Author Archives: Thomas Waind

The Blue and White Blog Game 6: MoTown, Mo Problems

It’s the four year anniversary of the greatest debut in Maple Leafs history.


Just a throwback to better days. If you haven’t been paying attention Toronto is having are having a rough time lately. Well a whole year actually. At 2-2-1, turns out the Leafs have been a .500 for longer than you’d expect.

Not good!

Image result for michael scott rough year

All of this has been punctuated by the 7-3 shellacking at the hands of the Lightning on Thursday night. After a 4-3 first period the wheels fell off. Horrible play in their own end, penalty kill out of sorts and an uninspiring performance by Andersen. It’s all doom and gloom in the Maple Leafs new cycle. So why not bring on the Red Wings!

Tonight’s Game

The Red Wings are actively tanking yet sit at a 3-1-0 record. They’re essentially a one line team, but that one line has been off to a hot start. This is a team that has most of their young talent still in the minors (only one of their six first round picks since 2014 (Dennis Cholowski) made the team out of camp). I expect the Red Wings to cool off at some point, hopefully by tonight. I’m not one to put a “must win” label on a game, but a loss would whip the Toronto sports media machine into a frenzy. Leafs are 1-1-1 against their Atlantic division rivals so they have to shove these guys into a locker.

Players of Interest

Tyler Bertuzzi

Being from the Guelph area, I used to watch Bertuzzi chuck knucks and bury pucks since his time with the Storm. He currently has 3 goals and 6 points in 4 games, locking down the left wing on the top line with Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin. The top line has accounted for 10 of the team’s 14 goals so far. Tonight this line should receive a healthy amount of Toronto’s attention.

Frederik Andersen

Fair or not, the run and gun Leafs rely heavily on goaltending to bail them out. Even with a revamped blueline, Andersen had to shoulder much of the burden in their own end. Now Andersen is known to start regular seasons off slow, but he has to round into form if Toronto is even going to pretend to be a threat this year.

I’m a big Freddy guy so I believe he’ll be fine. But I can’t help but feel a bit of worry settle in.

Anthony Mantha

6 goals in 4 games? Sheesh. Mantha has come out of the gate red hot looking like a legitimate 30 (40?(50?(probably not 60))) goal threat this year. The big boy from Longueuil, Quebec, vanquisher of the 2014 Guelph Storm’s Memorial Cup dreams, is finally delivering on his big time potential.

Phil’s Thoughts

Here’s some quick talking points from couch correspondent Phillip Waind:

“Ceci stinks. Kapanen stinks. Hyman, doesn’t stink as much as I thought until watching Kapanen. Andersen stinks right now. Marner stinks but still picks up apples. Matthews. Simply the best.”


Final Thoughts

Since it’s Thanksgiving weekend and I’m already mixing in some birthday drinks, I’ll keep it short and simple. Beat Detroit.

The Blue and White Blog Game 5: Rumble in the Atlantic

Monday night’s game versus St. Louis was a tough one. I actually thought that it was Toronto’s most complete games so far but sometimes you just lose to good teams. One of the silver linings from the loss is the continued solid play of William Nylander.

He looks flat out dynamic. For all of the heat he took last year and the praise that Marner raked in, Nylander looks like he’ll be way more bang for Toronto’s buck. Just check out this goal from Monday:

Just flat out silky.

Anyways, take the loss and we’re on to the Lightning.

Tonight’s Game

The Leafs and Lightning have been pencilled in as playoff teams for year’s end by pundits and fans alike. Both teams are fast and skilled with great goaltending. The difference lies on the blueline where Tampa boasts one of the NHL’s most talented six pack.

I do think that Toronto may be able match them as the season goes along considering the talent that they possess with Barrie, Rielly and Muzzin. It’ll all come down to how Ceci plays and how the bottom pairing shakes down.

Both team’s have an abundance of top-end talent but Tampa Bay’s core is arguably the best in the league. No other team has a Hart winner (Kucherov), three 40 goal scorers (Kucherov, Stamkos and Point), a Norris Trophy finalist (Hedman) and a Vezina winning goalie (Vasilevsky). This season is a failure for them if it doesn’t end in a Stanley Cup. Those are their expectations.

Player’s of Interest

Tampa’s Left Side

Honestly take a look at who Tampa has lined up on the left side of their blueline pairings:

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 2.34.57 PM

Based on the Corsica ratings on Daily Faceoff all three are in the top 30 of left shot defensemen. No other team can boast such depth and it’s one of the reasons Tampa is such a wagon. At all times they have one of Hedman, McDonagh and Sergachev on the ice. All three can move the puck very well and be used to shut down other team’s top lines.

Summer of 2019 RFA Battle

Image result for brayden point mitch marner

Linemates on the 2015-16 Canadian World Junior team, Point and Marner found themselves as two of the most talked about players this past offseason. Both were restricted free agents looking for significant pay days. Both had career years in 2018-19 with Marner racking up 94 points and Point with 41 goals and 92 points. Both took the whole offseason by hostage and waited out for their respective deals. Marner signed a six year deal with a $10.893 mil AAV and Point signed a three year bridge deal carrying a $6.75 mil AAV.

While the Marner contract has drawn a ton of criticism, it’s time to put up or shut up for both he and Point. Now that they’re not on rookie deals there’s way more pressure for them to produce. The Marner and Tavares line has gotten off to a relatively slow start and Point is playing in is first game of the season tonight after being activated from the IR. Look for both Marner and Point to be pushing hard tonight.

Freddy The Goat

That’s two goals in four games for The Goat. Nobody mistakes the guy for a world beater but he’s a thick boi who can win a few key faceoffs. He’s been a solid fourth liner so far in his short career and I think he can make some beautiful music with Spezza this year.

During the Brian Burke/Dave Nonis eras, some pretty careless draft day comparisons were thrown around. Brad Ross was the next Darcy Tucker, the Leafs had Lucic dreams for Tyler Biggs. Gauthier was no exception. I distinctly remember someone throwing a Patrice Bergeron comp when he was draft, I just can’t remember who. But at the very least here’s what Craig Button thought on daft day:


View this post on Instagram

Year 2! #ontheroadto50

A post shared by Frederik Gauthier (@freddygauths) on

You heard it straight from The Goat’s mouth: #ontheroadto50

Remember That Leaf?

Carter Verhaeghe

Image result for carter verhaeghe

Drafted by the Leafs in the third round of the 2013 draft, Verhaeghe was able to grab the fourth line centre job for Tampa out of camp. After four OHL seasons with the Ice Dogs and five seasons bouncing between the AHL and ECHL, Verhaeghe has finally made the NHL. The Leafs traded him in 2015 when they shipped Verhaeghe out to the Islanders with Matt Finn, Taylor Beck, Tom Nilsson and Christopher Gibson for Michael Grabner. It was a training camp trade used to shed contracts as the Leafs were sitting at the max 50 right before the season. Of the players Toronto traded only Verhaeghe and goalie Chris Gibson are the only two still playing in North America.

Last year Verhaeghe lit up the AHL with Syracuse Crunch scoring 34 goals and 82 points in 76 games. The Lightning might have something here. While it would be nice to still have him in the system, the tanking moves made in 2015-16 led us on the road to Auston Matthews so no harm no foul here.

Final Thoughts

So far the Leafs are 1-0-1 in divisional match-ups. Both Toronto (2-1-1) and Tampa (1-1-1) aren’t off to the fastest of starts. Both will look for a big win tonight. It’ll go a long way for the Leafs to hold serve at home against a divisional rival. If Toronto hopes to grab the Atlantic one seed and avoid the Bruins in the first round this spring, a win tonight would be huge.

The Blue and White Blog Game 4: Singing the HNIC Blues

Well I didn’t think this team would go 82-0-0. But that last game stung. High-scoring game, defensive lapses, soft-goals, bone-headed plays, letting rats get under their skin and beautiful offensive play wasted. That game checked all of the boxes for a typical Leafs loss. And why did it have to be against Montreal? I hate Montreal.

The Leafs are a team that is terrifying when firing on all cylinders and terrifying in a different way when the other team has momentum. Toronto seemingly gives up as many chances as it gets and that will catch up to you over a full season of hockey.

This week the Leafs have the Cup champion Blues, President’s Trophy winning Lightning and red hot Red Wings all on deck. Forget the back-up goalie, forget any youth or inexperience, forget the pressure to perform this year. Quit the excuses. A good week will do wonders to wash away the bitter taste Saturday night’s  loss against the Canadiens.


Tonight’s Game

This might be stupid to say about the reigning Stanley Cup champions, but this team is so good. The Blues are just so fast, physical and deep. Toronto is generally regarded as one of the deepest at the centre position but, with Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak and Oskar Sundqvist down the middle,  St. Louis matches up very well.

While they have an established core of Tarasenko, O’Reilly, Schenn, Pitrangelo, Schwartz and Parayko, there’s plenty of youth coming up that can potentially extend St. Louis’ championship window. Robert Thomas, Jordan Binnington, Vince Dunn, Zach Sanford and a healthy Robbie Fabbri should take steps forward which will make this team even better. What a scary thought.

Players of Interest

Kasperi Kapanen

This guy needs to give us more. He’s been a fine penalty killer (stick throwing aside) and has shown a bit of sand paper. But it’s no secret that the Tavares-Marner line just hasn’t clicked the same way that it did when Hyman was on the left wing. Now the season is young and Kapanen is a natural right winger learning the ins and outs of the left side. But less than a week ago I was in a heated debate with my brother defending Kapanen over Hyman and the returns have not been promising.

I’m in the camp that thinks Hyman is a fourth liner at best and that Kapanen has some real jam. He’s one of the fastest players in the NHL and plays the game with a little chip on his shoulders. The biggest knock is his hands can’t catch up to his feet. I’m a big Kappy apologist but he simply needs to show a bit more.

Jordan Binnington

Anytime a rookie/young goalie gets hot in the playoffs I’m always interested to see how they follow it up. Binnington was an absolute animal in 32 regular season games and 26 playoff games last season. The Blues do not win the Stanley Cup last year without him.

But we’ve seen this song and dance before. Not every rookie goalie that wins the Cup ends up being Ken Dryden. Antti Niemi never quite replicated his Stanley Cup form after leaving Chicago. Matt Murray hasn’t been the dominant goalie people thought he’d be since Fleury left town. Playing 50+ regular season games and having enough gas in the tank for an extended playoff run is incredibly difficult. It will be interesting to see if Binnington is up to the task.

The Third Line

The Mikheyev-Kerfoot-Moore trio has been Toronto’s most effective unit on both ends of the ice so far. All three players have the offensive touch to potentially play up in the line-up and all three chase the puck like a dog on a bone. The speed and sand-paper makes them a tough match-up for other team’s third lines which is a huge advantage for Toronto. Let’s just hope Babs doesn’t get too excited and start force-feeding them 20+ minutes a night.

The Best Third Pairing in Hockey

I’m not talking about Sandin and Holl. St. Louis just has an embarrassment of riches that they can trot out Vince Dunn and Justin Faulk as their third pairing. The game just becomes increasingly tougher for the opposition when there’s not real weak match-up to pick on. Just take a look at this blueline:

Screen Shot 2019-10-07 at 4.55.18 PM


Simply unfair

Remember Those Leafs?

Tyler Bozak, Carl Gunnarson, Alex Steen

Image result for alex steen tyler bozak

The Leafs have been a bit of a feeder system for the Blues over the years.

The 2008 trade of Steen and Carlo Coliacovo for Lee Stempniak was a kick in the teeth. Steen has hit the 20 goal mark four times for the Blues (career-high 33 in 68 games in 2013-14) and has eclipsed 50 points five times. Stempniak had 24 total goals in 123 games over two mediocre seasons with the Leafs.

Gannarson made it to St. Louis by way of a trade for Roman Polak in 2014. Not a brutal trade but Gunnarson has been a steady top 4 defenseman for the Blues while Polak was a big pylon and the bane of my existence. Scratch that, it was a brutal trade.

Last year Bozak left in a free agency shuffle that saw Toronto reel in John Tavares with JVR and Bozak moving on with no real room in Toronto’s budget. Boz Lightyear ended up winning a Cup right away with St. Louis which stung, but good on him. He was always miscast as a top line centre with Toronto but produced with Phil Kessel in spite of the haters.

Image result for tyler bozak stanley cup


Final Thoughts

Saturday’s loss was the type of deflating loss that felt like it could pile on and develop into a bit of a slide. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and Toronto shows a bit of a bounce-back at home tonight. On a brighter note here, watch some clips of Auston Matthews goals this season:


Jeez. I’ll need to hose myself off. On stir fry night no less.

The Blue and White Blog Game 3: The Haves vs. The Hab Nots


Leafs are 2-0 on the season after a nice 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets last night. Good start but not unexpected. There was a lot to like in last night’s game. Cody Ceci actually looked kind of good and scored a goal. Don’t hate that one bit. The boys making the big bucks led the charge and the Marn Dog racked up two goals and one assist like the $10.89 mil man he is.

My buddy Ben is a die hard Blue Jackets fan and drove all the way to Ohio to see last night’s game live. Tough luck to travel all the way for that game. To watch the Leafs of all teams dummy your team back into Nikolai Zherdev era level irrelevance must be infuriating. I hope I’m wrong for the sake of those plucky little Blue Jackets. Some things you just hate to see.

Also of note, apparently the Leafs are giving out a Raptors championship game ball to the player of the game after each win. As a die hard fan of both the Raptors and Maple Leafs I’m completely on board for this new tradition. Below is a clip following Toronto’s home win versus Ottawa Wednesday night.


I’m not a not a conspiracy guy but, is Auston Matthews the possible love child to Steve Nash? Exhibit A: see the handles. Exhibit B: Steve Nash did play hockey growing up. Exhibit C: Auston Matthews is from Arizona and Steve Nash played point guard for the Phoenix Suns in the 90’s. I’m just connecting a few dots here.

Also does Auston look like hung up on the captaincy snub?

The Game

Last year Toronto had a 3-0-1 record against the Habs outscoring them by a combined total of 18-14. Any improvements made to Montreal this offseason were largely internal. More responsibility is going to be placed on the shoulders of youngsters Kotkaniemi, Suzuki, Lehkonen, Mete and Fleury.

This looks to be Toronto’s first real test of the season (I may have given Columbus a little too much credit in yesterday’s blog). Last season Montreal only missed the playoffs by 2 points and, with the seventh youngest roster in the NHL (average age 27.4 according to Roster Resource), they’re definitely on an upswing.

Here’s a look at Toronto’s lineup tonight at home versus the Canadiens:

The first thing I noticed is that the fourth line continues the shuffle. Spezza gets a rest after a solid game in Columbus. It just doesn’t look like the guy will ever get the chance to actually play a game in Toronto. Say what you will about Babs but it looks like the Leafs actually have five solid options for the fourth line and the first few guys to blink will be on the outside looking in. Even though we’re in the regular season every game is a tryout for these guys. That’s a decent problem to have.

Players of Interest

Carey Price

Image result for carey price dart

At 32 years old Price is still definitely an All-Star goalie. Still a top 10 goalie eve. But it’s been a while since he’s been considered “elite”. The last season he had a save percentage above .925 while playing more than 40 games was 2014-15 where he tossed up a league-leading .933 mark winning the Hart and Vezina. A return to that form for Price would like mean a return to the playoffs for Montreal. In a crowded Atlantic division that’s a scary thought.

Michael Hutchinson

First game of the season for Toronto’s newly anointed back-up. Hutchison has to instil more confidence than Garrett Sparks did. Old Sparksy had flashes of NHL-level competence but for the most part he was shaky at best. More stability in goalie depth would do wonders on Andersen’s workload.

I will say that I would’ve preferred that they start Hutchinson last night to save Andersen for the better Canadiens team. I guess the thinking is you want your starter to lock-up the more winnable game in the back-to-back and see if your back-up steals one. Either way Hutchinson needs to look good to shake the Sparks Scaries.

The Rat Pack

AKA Max Domi and Brendan Gallagher. Both of them are some sort of Matt Cooke-Brad Marchand-Darcy Tucker hybrids. They’re infuriating to watch as fans from the opposing team and every time they take a swipe at someone in a scrum it becomes bulletin board material. Last year I drafted Gallagher and Domi in fantasy hockey because they both plummeted down the rankings because of mediocre 2017-18 seasons. They were fantastic and the fact that I got any satisfaction from their goal scoring rotted me to my core. I hate these guys.

Final Thoughts

Here’s a quick power ranking on NHL teams that I hate:
1. Boston
2. Montreal
3. Carolina (just bugs me that they have a team (even in last year’s “Storm Surge” season they were 28th in average attendance))
4. New York Islanders (their fans on Twitter continued to light up Tavares’ spot last year + thought they were the cock of the walk for one good regular season)
5. Ottawa (bumped up to #3 when they’re actually relevant)

Any time the Leafs beat one of these teams I just feel better about things. Cheers to the first HNIC of the year!







The Blue and White Blog Game 2: Toronto Looks to Run the C Bus off the Road

Game One sure was a beauty. Sure, letting in the first shot of the season isn’t ideal. I for one wasn’t too nervous. Would I have liked for Cody Ceci to have cleared Tkachuk from away from the front of the net? No question. But 441 games into his career, the book is out on Ceci. Would you get angry at angry at a donkey for being livestock? I would if I was paying that donkey $4.3 mil.

But by the second period we were rocking and rolling. Matthews got on the board not once, but twice to become the franchise’s all-time leader for goals in opening-night games with nine. His two goals helped the Leafs cruise to a 5-3 win (they outshot Ottawa 42 to 26 so as much as you can cruise in a two goal game). Freddy didn’t play great, but he usually starts the season out slow so there’s no need to panic. Read more

The Blue and White Blog Game 1: Battle of Ontario Round 234 Electric Boogaloo

Thank Christ that the 2019 offseason is finally over. What consumed most of Leafs fans’ consciousness this summer was the whole Mitch Marner show. How many other teams have had their star RFA, his agent and his dad publicly beat the pulp out of their GM? All the while watching every other RFA imagine-able sign a more “team-friendly” deal. Say what you will about Point or Rantanen signing more palatable deals than Mitch’s six year $65 mil. But the Charlie McAvoy signing, to me, was the biggest gut punch. How can you call yourself “Chuckie Bright Lights” only roll over to let the Bruins pet your belly and sign for $4.9 mil a year? Watching the Bruins masterfully manage their salary cap makes me sick.

And after months of restricted free agent brain damage Auston Matthews hit Leafs fans with an underwear clad RKO just when we thought they were out of the woods. Now, supposedly, he won’t be named captain after it was reported that he was management’s choice prior to his charges becoming public. And now media and fans alike are debating whether Matthews deserves the captaincy or if it should be Tavares or Reilly… For the record could not care less.

But maybe, once the Leafs finally get a captain named we can finally just dial back and play some hockey…


What a circus. I give this lineup move a 9.1 Babcocks out of 10. Honestly, what are we even talking about here? Spezza only has 53 points in 154 games over the past two years which isn’t great. But–and I can’t stress this enough–WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE FOURTH LINE HERE! We have a veteran taking a pay cut to chase a Cup with his hometown team and we’re already benching him!? For better or worse Toronto is a cap team for the next five years and will need some guys on the veteran minimum to round out the roster. If this is the precedent, who in their right mind will sign here?

If Spezza truly stinks, trot him out there on the fourth line for a few weeks and let fans and media come to that conclusion on their own. This is social suicide and just wreaks of Babs marking his territory. I wouldn’t be shocked if at the captain’s reveal press conference today Babcock just appears from behind the curtain with a C sewn onto the breast of this blazer. Babs doesn’t want you to get it twisted, he drives this ship with soy boy Kyle Dubas clinging on in tow.

The game at hand

The Battle of Ontario record currently sits at 102-108-12-11 in favour of the Senators. This includes Ottawa’s record pre-1934. The Leafs and Sens haven’t been relevant at the same time since the early 2000’s. The Senators owned the post 2005 lockout era with the likes of Alfredsson, Spezza, Heatley, Redden, Chara, Havalat etc. while the Leafs puttered around with the Muskoka Five. The Sens then ran into some success with Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris and kind of Bobby Ryan during the whole Double Dion + Phil the Thrill marriage.

The Auston Matthews era signals a time where it is decidedly in Toronto’s favour in the next chapter of the Battle of Ontario. While Leaf fans are worrying about who their next captain is and who will be on the fourth line the Senators are trotting out this lineup:

Screen Shot 2019-10-02 at 3.23.39 PM

P U this team stinks out loud.

Let’s just say that if the Leafs truly want to have Stanley Cup aspirations, they have to take care of business at home against teams of Ottawa’s ilk. If they can’t win these games, let’s just say that there’s much bigger problems than who’s bumping and grinding on the fourth line.

Players of Interest

Battle of the Swedes

Erik Brannstrom vs. Rasmus Sandin figures to be a glimpse of the future of both teams bluelines for years to come. Brannstrom will immediately be thrown into the fire considering he’s one of the few non-cardboard cut-outs not occupying the Senators blueline. Conversely the Leafs can bring Sandin along slowly considering their depth on the left side of the blueline.

Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Rielly, Barrie, Muzzin, Andersen

What a murderers row of NHL talent. By season’s end I’ll have a nickname drawn up for this core. T-shirts and merch will quickly follow.

The Other Guys

There’s still come things that need to be sorted out as the season progresses. Kerfoot needs to step into the 3C slot previously occupied by the best third line centre in hockey. I obviously don’t expect him to replicate Kadri’s production but he has to be good.

I like Kapanen and Johnsson and hope that they can both hang in the top two left wing spots respectively.

If Ceci can’t hang on the right side of the second pairing there’s going to be an issue. A solid back-up goalie would help Andersen stay healthy.

Hutchison gets the first crack at the role, but who’s to say Kaskisuo or Mr. Outside hire won’t supplant him.

Also some penalty killers need to emerge considering last year’s unit ranked 17th in PK%.

The Young Sens

Believe it or not there is a pulse on this Ottawa team. Between Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, Colin White and the aforementioned Brannstrom, there is a semblance of a future elite core. Say what you will about the owner alienating players and staff alike, but Pierre Dorion (in the organization since 2007 and general manager since 2014) is a solid talent evaluator.

Not Jason Spezza

Final Thoughts

This has been the most fatiguing offseasons that we’ve had in the Dubas era. But now that we’ve gotten through it, we’re entering the 2019-20 season with a truly outstanding roster. This is a core that finished with the 7th best regular season record in the league last season. And now they’re adding a full season of Jake Muzzin and swapping the walking suspension, Nazem Kadri, for Alex Kerfoot (sure) and Tyson Barrie (!!!!!). They also took away Babcock’s favourite toys in Ron Hainsey and Patrick Marleau so Babs will have to get creative to keep his best players on the bench (cue his campaign for Gauthier at 20+ minutes a night!).

