Are you a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Are you dejected and weary?
Are you tired of supporting a bunch of losers?
Then I have great news for you: If your heart is still broken, there’s a winning hockey squad that would gladly welcome your support.
Just imagine — a group of players who are still playing hockey in May, not golf.
I’m talking about the London Knights — and this is your invitation to jump on the bandwagon with the rest of us in the Forest City.
Here in London, we’re bursting with pride for our hometown boys.
If you want an example of why the team has such devoted supporters in Southwestern Ontario, consider this: On Monday, in Game 7 of the OHL championship series, the Knights scored with 0.1 seconds left on the clock to clinch the J. Ross Robertson Cup.
On the same night, the Leafs blew a three-goal lead and lost in their own Game 7 against the Boston Bruins.
You don’t have to be an English major to understand the symbolism: While the Knights fought to the very last tenth of a second, the Leafs found a way . . . to collapse in historic style.
If you’re a typical Leafs fan, you’re likely a little tired of saying “Just wait until next year” every spring.
Let’s face facts: The truth is that the only reason Toronto even got into the playoffs this time is because of the lockout-shortened season.
You’re likely tired of saying “If only we had a better goalie” or “What we need is a bigger centre” or “The Leafs would really take off with seasoned defencemen.”
You’re tired of making excuses for your favourite NHL squad. I get that.
I’m 44 years old. The Leafs haven’t been in a Stanley Cup final in my lifetime. The unromantic truth is, they are a big business — and they would rather make money than win.
Thanks to unquestioning fans like you — who buy tickets to games, watch on TV and purchase merchandise — the Leafs rake in the cash, hand over fist. They are the most valuable sports franchise in North America, and what did you get in return for your decades of loyalty? A nice thank-you video.
The Knights, on the other hand, are perennial playoff favourites.
In 2005, they won the Memorial Cup. Last year, they went to the Memorial Cup final again, losing in OT. Just this week, they jetted off to Saskatoon to vie once more for the Holy Grail of CHL hockey.
Oh, and they were also chosen to host the Memorial Cup in 2014 — based on the quality of their team. This is probably a hard concept for Leafs fans to grasp, but the Knights are already considered contenders for next season. No talk here about what fixes are needed.
The Knights don’t have to apologize to anyone for a lacklustre effort. They don’t have to make excuses.
Of course, I can predict how some of you are going to react to my invitation: You’ll say wait, no need to switch allegiance, look at the bright spots on the horizon for long-suffering fans in the Big Smoke.
That Nazem Kadri, for instance, looks to be an up-and-comer. Where did he learn to play hockey like that? Right here in London at Budweiser Gardens, of course.
That’s right: The best thing about the Maple Leafs, they owe to the London Knights.
So why not get on the Forest City bandwagon and and cheer for a real team for a change?
I won’t even go into how the OHL is free of the personality politics and labour BS that plague the NHL.
Support a winner for once in your life. Who knows, it might feel better than the constant creeping suspicion that someone is taking advantage of you and making you look foolish.