There’s something you should know about me, but I warn you; it may alter your opinion of me forever.

It may even arouse anger. You may want to start seeing other people. I’m willing to risk it. Deep breath. Ready?

Okay, here it goes: I am a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

I cannot help it. It’s like a sickness. It’s the hopeless romanticism that comes of unfounded optimism. Once a Leafs fan, always a Leafs fan.

It’s deeper than you know.

I am also superstitious. I am writing this after game two of the NHL playoff series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals, just hours before the puck drops for game three. By the time you read this column, my team’s fate in round one could be decided.

Win or lose, my loyalty won’t be deterred. Amen.

Once upon a time, I followed hockey like a religion. I prayed at the altar of Maple Leaf Gardens as a regular member of the choir. From the grey seats to the golds, and occasionally from the splendour of a corporate box, I was an avid follower of the boys in blue.

I was a fan through thick and thin.

I took a lot of abuse for it, but hey, loyalty has its price – until eventually, that price is too high.

I lost my faith years ago, not just in my team, but in the league as a whole. With salaries and egos escalating without merit, further aggravated by my own team that wasn’t winning but had ticket prices rising to the point I could never take my son to see the players he emulated, I decided to hang up my jersey and stop buying into the insanity.

Now it’s playoffs and for the first time in years, there is a glimmer of hope. My superstitious fervour kicked into high gear.

2017 is my lucky year, after all.  Seventeen is my lucky number. It is the number on my TML jersey.  It’s kismet. There has to be hope. What if I could be the good luck charm?

So last week, I pulled my jersey out of the closet and wore it to work. It was a sign of faith. Also, I was short on clean laundry (don’t judge). The point is, I look awful in that shade of blue, but I wore it anyway, because once a Leaf fan, always a Leaf fan.

I can hear the Habs fans heckling from here. They can’t help loathing the Leafs any more than I can help believing Habs jerseys are ugly. (What? They started it.)

Let’s concede that I love my team the way you love yours. So let’s just agree to disagree on the jersey, but also agree to respect the sportsmanship of the game and the need to keep the Stanley Cup north of the 49th parallel at all costs.

Also, shut up, it’s our turn. (The editor is a Habs fan, I wish you could see his face editing this right now).

I may not take a seat on the official bandwagon, because it’s reserved for the most loyal fans (heck, by the time you read this, the bus may have already left the station) and I still believe the game is not what it used to be.

But no matter the circumstances, once a Leaf fan, always a Leaf fan. So be it.



Kelly Waterhouse