Toronto loves hockey - mostly the Maple Leafs. Canada loves hockey, but mostly hates Toronto. These facts just belong together. But now, the Leafs are a Stanley Cup favourite as the NHL season begins, and there’s more at stake here than hockey games. By now, being Cup-less is the most integral part of the Maple Leafs’ identity, and by extension, Toronto’s. They’re also the last iconic sports team suffering from a half-century or more without a title. Lovable losers are rare stories in sports and we should treasure them.
Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce has been covering hockey for decades, and he’s written dozens of books on the game. He remembers a time when Toronto wasn’t cupless, and imagines the apocalypse that would result if that drought came to an end. But he also asks an important question: What do the Leafs, and Toronto, become if they finally shed that label? And could it actually happen this year?