Remembering a Play: Boston Has the Toronto Maple Leafs Trapped in Hell

Sports Remembering a Play
Remembering a Play: Boston Has the Toronto Maple Leafs Trapped in Hell

Keeping up with the theme from last week’s installment of one team haunting another, this Remembering a Play will explore the hockey hell the Boston Bruins have trapped the Toronto Maple Leafs in. The two teams are playing in the playoffs for the third time in the last seven years, and the Bruins currently hold a 2-1 series lead going into Saturday night’s pivotal Game 4 in Toronto that I’m sure Leafs fans are prepared to be super calm and normal about.

This Canadian nightmare began in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, the first time these teams faced off this century. Toronto held a 4-1 lead in Boston with fifteen minutes remaining, looking like they were going to advance past the first-round of the playoffs after making them for the first time in seven years.

Canada’s most famous franchise has not won a Stanley Cup since 1967, the longest active drought in the NHL. They have advanced past the first round of the playoffs just four times this century, breaking a 20-year second-round drought when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first-round last year. To say the Leafs are tortured is to state the obvious.

Even if this is your first time hearing about the Toronto Maple Leafs, you can probably surmise at this point that Game 7 did not remain 4-1. The Leafs Leafed and blew it, losing in overtime.

We’re going to cheat a little and remember two plays, both because I am merciful and have a decade of experience living in Boston so I will not subject you fine people to Jack Edwards who is calling most of the highlights you can find of this play, and because this Finnish call of Patrice Bergeron’s heart-breaking goals to bookend the 3rd period and overtime absolutely rules.

At the beginning of the highlight, you can hear the stadium announcer saying something, and they’re announcing a Milan Lucic goal that came just thirty-one seconds before the Patrice Bergeron tying goal. The Leafs were up by three with fifteen minutes to play and by two with ninety seconds left and by fifty seconds left it was tied. Toronto had just come back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7 in Boston, and this is what they did with it. No wonder Canada drinks so much.

The Bruins and Maple Leafs met five years later in the second-round of the 2018 NHL playoffs, and Boston won in seven games again. They faced each other in the first-round the very next year, and Boston won in seven games yet again. Bergeron’s two goals opened a trapdoor to deeper circles of hell that the Leafs have slipped further and further into in the decade since.

That these two teams are playing again this year feels cosmic. Just like how it really seems the basketball gods have used Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets as a vehicle to communicate to LeBron James how father time is undefeated by delivering the Los Angeles Lakers their longest playoff losing streak ever, the hockey gods have chosen the Boston Bruins as their prophet to remind Toronto of their eternal torment which raged long before Patrice Bergeron became the best all-around forward of his generation not named Sidney Crosby.

There’s a famous video of a bunch of Toronto fans watching the Leafs go up and then blow it, and it’s worth watching just to truly understand the misery the Bruins have locked this poor city in.

The “how…how???” after Bergeron’s OT winner is so perfect. It’s the most succinct summation of Maple Leaf fandom I have ever heard.

I also have this to pass along from a Canadian friend about his huge Leafs fan friend’s actions during the game with the moral of the story being: don’t anger the sports gods with your hubris, especially if you root for a team the sports gods have spent half a century demonstrating their disdain for.

I was on a group golf trip for that game. We weren’t watching it during dinner, but I was sitting next to the most avid Leaf fan in our group and was providing score updates to him. When Toronto was up 4-1, most of us returned to our rooms to watch the end and drink cheap booze, but the Leaf fan went to the hotel bar to celebrate. After the game, he returned to the “party” room and he asked us, “we weren’t watching – what happened?”

Unlike the team that haunts them, gloom and doom don’t completely dominate what is very justifiably a gloom and doom situation. This Global News report in the wake of this soul-crushing defeat reveals a cheery toughness in Canadians that their counterparts in Boston do not have. I lived there for most of the highest of highs and some of the lowest of lows of Boston sports history, and can personally verify that Bruins fans generally do not take brutal losses the same way that the Leafs fans do in that man-on-the-street report from Global News.

So keep your chin up Toronto. Hope is not dead yet. You only find yourself in the exact same situation against the exact same team with a lot of the same players involved yet again. At some point one of these series has to swing your way…right?


Or maybe we do all just live in hell, and Boston turning into America’s city of winners filled with some of the least gracious winners on the planet is yet another reminder from the vengeful sports gods of who really is in charge here.

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