Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews Could be Haunted by the EA Curse

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 8: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his 30th goal of the season against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 8, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 8: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his 30th goal of the season against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 8, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Toronto Maple Leafs superstar, Auston Mathews, will grace the cover of EA’s NHL 2022 video game.

The announcement was made last week. Historically, there have been many examples of EA cover athletes suffering from “the EA curse.” Can the Toronto Maple Leafs handle another curse or are they already haunted enough?

The EA curse was originally called “the Madden curse” and is often still referred to by the EA football game series.  The first Madden series cover athlete was the San Francisco 49ers, Garrison Hearst, on cover of Madden 98.  Before then, John Madden himself was featured on the Madden covers since the first game in the series simply titled “John Madden Football” released in 1988.

Garrison Hearst was awarded the cover after setting career highs in 1997 by running 1,019 yards and four touchdowns.  He beat these records in 1998 by running 1,570 yards and 7 touchdowns, but in the playoffs, he suffered a horrific career-threatening ankle break.  Post-surgery complications caused the talus bone in Hearst’s foot to die.  He  didn’t return to the NFL until two seasons later.

Since then, many NFL players have suffered injury or had dismal seasons after appear on the Madden cover.

Can the Toronto Maple Leafs Win a Playoff Series if Cursed?

Many NHL players and their teams seem to have suffered from the EA curse.  Since John Vanbiesbrouck became the first sole NHL cover athlete on NHL 97, only two of the 20 players to grace the cover have won a playoff round the year they were on the cover (Vladimir Tarasenko made it to the second round in 2017 and Patrick Kane won the cup in 2010).  That’s bad news for the Toronto Maple Leafs who have already had a hard time winning a playoff series.

The Florida Panthers haven’t won a playoffs series since John Vanbiesbrouck was on the EA cover.  That’s currently the longest drought in the NHL at 25 years.  The Toronto Maple Leafs currently have the second longest playoff series win drought at 16 years.

Has the EA Curse Already Affected the Toronto Maple Leafs?

These are some of the worst cases of the EA curse in hockey and how they have affected the Toronto Maple Leafs:

Eric Lindros (NHL 99): The 1998-99 season started great with 40 goals and 93 points in 71 games, but then the injuries began.  A collapses lung ended his season and he was out for the Philadelphia Flyers first round loss.

Lindros would suffer multiple concussions in 1999-2000 and was striped of his captaincy after criticizing Flyer’s doctors.  He sat out the entire 2000-2001 season.  He played three seasons for the New York Rangers, but was a shell of his former self by the time he joined the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dany Heatley (NHL 2004):  Joe Thorton was originally chosen for the cover, but after he was arrested for assaulting a police officer, Dany Heatley was the next choice.  Four days after the game was released, Dany Heatley crashed his Ferrari while speeding, killing his passenger and Atlanta Thrashers teammate, Dan Snyder. Dany Heatley suffered several injures and missed most of the 2003-04 season.  EA replaced Heatley on the cover with Joe Sakic but many of the Heatley tarnished copies were already brought home by consumers.

Dany Heatley traded to the Ottawa Senators during the 2004-05 lockout.  Heatley became a force for Ottawa in the battle of Ontario, and the Toronto Maple Leafs missed the playoffs every year Heatley was with the Senators.  The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won a playoff series was against Ottawa in 2004, the year Heatley was on the EA cover.

Dion Phaneuf (NHL 09):  After a career best of 60 points and being runner-up for the Norris trophy in 2007-08, Dion Phaneuf began to decline after getting his face slapped on the EA cover before the 2008-09.  He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2009-10 season.

Many Toronto Maple Leafs fans hated Dion Phaneuf, and many loved him.  Despite your feelings towards Dion Phaneuf, the Maple Leafs sure didn’t do a lot of winning while he was on the team.

Austin Matthews will be one of the few players to appear on an EA sports title twice and that’s truly an honor.  Since Matthews first appeared on the cover in 2020, nothing bad has happened, right?  Nothing except for a pandemic, a pre-playoff round loss and that embarrassing playoff loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

Next. Auston Matthews Back on the Cover of a Video Game. dark

If there is something haunting the Toronto Maple Leafs it’s something from long ago.  Maybe it’s their unlucky number of Stanley Cup titles – 13.  Will this be the year they break the curse?  We’ll have to wait and see.