the Leafs. That has not happened in the past — in addition to disliking the team, I disliked many of the players as well. But I like Auston Matthews. I like Patrick Marleau. I like John Tavares. I really like Mitch Marner. And I wouldn’t hate to see them hoist a cup.
So while I don’t like the idea of disrupting the natural order of things — which is that the Leafs should stumble and miss the playoffs and always have the longest Stanley Cup drought forever and ever — the idea of some nice players beating the Bruins and maybe bringing the cup back to Canada makes it at least palatable.
So, uh…go Leafs, I guess?
UPDATE: never mind.
Also, here’s where that title comes from: