You know you’re dealing with a diehard Leafs fan when you go to shake hands and they have to take their foam finger off.
There were about 150 of the faithful at Air Canada Centre’s Gate 5 Monday for a promotion called Wendel Says.
The inducement was 10 pairs of playoff tickets as well as copious swag but the people would have come regardless to share the same oxygen as Wendel Clark.
These were the real fans, the face painters, the blue wig-wearers. Nineteen year-old Justin Waldman was awash in blue.
“The blue hair’s a wig but the blue beard’s real,” he said grinning wildly.
“I’m a huge Wendel fan. He made the Leafs what they are.”
Justine L’Heureux, a waitress from Oshawa, made Waldman’s outfit look tame.
She had two signs, one bearing tickets from the four home games and two road contests she attended this year. She had two Leaf hats, a foam finger, Maple Leaf knee covers, three jerseys, Leaf socks and a scarf. Her signs said ‘Wendel says’, ‘unconditional beleafer’ and ‘Randy Carlyle is the man.’ She had 13 Leaf items on and those were just the things you could see.
There has been plenty of grief to go around at Kotsys’ her workplace as the team struggled. Now the Leafs open the post-season Wednesday in Boston and she is struggling to keep from accosting breakfast seekers with hockey talk.
“My husband didn’t to a single game this season,” she said “but we’ve been together 23 years.”
You wonder if he risked the streak by not going to games.
“I truly love the Leafs,” she said. “When they trade for a player I fall in love with that player. When a player leaves I feel despair for him.”
Melanie Rocher, a huge fan and a food and beverage supervisor at ACC, was 14 when Jeremy Roenick , then of the Philadelphia Flyers scored the goal that knocked the Leafs out of the playoffs. She’s 23 now. “That goal still breaks my heart anytime I see it,” she said.
“I’ve been a Leafs fan ever since my Dad put me down in front of the television set and said ‘this is your team.’