Toronto Maple Leafs fans can finally let out a deep sigh of relief. After nearly two decades of series loss after series loss, the Leafs are finally headed to the second round of the playoffs after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in the first round.
Toronto’s win ended a streak of 11 consecutive losses in series-clinching games. It also shattered Tampa Bay’s hopes of making it to the Stanley Cup final for the fourth consecutive season.
This is what was happening in the world in 2004, the last time the Maple Leafs won a playoff series.
A Toronto team actually wins something
While the Leafs were ultimately eliminated in the second round by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2004, the Toronto Argonauts had a different fate. That year, they won their 15th Grey Cup, bringing disappointed Toronto fans some solace.
The Leafs’ elation, such as it was, didn’t last long. The loss in the 2004 NHL playoffs began a seven-year playoff drought for Toronto, a first-round loss in 2013, three more years of missed playoffs, then six more seasons of first-round defeats.
Stephen Harper wins the Conservative Party’s first leadership race
Pierre Poilievre was still months away from being elected as a 25-year-old MP when Stephen Harper won leadership of the new Conservative Party of Canada in March, 2004. He blew out the competition with 56 per cent of the vote.
Shrek 2 hits theatres
Following the smashing success of Shrek in 2001, Shrek 2 hit theatres just two weeks after the Maple Leafs’ elimination from the playoffs. Earning rave reviews, the movie earned close to a billion dollars at the box office and was the highest-grossing film of 2004. It set records for its mammoth opening weekend.
Another Shrek gets TV time
A real-life Shrek – not a swamp-dwelling ogre but a Merino sheep from New Zealand – went missing for six years before being found in 2004. In the time in between, Shrek had accumulated 60 pounds of wool that was shorn in a live event on national television in New Zealand. While Shrek’s wool was auctioned off for charity, the sheep itself became a national celebrity, meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark at parliament.
Ken Jennings goes on a winning streak
The year of 2004 gave birth to perhaps the most successful game-show contestant in history. Ken Jennings won 74 consecutive games of Jeopardy!, earning US$2.52-million in the process. He returned to the show over the years before becoming a co-host in 2021 following the death of long-time host Alex Trebek. Jennings’s remarkable streak has yet to be matched. In 2022, Amy Schneider came the closest any contestant has to reaching Jennings when she won 40 consecutive games.
Martha Stewart heads to prison
Business executive Martha Stewart, known for her cookbooks and magazines, was charged with four counts of obstructing justice and lying to investigators in March, 2004. She served five months in prison and five months in home confinement.
The year of 2004 marked the end of the long-running sitcom Friends after 10 seasons on NBC. The last episode became the fourth-biggest series finale in history with 52.5 million viewers, behind only M*A*S*H, Cheers and Seinfeld. Thousands watched the finale on big screens in New York City, while advertisements on the broadcast sold for lucrative amounts.
Michael Phelps wins his first Olympic medals
While American swimmer Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia at age 15, he walked away without a medal. That all changed in 2004 at the Olympics in Athens, Greece, when he won six gold medals and two bronze. It was just the beginning for Phelps, who brought home eight gold in 2008 and six medals each in 2012 and 2016.