June hockey bears unexpected treasures.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. All opinions expressed by Mike Ulmer are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Toronto Maple Leafs or its Hockey Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Maple Leafs and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NHL accredited member of the media.

 

By June Tim Horton would have been back at Conn Smythe's quarry or maybe moonlighting at a little coffee shop he had started in Hamilton.

The furnace that is summer waits just over the horizon but your ice scraper might still be in the trunk or only recently banished to the garage.

June is the big payoff. It purges the memory of interminable winter. Each breath brings fresh possibilities.

Saturday, the city hosts its second June professional hockey game with the Norfolk Admirals seeking to oust the Toronto Marlies in Game 4.

Eight thousand people filled the Ricoh Coliseum for the first, Thursday night.

June hockey is paradoxical by nature because it is a function of an ever-lengthening season. The Leafs played their latest playoff game on May 31, 1999.

Were this to be that blessed year of 1967, the Maple Leafs would have won their Stanley Cup five weeks ago. Tim Horton would have been back working in Conn Smyth’s quarry or perhaps moonlighting at the little coffee shop in Hamilton he had started a few years before.

Toronto resident Karen Kennedy pulled her Nazem Kadri issue Leafs shirt over a cardigan before setting out for Game 3. Dressed for hockey season, she had to reach for the air conditioning button. Clearly, all this will take some getting used to.

Two things make Kennedy the perfect manifestation of June hockey in Toronto.

First, she is a professional skeptic. She is a fraud investigator. That means Kennedy trusts what she sees not what she guesses or hopes to be true.

Second, she has a Maple Leaf, her lucky number 16 and a crossed hockey stick and golf club tattooed over her right shoulder blade.

“My boys in blue,” she says.

“I’m loving this,” she says. “I only wish it were the Leafs.”

That connection, June hockey first for the Marlies and then perhaps someday for the Maple Leafs, is the real story of the season.

While the first three months of the Leafs campaign turned to ash, another season of promise has taken its place.

It starts with Jake Gardiner manipulating the game from the blue line and Ben Scrivens surrendering 28 goals in 16 games, even if you count the stanchion shot that decided Thursday’s contest.

The shutdown pair of Korbinian Holzer and Mark Fraser have been excellent.

Stricken from the lineup by a knee injury, the needle still sits on 10 goals in 13 post-season games for Matt Frattin. Nazem Kadri, 10 points in 11 playoff games, was playing beautifully before he was hurt. AHL rookie Jesse Blacker defenceman had found his game before he too went down in the third round.

“All those years we never had a farm system,” said Mississauga resident Carlos Costa. “We didn’t make the playoffs again but at least we have a farm system. Those guys are going to help the big club soon.”

There is both a charming novelty and an unburdening going on. Glen Vance, a teacher at Upper Canada College was spotted at Game Three using his iPhone.  The first iPhone was still three years from public release in 2004, the last time the Maple Leafs appeared in the playoffs.

Vance grabbed an action shot and then electronically flipped it to a long-time friend in Bancroft. “How often do you see hockey in Toronto in June?” he said.

Summer, the real kind, is less than two weeks away but hockey keeps hanging on. Imagine Indian summer in reverse: without precedent but still welcome because of the sunny days it brazenly foretells.

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About Mike Ulmer

Mike Ulmer has written 207 post in this blog.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. All opinions expressed by Mike Ulmer are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Toronto Maple Leafs or its Hockey Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Maple Leafs and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NHL accredited member of the media.



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