This week in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey has been extraordinarily tough to watch. The group has watched collectively as teams steamrolled them on the ice and the scoreboard, and looked punchless in every sense of the word. One of the new features the site wants to roll out is a dedicated player of the week, and by request I have been granted the ability to do so representing a charity that I hold quite close to my heart, Maddie’s Mark. (Those that read my post game write ups will recognize the name, it usually is used for the player of the game.) This will be the first of such features, and hopefully in future weeks it will be as difficult to write because so many are playing so well, rather than because nobody played at all.
This week’s player of the week is unfortunately not a player at all. Even in the worst stretches over the past decade somebody stood out and made a noticeable mark on the team for a game or stretch. For most of the season this year it has alternated between James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier having little choice given the team in front of them, with an occasional appearance from a forward on a roll. This week even the goaltenders looked uninterested, not even willing to challenge the group standing still in front of them. Right now this group simply doesn’t even have enough pride or respect to play for each other (some exception last night, but far too little, far too late). This week’s player of the week goes to the group that has not wavered in spite of the fact that the team they cheer for, and that would be the fans.
This is going to sound like rubbing salt in a wound, but a group of people who have never seen the team it holds dear touch a championship trophy, let alone even play in a game for one deserves a large amount of praise. The organization likes to pride itself on everything that was accomplished five decades ago which is understandable, but that is of little comfort to a group that up to last season had many that never witnessed postseason Leafs hockey. They complain, but they show up. They get laughed at (by many that are in markets that would not exist without the massive subsidy this team and a couple of others provide), but they keep coming. While they may not be perfect in every sense, the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs deserve some recognition for sticking with this squad, and it seems quite appropriate to do so in a week when they had every right to write this group off forever. The performances were flat-out disrespectful to a fanbase that shows such undying loyalty. Those who have sat through it, both last night and for the last 48 years, deserve an apology from all those that were on the ice this week. It is one thing to lose at a game, but to simply not show up is reprehensible.
Maddie’s Mark is a charity that was launched in 2012 after the sudden passing of Madeline Musto from Guilderland, NY. The charity formed in her honor helps families of those who have children that have serious illness to have “best days ever”, days in which the families can escape the daily battle with illness and build memories that last on. The family that started this organization has done many wonderful things for families with children that have so many more challenges than anyone should. For information on the organization and how you can contribute, go to maddiesmark.org. I would like to thank them for letting me contribute in this way, and I want to thank all of the hockey community on FanSided which has done so since February 2012.