I have a photo to show you and a bit of a story to tell you.
Here’s the photo:
As for the story, I can only tell you the beginning right now and hopefully we’ll all learn the ending at some point in the future. Here’s what I know so far:
The above photo is of a homeless man curled up in a Toronto Maple Leafs sports blanket on a sidewalk in Mexico City, about 4,000 km southwest of Toronto and a world away from the Air Canada Centre, home of the Leafs.
Luke Betts, a friend and former newspaper colleague who has lived and worked in Mexico for the past 17 years, sent the photo to me earlier this week with this note:
“I came across this character a few days ago at around 10 in the morning, bedded down on Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s glitzy main drag, just up the street from the stock exchange.”
How on earth did a Maple Leafs blanket (looking in very good condition) make it to Mexico City in the first place and how on earth did it then come to be providing warmth and comfort for a Mexican living on the streets of North America’s largest city?
I wish I could tell you but I can’t. The man was sleeping when Luke took the photo and he didn’t want to disturb the fellow. Luke’s going to keep an eye out (since it’s a route he often walks) and, if he sees the blanket man again, he’ll try to find out how he came to be the proud possessor of what might be the only piece of Toronto Maple Leafs official paraphernalia in Mexico City.
(Actually, there’s probably quite a bit of Leaf gear in Mexico City since Toronto has a largish Latin American population — about 80,000 in the city alone — with many of them from Mexico. I imagine there are as many Maple Leaf hockey fans in Mexico City as there are Club America or Cruz Azul football fans in Toronto. And hockey’s not an unknown sport in Mexico. Mexico City, which regularly hosts U18 international hockey events, has two major indoor ice arenas and the world’s largest outdoor ice rink in winter. Really. In Mexico City.)
I hope Luke does find the guy again. We can all make up endless plausible stories about how the blanket could have ended up wrapped around a homeless man in Mexico City — gift from a compassionate tourist, overrun castoffs from a Mexican textile plant with an NHL contract, a dastardly plot by the Dallas Stars, etc. etc. —but it sure would be nice to know the real story behind that intriguing photo.
For anyone who worked with or knew Luke in his Toronto days, he’s been the publisher of Biznews, a Monterrey-based weekly Spanish-language business newspaper distributed throughout northern Mexico and in U.S. border cities, for the past 14 years.
He’s currently working on a project to launch a new publication in Mexico City — good news in these days that see more papers shrink or go out of business than start up.
Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if Luke discovers anything. And if, by the wildest chance, anyone in the Maple Leafs organization can cast any light on the matter, please get in touch.