A lot has been made of Toronto’s future cap situation and Kyle Dubas’ negotiating skills. While they may have overpaid their core, at least they overpaid elite talent. We’re not talking about the David Clarkson contract here. Toronto has Matthews, Tavares, Marner, Nylander and Reilly locked up until 2022. To make a final judgement on Dubas’ tenure right now, good or bad, is absurd. We won’t know for years if this core is a failure or note.

But as of right now, this is the best team the Toronto Maple Leafs have dressed in decades. This is a team currently in its Stanley Cup window. Full. Stop. Quit counting the team’s 2023-24 cap hit and buckle in for what should be a wild season.

A Title 24 Years in the Making

I still can’t believe I’m saying this.

The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions.

Last Thursday night was the peak of my sports fandom. Having been a Toronto sports fan my whole life there were certainly more losses than wins.

This playoff run has been both both biggest rush and one of the most mentally taxing stretches. They say “act like you’ve been there before” but I literally haven’t been there before. The emotional toll that a playoff run puts you through is something I’ve never had to experience. Usually when my teams make the playoffs it’s like ripping off a band-aid and they get eliminated right away.

This year in retrospect this year was an absolute roller coaster. From the initial Kawhi trade, to the “load management” regular season, losing Game One of the playoffs to Orlando, Philadelphia taking it to seven games, “The Shot”, Milwaukee’s 2-0 series lead in the Conference Finals, Toronto charging back and winning four straight to advance to the Finals, the Klay injury, the Durant injury, the other Klay injury, the Game 6 win…nevermind foul was called before the inbound, Kawhi shoots free throws and then…

Pure bliss.

Best pictures from the Championship Parade

Kawhi Leonard’s championship style.

Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

Kyle Lowry gazes at the sea of fans.

Steve Russell / Toronto Star

Kawhi Leonard holds his MVP trophy while celebrating with Drake.

Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

Gerry Angus/USA Today Sports/Reuters

Albert Leung/CBC

Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

Kawhi Leonard is happy.

Frank Gunn/Canadian Press



My Blue Jays and Maple Leafs fandom is something that I was born into. My dad and grandpa were die hard fans so I would be remiss not to follow those loveable losers into the abyss. I used to bike over to my grandpa’s place on MLB Opening Day and the first Leafs game of the season, kick my feet up and watch the season end just as it started. My Grandpa and I were always optimistic that the likes of Alex Steen and Aaron Hill were the keys to turning their respective Toronto franchises around.

But when it comes to the Raptors, that is a team that I felt that  picked. Which isn’t necessarily a better feeling–I would be an absolute puddle to see the Blue Jays win a World Series or watch Auston Matthews lift the Stanley Cup–but it’s just a different feeling.

Growing up playing basketball in a small, hockey-dominated town, my buddies and I were a group of Raptors fans very much in the minority at the time. The Leafs could look for the right pieces to surround Sundin, we were looking for a point guard for Chris Bosh. The Leafs had Joe Bowen and Bob Cole, we had Chuck Swirsky and Jack Armstrong.

My Top 10 Fringy Raptors

10. Aaron Gray: Tall White Sideline Guy #1
9. Greg Stiemsma: Tall White Sideline Guy #2
8. Pops Mensah-Bonsu: Most Memorable Name for a forgettable player
7. Fred Jones: people forget he won a Dunk Contest
6. Reggie Evans: All Grit First Team
5. Jason Kapono: 3 Point Champion
4. Chuck Hayes: CHUCK HAYES!
3. Jorge Garbajosa: Sometimes the brightest flames burn the shortest
2. Sonny Weems: Clarence Weems AKA Money Sonny AKA Euro League All-Star
1. Jamario Moon: Former Globe Trotter

Being the white, incredibly short, slow, shooting guard that I was, I spent my fair share of time on the bench. My Italian buddy Mikey G would accompany me at the end of the bench. Honestly he’s probably an even big a bigger Raptors fan than me.

