Eight years has been damned too long. It was 14 degrees and sunny in Toronto today and the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs will most likely not participate in post season hockey for the eight straight year has finally become a reality to me. In the midst of the ugly 1-9-1 slide that saw them drop from contention, I think I was in denial. As people around me were seemingly aware of the fact that the Leafs had probably ruined their best chance since before the lockout for post-season hockey, I buried my head in the sand and believed the ship would right itself.
The frustration that I’m feeling today doesn’t revolve around the Leafs as an organization. Readers of this blog know that regardless of how the blue and white perform this season I think the organization is trending upwards. The frustration doesn’t lie with the fact that the opportunity for us fans to experience post-season hockey was there for the taking, but the team just spit the bit. What is frustrating me is the understanding that I will now be forced to watch other teams play those intense and electrifying playoff games. I will see another team’s captain be handed the Stanley Cup while their fans experience a euphoria I’ve been longing for for the past 22 years. A quick side note, I fight back tears every time the Cup is handed out because I wonder if I’ll ever know what it will feel like to see a Toronto Maple Leafs captain hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. I’m pissed because I’ll now be forced to endure an off-season of hope, promises and expectations. Following those bittersweet summer months the weather will begin to cool off and it’ll be time for training camp again. Finally the season will start and the wondering of whether “this will be the year” begins anew. That is what frustrates me. Like a patient looking ahead to a long rehab schedule, us Leaf fans are sitting here knowing that from this point forward we will begin a 12 month routine that we have experience too many times before.
The delusions of a late season playoff push exists because as a supporter of the blue and white delusion is a part of my daily life. Statistics tell me that the Leafs season is pretty much done, I should just sit back, relax and wait for the draft. However I can’t. There are only 15 more times that I will be able to watch my beloved team compete, and like an addict on a final bender I am going to soak up and enjoy every minute of the last games of this 2011-2012 regular season. I am frustrated and disappointed, but talk to me in the middle of July and I’ll have point after point of why the playoff drought won’t reach a ninth year…of course up until a month ago I was certain it wouldn’t reach an eight.