Once upon a time, I was a dedicated Toronto Maple Leaf fan. Stop laughing, you (insert team name here) fans. Making fun of the TML’s is too easy to justify as clever. I had a thick skin back then. I loved my team, our sport, and the agony of blind faith in the ever-elusive goal to win the Stanley Cup.
In my university days I knew my players, knew their records and I went to more than a dozen games a year. I wore a jersey every time they played, either my home or away colours, to show my support. Yep, I was a lonely Leaf fan eating alone in the cafeteria. Oh sure, other Leaf fans would give me a nod in the hallways, or a thumbs-up, but let’s face it, very few people have the courage to love a team through thick and thin, much less eat an egg salad sandwich next to someone who is that crazy. I was that fan.
One day, all that changed. I blame Wendel Clark. Ever since he turned down my marriage proposal, my love of hockey has faded. Mind you, I was twenty; he was over thirty and already married. He thought I was stalking him. (The police couldn’t prove a thing). Any way, when he was traded to the Quebec Nordiques, I hung up my fan foam pointy-finger and my blue and white pom-poms and put hockey behind me.
Oh sure, I know, Wendel came back to the TML’s and ended his illustrious career there, but it was too late for me. Our time together had passed. He missed his chance. He chose a blonde and I chose a degree. For reasons that seem completely unfair to me now, he still came out the winner.
By the time I became a mother, I had stopped watching hockey altogether. No more wearing jerseys and arguing calls. My children were not going to play. Hockey had become too violent, celebrity status had replaced genuine talent and hockey felt less like a sport and more like a marketing campaign.
Cut to last weekend. My son played in his very first hockey tournament. Wild horses and a room full of jeering Montreal Habs fans could not have kept me away. This was a huge event for my boy. I couldn’t eat breakfast or drive to the arena with my family. My nerves were rattled. A familiar sensation of anticipation had begun. That old, long since dormant fan fever was awakened.
The minute they dropped the puck at centre ice, something stirred deep inside my soul. I cannot explain the out of body experience, nor how the sound travelled from the bottom of my feet, clear and loud, shooting out my mouth with a force that was almost unruly to form the encouraging words, “Go get’em!” I lost all my good-girl composure and began cheering as if the Stanley Cup itself were at stake. And it felt so good.
Somewhere between the second and third period, with a tie score in the balance, I found that piece of the old Me, the fun before-kids Me. How did I forget that I love this sport? How did I forget to use the bathroom during intermission?
The children won the game. The Hockey Dad’s stared at me with bewildered amusement. My son, hearing his name repeatedly cheered, denied his origin. And I rushed home to dust off my bobble-head Wendel Clark figure. It’s time.
Writing has been my passion since I learned how to hold a pencil (which I still cannot do properly). Despite my father’s insistence that I would starve to death in this career, I remain well fed and eager to write more. They say you should do what you love: I love to write.