The most famous and least welcome sports enthusiast on planet Earth, Drake, popped by the Leafs game on Wednesday night.
That was a terrible error on his part.
The hip-hop star was shown early on TV broadcasts, standing in a private box in a #6 Toronto jersey. Presumably, that particular sweater was meant as an homage to the city.
It’s also Ace Bailey’s retired number. We all know how poorly that ended. And weren’t the Boston Bruins involved in that somehow? You can go a long way down this rabbit hole.
After early stumbles and late climb-back, the Leafs lost 6-4. We are now in a best-of-three series, or as it’s known in Toronto, three games until the apocalypse.
Who’s to blame for the home team losing? Certainly not the Leafs’ anemic penalty kill or David Pastrnak. It must be Drake.
He’s too big for his britches; he is a sports jinx so infamous an Italian soccer club recently ‘banned’ its players from taking pictures with him; and, most incriminatingly, he is from Toronto. Who can trust that sort of person?
Midway through yesterday’s game, Drake was the top trending topic on Twitter worldwide. And he has not released an album recently. One insignificant Canadian city’s collective id temporarily swamped the globe’s favourite outrage vent with a concentrated blast of panic and ire.
God love Leafs’ supporters. Over the past half century, they have transformed themselves from a fan base into the continent’s largest witch-doctoring association. It’s all signs and portents with this crowd.
The audio-visual set-up inside the Scotiabank Arena – half of which seems devoted to black-and-white reels and a Bill Barilko homage – rather reinforces the effect. This club isn’t living in the past. It’s made the past its cultural present.
The only modern thing about the Toronto Maple Leafs organization is the players themselves. Everything else is gasping under a thick bed of tradition.
Blaming Drake for anything to do with the Leafs makes about as much sense as blaming Carlton the Bear (who, after all, has been at every Leafs loss this year … do the math).
That is to say, it makes a great deal of sense. Once you’ve decided certain metaphysical conditions must be met before a Stanley Cup can be won again, you might as well join the Illuminati. You’re that far gone.
They should ban Drake from the premises immediately. That would be peak Toronto and, therefore, good humour.
In order to be safe, he may not cross over either of the rivers that bracket the centre of the city until the NHL playoffs are over. The mayor can call the Navy in to help. They must be available (it hasn’t snowed heavily in a while) and, based on the many tribute videos I’ve seen, so are Leafs fans to a man and woman.
Some day, Toronto will win a Stanley Cup. On a long enough timeline, it’s a statistical probability. Once that happens, we’re going to miss these days, when everyone thought it was about as likely as the sun rising in the west.
Is Boston a better place because the Curse of the Bambino has been lifted? It is not. It is a decidedly more boring place.
Championships are great and all, but curses are more fun. A big, big win gives people something to celebrate together for an evening. A curse gives them something to kvetch about forever. Complaining is the more reliable of the two urges.
For most Torontonians, feeling bad about sports is the thing they have most in common with their neighbours.
I am from the west end of the city, and so avoid the east end as best I can. But one assumes that even in that strange, unmapped territory, they feel the same way.
(I also hear they’re finally getting a subway out there or something. Huge congratulations. It’s about time.)
Once the Leafs finally do this there will be the obligatory orgy of pent-up emotion. And then what? Do it again? Like Pittsburgh? Where has that ended them up?
Success is a soul-deadening hamster wheel. If you doubt me, try to remember the last time you met a happy-go-lucky lawyer.
Toronto may yet win this series, though you’d be hard-pressed to find a Torontonian who’d bet real money on it. They have been at least the equal of this Bruins team. If the ref-abetted ultra-violence really is off the table for the rest of series (because, as Don Cherry put it on Wednesday, of the “whining in the paper”), Toronto’s got a genuine shot.
At that point, things get dicey. Columbus? Doable. Washington? Less doable, but still doable. Whomever from the West? That’s a target so far, no one in this town dare speak it aloud.
Let Drake say it. On live television. While everyone else spins in a circle and spits on the ground three times.
That could do it. Or maybe tighten up the penalty kill. Either/or.