Eight years ago, I was already writing pleas to Bettman and Goodenow to get a deal done so I could enjoy NHL hockey again. I really, really cared, and my heart broke when the entire season was cancelled.
Eight years later, there's that same multi-billion dollar pie being fought over by multi-millionaires, and the big losers remain us suckers who tune in and support our favourite NHL teams. Since we lost the season in 2004/2005, I've watched my Leafs miss the playoffs each and every year. I can do that again. I'm actually getting pretty good at it.
It's déjà vu all over again, but this time with a steaming pile of apathy. This time, it's different.
I think we're about to hit a new bottom... at least a new bottom for Toronto sports teams. With the Euro Cup and Olympic distractions behind us, and summer winding down, I've decided to do a quick State of the Union analysis of Toronto professional sports teams.
Toronto Blue Jays I'm sad to say I haven't followed this team much the past few weeks. Oh... I see we're dead last in the AL East, 15 games behind the Yankees. And our wild card hopes have evaporated... and half the team is on the DL. Wasn't that new wild card supposed to belong to us? Nah, we'll finish last instead.
Toronto Maple Leafs The Leafs haven't made the playoffs since before the last labour stoppage, and now it looks like we're heading into another. We diehards don't even get to enjoy watching our team miss the playoffs again. That might be the only thing worse than the longest non-playoff streak in the league. Sad and pitiful.
Toronto Raptors We sucked last year, and we'll suck again this season. Every analyst and pundit has assured me of that. And really, even if a miracle of miracles occurred and we slipped into 8th place in the conference, Miami would chew us up and spit us out in 4.
Toronto Argos Firstly, I fully acknowledge that almost none of you care about the CFL. I just checked the standings and we're 3-3. That almost sounds decent until you see in an 8-team league only one team has a worse record. That shit's cray!
Toronto FC Lastly, we check in on our professional MLS soccer team. I remember getting off to a horrible start, but I've lost touch with them recently. I wonder how they're doing.... Oh... dead last in the Eastern Conference. That sounds about right.
So there you have it, a quick review of how it currently looks for Toronto sports teams. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we've found a brand new low.
The Leafs just announced their roster for this game, although they will add a few more players later. Here's who they're confirming thus far:
We mentioned them all, except for Kevin Maguire. That choice is a bit of a shocker. Surely Ed Olczyk can get the game off from his analyst duties to play for the blue and white. And Mats is likely sitting on his decision, as an homage to the way he left the Leafs.
What's really important, and has already been mentioned by @DownGoesBrown on Twitter, is that Bob Cole call this game.
Instead of dwelling on that pain, I choose to remember Mats as a great Maple Leaf, and definitely one of the greatest in my lifetime. And if you have a little time, and want to read how I managed to move on after Mats signed with Vancouver, this entry contains all the blood, sweat and tears.
Mats Sundin is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and Leafs fans should be proud.
The Leafs have a ton of defencemen, and needed to get bigger up front, so Brian Burke pulled the trigger on a deal with Philadelphia that unites the Schenn brothers in Philly and brings big left-winger James Van Riemsdyk to the blue and white.
Van Riemsdyk missed most of last season with a broken foot, but had career highs in goals (21), points (40) and a plus-15 in 75 games during the previous season.
The Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup champions for the first time, and then there were two. 12 teams started the 1967-68 NHL season, nine have won the Stanley Cup since, one has folded and for two, the drought continues.
For the record, here are the 12 teams from 1967-68:
Montreal Canadiens - Last won in 1993
New York Rangers - Last won in 1994
Boston Bruins - Last won in 2011
Chicago Black Hawks (Now Blackhawks) - Last won in 2010
Toronto Maple Leafs - Still waiting...
Detroit Red Wings - Last won in 2008
Philadelphia Flyers - Last won in 1975
Los Angeles Kings - Won in 2012
St. Louis Blues - Still waiting...
Minnesota North Stars (Now Dallas Stars) - Won in 1999
Pittsburgh Penguins - Last won in 2009
Oakland Seals (Long Defunct)
Damn, it was depressing writing that list. The Blues finished last season with 109 points, good for 2nd overall. Do you think they're a little closer to the cup than our Leafs? The Leafs had 80 points, good for 13th.... IN THE CONFERENCE.
Congratulations Kings fans... I know how you feel. Back 2 Back in '92/'93!
When the Kings finish off the Devils, yet another franchise will win the Stanley Cup In my lifetime. You probably know where I'm going with this...
My Leafs haven't won the cup since 1967, but they also haven't played in a Stanley Cup final since 1967. So let's look at the list of teams that have played in a Stanley Cup final in the years since 1967. It's quite the long and depressing list.
Tampa Bay Lightning
New Jersey Devils
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Detroit Red Wings
New York Rangers
Los Angeles Kings
Minnesota North Stars
New York Islanders
St. Louis Blues
Here are the active teams that haven't played in a Stanley Cup final since 1967.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Winnipeg Jets (formerly Atlanta Thrashers)
Columbus Blue Jackets
Phoenix Coyotes (formerly Winnipeg Jets)
San Jose Sharks
If we move the Leafs aside for a moment, do you notice anything unique about the other six teams above? They're all pretty new franchises. The San Jose Sharks are the oldest team in the books having played their first season in 1991-92. If you're looking for the worst franchise drought outside of Toronto, you can look at the Coyotes who played their first NHL season in 1979-80. Still, this isn't quite the same thing and doesn't come close to our stretch of futility.
I'd like to watch my team play in a Stanley Cup final before I die. It might be nice to win one, too. Is that too much to ask?
Following that last entry, I felt I needed some eye bleach... a spiritual virtual cleanse of sorts. Sounds like a job for All Heart, the greatest Wendel Clark tribute video in the history of the world.