Quill and Quire

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Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto: Life as a Maple Leafs Fan

by Peter Robinson

Under the heading “No Such Thing as Bad Publicity,” even the chronic crappiness of the Toronto Maple Leafs – Stanley Cup–free for 45 years and counting, absent from the playoffs since 2004 – has spawned its own cottage industry, including recent titles such as Leafs AbomiNATION and Why the Leafs Suck. Joining the fray, this new book by Peter Robinson (the hockey writer, not the mystery novelist) claims to explore how the mind of a Toronto Maple Leafs fan works, but the essential question – Why? – is never given due consideration.

Robinson does provide a comprehensive snapshot of a Leafs fan’s faith/addiction/obsession. But as the editor of Prospects Hockey and first cousin of former NHL player and executive Doug Risebrough, the author’s perspective is that of an insider as much as a fan, and neither proves enlightening for those who genuinely wonder why a hapless hockey team that routinely gouges its customers continues to sell out every game and move truckloads of merchandise, simultaneously ranking No. 1 on the lists of worst and most profitable hockey franchises.

Robinson dutifully explores the usual axes Leafs fans love to grind: the suits in the platinums take their time getting back to their seats after intermission; the Air Canada Centre is beautiful yet sterile; the only time fans make noise is when the scoreboard tells them to; referee Kerry Fraser missed Gretzky’s high stick on Doug Gilmour in Game Six of the 1993 conference final.

However, the book is short on insight into the emotional hold the Leafs have on Toronto – and even on the author. If you’re the type of Leafs disciple who loves passionate debate about the merits of 2005–’06 back-up goalies Mikael Tellqvist and Jean-Sébastien Aubin, this book is for you. If you’re looking for insight into a condition that exists somewhere between religion and addiction, you won’t find it here.