At the end of the bench we’d do our best Chuck Swirsky imitations and call play-by-play whenever our mediocre basketball team would sink a few shots. “Onions baby onions!” “Bring out the salami and cheese mama! This one is over!” And when the game in front of us inevitably get boring–usually in the middle of the third quarter of a 30 point dismantling–we’d develop blueprints in order to turn the Raptors around.

“In limited minutes Linas Kleiza has been a stud. If we start playing him more maybe we can catch a few teams napping.” “I for one think Sonny Weems needs more rope.” “Honestly Bargnani might be kind of lazy. But if he can build a bit of a game around his jumper he can be a poor man’s Dirk.”

Yeah we are idiots.

When the clock hit 0:00 in that Game 6 the first call I got a call was from that glorious idiot Mikey G. “We did it bud. Holy shit we did it.” Just an absolutely poetic moment shared between a couple of morons.

My top five Raptors moments

5. Demar DeRozan, “I am Toronto”

We may not have been able to get over the hump with Demar, but his fingerprints were all over this championship team. He was the first All-Star to embrace Toronto and actually decide to stay. Years of watching guys like Carter, McgGrady and Bosh leave for “greener pastures” left Toronto feeling like an ugly step-sister NBA franchise. Nobody wanted to be in Canada… until Demar.

4. “Fuck Brooklyn”

This was five years ago! The first “We the North”. The first “Jurassic Park”. This Raptors playoff team just felt different than the last iterations led by Carter or Bosh. It was a frisky team that the city rallied behind and really set the wheels in motion for what we witnessed last week.

3. I don’t know what to call this but it gave me chills

2. Kyle lifts the “Larry O’B”

Image result for kyle lowry champion

After the Raptors ownership group got the first hoist, Serge and Masai made sure that Kyle was the first Raptor to get his hands on the trophy. The guy is the last man standing from the first “We The North” 2013-14 team. For all of the heat he’s taken in years past over his ability to rise to the playoffs, it’s just poetic that Kyle led the way with 26 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds.

1 A Kawhi’s Shot

As wild and exciting as Game 6 was last night, this shot–this crazy unrepeatable shot–was the defining moment of Toronto’s championship run. I’ve watched a lot of Raptors basketball and this shot just doesn’t go in. This moment signified that this year was different.

1 B Kawhi’s Laugh

Now this whole piece might come off as the ravings and ramblings of a lunatic, but honestly watching the Raptors for two decades will do that to you. This championship just means so much. It’s just been a wave of pure elation. Cheering for the Toronto Raptors, through their ups and down, has been one of the most profoundly satisfying aspects of my life.

This joy for this Toronto Raptors championship is the cumulation of years of my love for the game of basketball. Driving to tournaments with my parents, practicing fade aways and post hooks in the driveway with my brother, not to mention the countless people I’ve connected with through the sport.

This in of itself is the essence of this Toronto Raptors team. It has just brought so many people together across Toronto, across Ontario and across Canada. It’s a beautiful thing. This was apparent when my brother and I took the whole day off to get into Jurassic Park for Game One of the Finals. In the area the were thousands of fans of different ages and races all brought together by the Toronto Raptors.

Look no further than that Raptors team itself to see how a trivial game can bring people together. Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam rose out of Africa to play on basketball’s greatest stage. Spaniard Marc Gasol finally got his first championship at age 34. Jeremy Lin was the first Asian American to win an NBA title. Undrafted Canadian Chris Boucher won a championship in the same season he locked up G League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Not a single player on the team was a lottery pick in the respective draft year. And rookie coach Nick Nurse–who started coaching coaching in 1990 for the British Basketball League’s Derby Storm–was the one to bring all of these loveable misfits together. This is one of the best and most fun professional sports teams that this city has ever seen.

Cherish every moment of this team while you can. There’s no point lamenting on the Kawhi decision more than you have to. Just soak it all in because there’s no guarantee we will ever see anything like this again.

The Toronto Raptors are NBA Champions.

« Older Entries Recent Entries »