Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Toronto game

An old hockey card kinda like this
kindled the fire of hockey love
in yours truly's little heart
One of my earliest hockey-related memories was of getting a pack of hockey cards back in the mid-late 1970's.  I might have been six or seven at the time.  I think that one of the cards was of Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  My memory is a little vague on the year, and the player, but the team is unmistakable to me.  It was the Leafs.

I recall being so intrigued by this card.  (Remember, I was no older than 7!)  First, it was hockey.  Not baseball, not football.  Hockey.  There was this big guy, flying on the ice with a stick in hand.  So different.  Then the city.  My little worldview was still shaping, so the idea of a team from Toronto - a funny-sounding city from a foreign country - playing teams from America fascinated me.  Lastly, the team itself.  The "Maple Leafs".  They had the name of the team on the front of their sweaters!  And leafs all over them!  I'd seen nothing like it.  (And then dad flooded the backyard so my brothers and I could flounder around on the ice with our poorly-utilized sticks and skates all winter long.  Good times.)

So the Dark Blue blood gets pumping a little more when the boys from the G.T.A. roll into town.  Columbus doesn't have a long NHL history, but many Blue Jackets fans do.  We come from different hockey backgrounds - some Red Wings fans, some Penguins fans, some original six...and one or two who just were fascinated by a hockey card at a tender young age - but we've all come to love the game.

I've seen the Leafs play live once before - two years ago, December 3, 2009, when the Blue Jackets were shellacked by the Leafs, 6-3.  That particular game became a little tough to swallow despite the fact that I had to maintain an upbeat mood to entertain my guests from work.

At the same time, I found time to sit back and enjoy the fact that I was indeed watching the Toronto Maple Leafs playing right in front of me.  They were getting cheered on by their legion of road-tripping fans (and surely one or two locals who can't give up on their team).  Kinda cool.

As frustrating as the game was, there was something to be said about the legitimacy implied in the game.  The long-time (storied?) franchise was playing here, in Columbus, on our ice against our team.

The Toronto Maple Leafs return to Nationwide tonight for a 7PM tilt with the Columbus Blue Jackets.  I'll be there - wouldn't miss it for the world.  And while I surely hope for a win for the Blue Jackets, I hope you'll excuse me if I offer a little smile at the thought of seeing that team in blue and white that I'd viewed from afar playing right in front of me.


  1. I understand, DBJ, one of my great pleasures is to see one of the "O6" (a misnomer, but let's not spoil their fun!) on Columbus ice. I grew up with them and having the Leafs, Rags, Habs, etc. come to my town gives legitimacy to the idea that Columbus has been recognized as "big time!" Beating them is even better, though!

  2. I have that same adoration for the Leafs and Canadiens. But when they play the Union Blue they may as well be Detroit or Nashville!

  3. Gents -

    I, too, have a soft spot for most of the Original Six. Never bought into the Blackhawks, but that's probably because I lived in earshot of Chicago sports radio for a while in the 90's when "Dollar Bill" Wirtz was a blithering idiot. The other five, though...yeah, I like watching them. Even better when the CBJ beat 'em. Feels more satisfying.

  4. My first hockey card was Paul Coffey his first year with the Red Wings. Begged my parents into picking up a stick by a couple months later.
    They don't understand my love for the game to this day, and I don't understand how they can't!


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