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The Globe and Mail

Leafs fans no longer waffling about their feelings

Look at it this way: At least waffles are original, and that's something of which Toronto Maple Leafs fans cannot often be accused.

Leafs Nation? That sounds swell - swell enough that team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has co-opted the name - although not as swell as when fans of the Boston Red Sox started calling themselves Red Sox Nation in 1986. Plus, there's great stretches of this country where nobody much likes them or the sway they hold over Hockey Night in Canada.

That guy in the blue suit who was at the Air Canada Centre? The whole coloured suit thing was good when it started a few years ago with the green suit thing - well before the copycats at Vancouver Canucks games picked up on it. (Credit the blue guy, though: He is not as annoying as the two obnoxious twits who dress up in umpires outfits and sit in the expensive seats at Toronto Blue Jays games and mimic every ball and strike call. Not yet.)

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Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the two incidents this season involving the tossing of frozen waffles onto the ice is that it's taken Leafs fans so long to figure out a measurable way of expressing distaste for a team that hasn't won jack since 1967. Okay, that and the fact that Mike Komisarek hasn't passed one of the waffles onto an opponent's stick leading to a 2-on-1.

It took Toronto FC fans - what? - four seasons before they organized enough of a protest that MLSE was forced to send executive Tom Anselmi to speak to supporters groups? Forty-three years later and counting, all Maple Leafs fans do is go to the games and buy food and drinks and overpriced souvenirs. Or they frequent a sports bar run by MLSE. In the process, they have become one of the few fan bases in sports to hold itself hostage.

Not to egg anybody on, understand: Throwing objects on any playing surface should be strictly prohibited and met with ejection and/or prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. And it's entirely possible that we are now seeing the emergence of copy-cat waffle-tossing.

With the advent of Twitter, what's next: flash-mob waffle-tossing? (Just pretend I didn't write that, okay?) There is a whole Presbyterians-gone-wild element to waffle-tossing, much as there was during a memorable Blue Jays home opener a few years ago when two fans ran onto the field, one of them a female who'd removed her blouse … but kept her bra on. Talk about mixed messages: streaking for General Audiences.

Is this an indication, however, that Leafs fans have reached their breaking point? They have reason to. Not only is the team not very good, but a large percentage of fans threw their hopes in whole-heartedly with general manager Brian Burke, who arrived here with more currency than any other hockey GM in the city's history. Burke could have said he was releasing every player under contract and filling his roster with AHL castoffs and folks would have gone for it. 'Cause it's Brian Burke.

But now some of the chattering classes are already saying that Burke is going to need a second rebuild, starting as soon as the silly Christmas trade freeze passes by - that he's going to have to back up the truck again.

So my sense is that waffle-tossing is here to stay. I don't know what's meant by it and Tuesday morning there were 4,000-odd people who are running around laying claim to being the geniuses behind the movement. But this could be like the rats were to the 1995-96 Florida Panthers or, I guess, octopus is to the Detroit Red Wings come playoff time.

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So if the Leafs ever do start winning, well, who knows? Waffles could become a celebratory symbol - at which point MLSE will start charging $39.99 for foam waffles and allow them to be thrown on the ice at designated points in the game. Fans will be instructed by a perky in-game hostess shrieking at billions of decibels to "wing their waffles" and, yes, it will be sponsored by some Bay Street firm.

And Leafs fans? They'll eat it up.

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