In horseracing they call it going dark but of course, dark speaks to so much more than not playing when discussing the layoff facing the Maple Leafs.
The kick-off to the Leafs off-season, if there can be such a thing, comes Monday when players clean out their lockers and take one final sift through the rubble of the campaign.
The gap between the clear-out and the June 22 entry draft is 69 sleeps. This is when most of the healing happens. A week after the playoff puck-drop only eight of the league’s 30 teams are active. By then the misery can be nicely spread about especially if something untoward should happen to the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks.
When compared to the mourning periods in other religions, 69 days isn’t bad. In some traditional European cultures widows wear black for the rest of their life which for everyone except artsy Toronto thirty-somethings would be an imposition.
When Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah, the well-known Emir of Kuwait died a couple of years back, the official mourning period was 40 days. In Tonga, say my friends at Wikipedia, these things can linger for a year. This seems a little harsh unless you live in the small southwestern Ontario towns of Brantford , Strathroy or Glencoe and naturally have absolutely nothing else to do.
Since there was nothing the least bit sudden in the Leafs’ freefall out of the playoff picture most of us have come to view the season’s end as a release. Heaven knows there is little shock to process unless you have just awakened from a coma that began February 6. If you have, well let me explain.
Imagine every nightmare that could envelope a hockey team: listlessness, bad goaltending, ugly chants for the coach’s ouster, key injuries, vaporized morale. Now multiply it by 10.
Not even close, coma boy.
You should know the World Hockey Championship is in Finland and Sweden and therefore completely without relevance. If there is one thing Leaf fans know it’s this: playing in the World Championship has absolutely no impact on the future of a hockey player. In fact, you can argue the continued appearance of the same players in the tournament is God’s way of compensating good players for bad teams by giving their wives and girl friends a chance to accompany their men to uber-romantic Helsinki. Jinkies.
I have devised a guide for mourning during these difficult days. Print this blog. Put it up on your fridge. If there is no room go ahead and throw out your kid’s report card. Don’t sweat it: Cs and Ds get degrees.
Week one: The draft lottery is Tuesday. Karma is real. Give a kidney to someone.
Week two: Now that you have observed a respectable period of mourning, gently lay your Mikhail Grabovski sweater in the bottom drawer of your dresser.
Include any mementos:
-Your lucky Nik Antropov bobblehead (fat lot of good that did),
– Your Leafs keychain (take the bike instead of the car),
-Your Mats Sundin retirement program,
-That favorite, weathered copy of Captains, the definitive book on Leafs’ leaders.
Keep the Leafs golf club covers. You’ll be needing those babies.
For the many among you who still practice Nordic and Viking rituals, pile these items on a raft, douse them with gas, push them down your nearest lake or fjord and attempt to hit the funeral raft with flaming arrows. You can replicate this anywhere but be warned if you try this in Hamilton the whole damn Bay will catch fire.
Week two: Ignore the Stanley Cup playoffs. Any team that can’t get past the first round doesn’t deserve your attention. Kidding. Go ahead, pull for Ottawa or Vancouver. Newsflash…it doesn’t help.
Week three: If you haven’t suffered quite enough, tune in to the season-finale of Glee. With any luck the show’s producers, mindful that many of the supposed high-school aged students are entering their mid 30s, will write a cliffhanger in which their bus topples over the one cliff in Indiana thereby adding even more angst to regionals.
Week four and five: The Jays are at home against Seattle and Texas. Check the pitching rotation. Go to games where Henderson Alvarez is pitching. When he gets lit up, chant: “Go… Leafs…Go.” See how they like it.
Week six: Not too early to start boning up on the NHL draft. Fulminate at will. Memorize The Hockey News Draft Preview. Friend Bob McKenzie on Facebook.
Week seven: Draft combine is only a week away. Look forward to reading about future millionaires vomiting during fitness tests. Ah, spring.
Week eight: 2012 NHL Awards. You know, the Masterton Trophy is a bigger honor than you may think. Fantasize about trades at upcoming draft. Consider whether you should add Jerry D’Amigo to your offer of Sondre Olden and Mark Owuya for Rick Nash. Sometimes you have to sweeten the pot to seal the deal.
Week nine: Give up on the idea of getting Rick Nash at the deadline. Begin researching Travis Moen. Take heart, only nine more weeks to training camp.