By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (Apr. 1) — Given that it’s April Fools Day, why not take a dive into pure fantasy? As a tortured Toronto Maple Leafs zealot, how would you like to read this somewhere down the road?
DROUGHT IS FINALLY OVER!!
By SHMEKEL PUTZ
GLENDALE, Ariz. (June 11, 2021) — God bless Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk. Punch Imlach, too.
The Stanley Cup has finally returned to Leafs Land for the first time in 54 years. Unlike the much–ballyhooed championship of 1967, however, this triumph was crafted by youth. Connor McDavid scored twice and Morgan Rielly added two assists as the Leafs knocked off Jack Eichel, Max Domi and the Arizona Coyotes 5–3 last night here at Redfield T. Baum Arena. A crowd of 3,211 — largest of the season — watched unhappily as the home team succumbed in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final.
To generate sympathy from the forlorn onlookers, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, 69, hobbled to center–ice with a walker before unsteadily hoisting a portable microphone to his mouth. Hand shaking noticeably, Bettman was nonetheless overwhelmed by cat–calls from the very audience for which he fought tooth–and–nail 12 years ago in a legal skirmish with the City of Glendale and the notorious Jim Balsillie.
“You ungrateful schmucks!” began the commish. “I want to congratulate George Cope for the strangling death of Guy Laurence. Without it, the Toronto Maple Leafs may not have realized this dream. My debt of gratitude goes to Larry Tanenbaum for his quick call of 9–1–1 once Mr. Laurence turned blue. Paramedics were able to confirm the death moments later — finally consolidating the Maple Leafs ownership. I also want to congratulate Brendan Shanahan, Peter Chiarelli and Mike Babcock for their work in finally winning the NHL championship.”
NHL COMMISSIONER GARY BETTMAN TRIES TO SHOUT OVER NEARLY 4,000 TAUNTING SPECTATORS LAST NIGHT IN GLENDALE, ARIZ. AS HE PRESENTS STANLEY CUP TO THE MAPLE LEAFS. A NUMBER OF BOSTON FANS WERE IN ATTENDANCE AT ICE LEVEL, COMMEMORATING THE 10th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BRUINS’ LAST CHAMPIONSHIP.
Then occurred a moment of embarrassment.
“Nazem Kadri…” Bettman announced, summoning the Maple Leafs captain, “come get the Stanley Cup.” The crowd still hooting the commissioner, he grasped the silver trophy with middle–finger raised on each hand, thereby losing his grip and dropping it to the ice. The historic mug shattered in three pieces. Kadri — while glaring at Bettman — picked up the top part and raised it triumphantly. Muslims the world over immediately reacted with rage over the indignity perpetrated against the NHL’s first Islamic captain. Before re–joining his teammates, Kadri wrested the microphone from Bettman and appealed for calm.
Moments earlier, Bettman had flawlessly presented the Conn Smythe Trophy to Maple Leafs netminder James Reimer for posting a brilliant 4.86 goals–against average and .755 save percentage in 24 playoff appearances. Led by their Department of Analytics, the Leafs finally held an opponent to less than 60 shots in the Cup finale. Reimer was beaten high, glove–side on all three Arizona goals and on 49 others throughout the post–season. But, he saw immense progress. “All that work with Rick St. Croix has finally paid off,” said the gleeful stopper.
In the jubilant visitors’ dressing room, Cope — under heavy guard on a two–day pass from Millhaven — went around offering ball–and–chain to each player. A text quickly arrived from Phil Kessel of the Buffalo Sabres — playoff spectator for a tenth consecutive spring. “Way to go, guys!” wrote the former Leaf. “I’m sure it feels great to put in all that work. But, not nearly as good as stretching out on the hammock with a bowl of Tostitos and skating once a month. See you in October.”
In another corner of the room, Babcock offered reporters a warm smile.
“I knew we could do this,” said the veteran coach, looking for an extension after his six–year, $112–million contract expired. “In the summer of 2015, I was happy to become the highest–paid coach in the history of sport at any level. Today, all I’m looking for his security.” Babcock then wrapped his arms around assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, who was busy calculating numbers and not happy to be thrown about. “Sh–, Mike, can’t you see I’m busy?” scalded Dubas. “Getting that shot number below 60 tonight took a lot of work. Let’s celebrate later.”
To further commemorate the occasion, Wally Stanowski — the oldest surviving Leaf at a spry 102 — was wheeled into the room on a gurney. “This is mighty fine… where’s Dion?” spouted the geezer, unaware the former captain had been traded, with Kessel, to Buffalo six years earlier. “Y’mean he didn’t play tonight?” Stanowski pondered after a team official informed him of the error. “Well, then, who was that big clod on defense throwing the puck away every shift? Naaaaw, I don’t believe it. I may be older than the hills but I’m not blind. Wherrrrre’s Dion?”
In the hallway between dressing rooms, Bettman was ranting in Yiddish at long–time assistant, Frank Brown. “How do you explain that reception?!” the commissioner groused. “A bunch of goyim, they are. I’ve spent half my life in airplanes keeping these noodniks alive. New York to Phoenix… Phoenix to New York… New York to Phoenix. They were fercocked, kinahora. Couldn’t they take some rachmones on me?”
“There, there,” replied Brown.
Meanwhile, back home, city officials estimated that more than 11 million people would jam Bay St. for the Stanley Cup parade on Wednesday.
“Use the L–R–T!” offered mayor John Tory in a three–word statement.
NAZEM KADRI SPEAKS WITH REPORTERS AFTER THE CUP WIN LAST NIGHT. “THE COMMISSIONER’S A NICE GUY BUT HE’S GOT BUTTERY FINGERS,” SAID THE LEAFS CAPTAIN.
Moments after Kadri raised the Cup, it was announced by the club that ticket prices for next season would be hiked… and that deposits were due, in full, before the parade on Wednesday. “No rush,” said Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, hoping to leave again this summer. “We just want to make sure our fans appreciate the commitment we’ve shown them. Heck, it’s only a modest increase.”
Platinum tickets are going up 246% to $3,471 per game.
“A family of four can now park their car; buy a hot dog and beer, and see the Leafs for only $14,500,” boasted Leiweke.
But, the Cup is finally home… where it belongs.
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