Why Leafs Fans Are Devastated

TORONTO (Oct. 25) — Without question, the morale of Leafs Nation has plummeted far beneath a reasonable grade for the fourth week of October. And, the answer is simple: the 7–1 beatdown in Pittsburgh on Saturday night wasn’t merely the sixth game of a new season… but, rather, Game 656 since the Causeway Street Calamity of May 13, 2013, which began to truly define the Leafs of the salary cap era. The names and faces have all changed in the nearly 7½ years after the blown, 4–1, third–period lead of Game 7 at Boston. But, the trust in the hockey club that dissolved in those 45 minutes has never returned. And, it may now be at an all–time low — exacerbated immeasurably by coughing up that 3–1 series lead over Montreal in the Stanley Cup tournament last spring.

“Unquestionably, there’s a feeling of hopelessness among fans of the hockey club,” said Dr. Brian Goldman over the phone this morning. “Particularly among those, like myself, that have long–been addicted to the Maple Leafs. It was painfully obvious after the playoff series against Montreal that something essential about the team had to change. And, nothing did. Same management; same coach; same four–man nucleus. The past weekend [lame efforts against San Jose and Pittsburgh] brought it to the surface very quickly. It doesn’t matter that it’s early in the new season. Fans of the Leafs recognize that nothing about the team is fundamentally different. And, it hurts.”

Goldman is a renowned psychoanalyst and emergency room physician whose 2011 book about working “the witching hours” at Mount Sinai Hospital here in Toronto — The Night Shift — became a national bestseller. He has more than 73,000 followers on Twitter (@NightShiftMD) and is a long–time voice on CBC Radio. As mentioned, Brian is also a forlorn and futile zealot of the Leafs. As much as anyone, he understands the paralysis and incapacity of the enormous fan base. “I don’t take the same pleasure from winning games as I once did; it’s more a sense of temporary relief — a suspension of actuality until the truth hits,” said Goldman. “Which I think is common among those that root for the team. If the Leafs win tonight in Carolina and Auston Matthews scores two goals, the gloom will briefly subside. But, the validity of the situation will not. And, that’s the overriding emotion.”


Social media offers Leaf supporters a catharsis. Many have taken to Twitter, Facebook and chat forums to try and convince others of their resolve. The most–common practice among fans that hurt the deepest is to suggest they no–longer care; pay attention to or watch the hockey club. Which is overwhelmingly a fabrication. “Maybe 10 percent of such claims are true… and that could be a high estimate,” said Goldman. “Those that log onto social media, or into a chat forum, are pained to the core. Otherwise, they wouldn’t waste their time. They somehow think that others will believe them and follow suit. But, it’s all a mirage; a cover–up for the intensity of their feelings.”

More than all else, following the Leafs is an addiction — perhaps less–hazardous to that of a drug or alcohol, but equally as debilitating. “The deep–seated attachment to a professional sports team is unresolvable,” said Goldman. “It’s the reason that people keep coming back for more, even if recognizing they will suffer. As with any addiction, there’s a need to break the pattern. But, so few that emotionally invest in a sports team are capable of separation. They occasionally grow disgusted and react out of character. For example, I turned off the TV in the third period of Game 4 against Columbus (Aug. 7, 2020) because I figured it was a lost cause. The Leafs were down, 3–0, and not threatening to score. From my perspective, the series was over. I had no desire to watch the teams shake hands. But, we all remember what happened. The Leafs erupted for three goals (in a 3:34 span); sent the game into overtime and eventually won (when Matthews scored a powerplay goal at 13:10). That became the equivalent of a drug–high for an addict. Absolutely, I was in front of my television for the decisive fifth game.”

Deep down, sports fans are honest to the core. Intellectually, they recognize legitimate hope… and futility. But, the emotional resolve is more difficult. “People that watch the Leafs know, full well, that Mitch Marner will not go to the dirty areas of the ice,” explained Goldman. “They watch the powerplay failing again, with all that skill, and know that the M & M boys have said ‘screw you’ to the new assistant coach [Spencer Carbery]. The selfishness and lack of integration with the rest of the team is so evident. But, hope is the most–powerful drug of all. So, fans stay involved. Looking for the slightest glimmer. They take temporary solace when something favorable occurs. But, they all understand, not far from the surface, that the Leafs cannot truly change by staying the same.

“Management can toy with the emotion of fans. But, it cannot fool them.”


4 comments on “Why Leafs Fans Are Devastated

  1. “People that watch the Leafs know, full well, that Mitch Marner will not go to the dirty areas of the ice,” explained Goldman. “They watch the powerplay failing again, with all that skill, and know that the M & M boys have said ‘screw you’ to the new assistant coach [Spencer Carbery]. The selfishness and lack of integration with the rest of the team is so evident.”
    FINALLY someone says it out loud. So now that it’s been identified what will they do to fix it? Oh I know – NOTHING.
    I don’t think bringing in a different coach alters the trajectory at all. Sure, they might make the playoffs, but the team as constructed from back to front just isn’t good enough to win. Charitably speaking they have suspect goaltending, weak and non-physical defense, soft, contact-averse, selfish forwards, and a coach/leadership team more interested in trying to show they are smarter than all that have come before by reinventing the wheel. Not a recipe for success.
    Like David, I’m going to look for the doctors book.

  2. This is far more entertaining than if the Leafs were on a four game winning streak. If they were, the narrative would be “yeah but it doesn’t matter until the playoffs”. We’ve just fast-forwarded to the fact that the Leafs are not going anywhere as they are currently constructed.
    This is like going back to a bad girlfriend, over and over and over and over and over again………

  3. Howard, I love your Doctor. I will have to buy his book.

    Watching Toronto play uninspired, inept hockey against Carolina is painful. They can’t fire the players so the only move they can make is to replace the coach.

    Not having anyone park their rear-end in front of the net (I thought that’s one of the reasons they brought in big Nick Ritchie) is odd. Zack Hyman’s first goal as an Oiler was a beautiful tap-in where his derriere was exactly where it was supposed to be – In front of the goalie.

    I’m also surprised that the forwards aren’t tossing the puck back to the blue line thereby opening up the ice and giving the defenseman the green light to play bombs away. Perhaps it’s part of the puck-possession / stats analysis strategy that the eggheads at MLSE are peddling? I do hope that someone sends a memo to Shanny & Kyle to let them know it’s a team game and the offense needs to involve the defense.

    I tried to figure out if Torts and Shanny respect each other and can work together? I’m unable to find any info but I do know that Shanny’s buddy Screwball Sean Avery and Torts don’t exactly see eye-to-eye. The next couple of weeks are going to be interesting.

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