Volume 96, Issue 1

Thursday, May 23, 2002
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Formal complaint 'withdrawn'

Now I'm a be-leafer

Varsity reaction

The secret to success of Ontario's finest coaches

Track coaching queen

Now I'm a be-leafer

Standing O
Ryan Dixon
Sports Editor

Since the days when I wore velcro shoes and carried a He-Man lunch bucket, two things have earned my consistent and complete disdain – the various levels of school I was forced to attend and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Incredibly, with the post-educational phase of my life and the National Hockey League play-offs each about a month old, I'm gaining a certain fondness for both.

The reason, quite simply, is that the Leafs have proven to be as resilient and gritty as paying back a student loan is shitty. Trust me when I say that for the Leafs to win me over even a pinch is a monumental achievement. Make no mistake, I hate the Leafs. Moreover, I hate them for the best reason of all – because they're the Leafs.

I grew up, like many youngsters in southern Ontario, as a hockey orphan. The team that was closest to me, the one that was supposed to take care of me, abandoned me from birth by toiling in the toilet of the infamous Norris division. I, and many others like myself, were forced to look elsewhere for guidance. Thankfully, we were adopted by either the Detroit Red Wings clan or the royal Montreal Canadiens' hockey family.

Contrary to my biological family (specifically my father who tried to poison me with blue and white venom), my hockey kin taught me to value victory and tradition and disrespect those teams that worked in contrast to those ideals – specifically the Maple Leafs.

But as often is the case when you get older, you find out your folks offer useful insight into areas you never expected. Maybe my blue-blooded father was onto something when he tried to teach me about the legend of Alan Bester.

In the wink of a Gary Roberts blackened eye, I've come to appreciate the efforts of a team I once mocked. It's hard to not respect a bunch of guys who refuse to use an injury list that stretches as long as the Senators post- season futility streak as a crutch.

Witnessing character guys like Travis Green and Alyn MaCauley hit their stride after well-documented struggles is endearing for a team that seemed bent on trying to make it with the Robert Reichels and Mikael Renbergs of the world. The fact that this bunch of overachievers is led by a cigar- chomping Irishman who was behind the bench for Canada's Olympic gold medal hockey performance doesn't hurt matters either.

We tend to cling to what is familiar. Since my crippling debt has forced me to pack a lunch these days, I've dug up that old He-Man bucket. Bad mouthing the Leafs just feels so damn right, but whether it's "by the power of Greyskull", or because of their "never say die" attitude this spring, it's getting tougher by the day.

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