Custom Search

When does Maple Leaf hockey “click in” for you?

I realize it may seem just a bit unusual to think seriously about hockey when it's still summer.  But hey, when we're talking about the Maple Leafs, hockey is a passion twelve months of the year.  We all know that. Not that a break from the ups and downs that often accompany being a Leaf supporter is not welcome sometimes, but let's face it, we would miss it if there are no games this fall, eh?

The “boys” will start gathering fairly soon to start informal team practices and before you know it, we’ll be into full-scale training camp mode.  (This pending workout activity assumes progress in the ongoing CBA talks.  While I'm not optimistic at this stage, who knows?  Maybe wisdom will somehow prevail...)

Though we tend—at least in this part of the hockey world, where the Leafs are a daily topic of conversation virtually year-round—to keep the hockey fires alive, it’s just not as top of mind for most sports enthusiasts, especially when baseball is heading into a pennant drive and football training camps in the NFL are already in full swing. But at some point, as Leaf fans, we want our hockey.  Something clicks in us and reminds us that, hey, it’s time for hockey.

I remember, back when I was a kid in the early to mid 1960s, then young Maple Leaf center Dave Keon being quoted in a magazine article saying that, for him, the only time of the year that really dragged was the last couple of weeks in August.  Why?  Well, because, he said, he was so anxious by that time to get back on skates and get to training camp.  He actually loved September, he said, when he finally got back onto the ice for real after a long spring and summer away from the rink. (This was before a few NHL players, including Keon, started holding “hockey schools” for kids.  That provided a little extra income for the NHL'ers and also kept them on the ice for at least part of the summer…)

I've always found Keon's comment interesting.  The “off-season” was much longer in those days, of course, for NHL’ers.  In the early ‘60s, the playoffs (even if you made it to the end of the Stanley Cup finals) only ran until the end of April.  (To provide some context: when the Leafs beat Montreal in 6 games in the 1967 Cup finals, the final game was played on May 2, and at that time, that was the latest an NHL season had ever ran.  Expansion the following season—and the addition of an extra playoff round—meant the season would get much longer.  Nowadays, as we all know, we’re well into June before it finally ends…).  

But still, to hear Keon (seen at right  with the Leafs in action in the early 1960s) say how much he missed playing was revealing.  While I’m sure he enjoyed his time off in the summer, he obviously loved playing, loved being a Maple Leaf, and couldn’t wait for each new season to get underway.  (Whether his teammates felt the same, I don’t know.  Keep in mind that, in those days, a lot of guys tended to get out of shape over the summer, even if they held down a part-time job to make some extra income.  They used training camp to start the process of getting back into hockey shape, so it wasn't a terribly pleasant experience for a lot of them….)

By early August in those days, Keon, though, was thinking hockey.  He and his teammates had been away from it for three months already, with still another month to go before training camp started.  There were no “informal” team workouts like there are nowadays.  (Training camp back then usually started in fairly early September, as I recall, though I could be wrong.  But it was a lot longer than what it is nowadays and there were a ton of exhibition games, too….)

I admit, by this time of the summer, I do start thinking about the Leafs getting back on the ice.  It’s not that I’m wishing summer away or that I’m anticipating a great season for the Leafs every year.  I just like the idea of a new hockey season getting underway.  It’s always fun—and it brings hope.

Setting aside any particular enthusiasm (or not) that you feel for the current version of the Maple Leafs, when do you usually start thinking about hockey—and the Leafs?  Does it not kick in until the regular-season starts, or are you someone who begins to get the itch before training camp even starts?


  1. Anybody who reads my posts here know that I tend to focus on the draft choices, prospects and the young guys in the AHL. Thinking of the future and potential keeps me happy.

    With that being said, hockey season is already started for me.

    It started a few weeks ago and I already found something to be happy about. Tyler Biggs played really well at the Team USA Junior camp and was getting lots of dirty goals. Scouts were talking about the top draft choices, but then right after that they started talking about Biggs like he was good prospect. Perhaps Biggs will turn out ok.

    Morgan Rielly looked ok at the Canada Russia Challenge.

    If it was a normal year, I would already be getting excited about rookie camps and then the rookie tournaments.

    I love those rookie tournaments!

  2. We probably all have something that is a bit unique to and for us that makes cheering for a team (in this case, the Leafs) fun, and brings us back every season. Looking at the future, focusing on recent draft choices and and enjoying things like the rookie tournament is a good way to stay connected with the franchise. Thanks DP.

  3. I pay attention to trades and draft picks, of course, but I really click in when training camp starts. I try to get down to a game or two so I can assess firsthand the new players, the returnees, the Marlies up with the big squad, and the impact of losing the players who've gone. From that point until the end of our season, I'm in!

  4. Down my way, the Australian Ice Hockey League season runs from March to August. Convenient! But nothing's quite the same as tuning into AM640 (or TSN this season, I think) for a Leafs game.

  5. I must admit with the ever growing number of media outlets (e.g. TSN, RSN, LeafsTV, TSNradio, etc) and endless sources of news and blogs on the internet, the Leafs and the NHL never seem to fade much even in the summer months.

    In my younger years I wouldn't get stirred up with hockey excitement until the season was about to start. Then the media starting covering training camps more vigorously and that quickly got my juices flowing sooner. Nowadays I'm in full mode by the time the rookie camp starts.

    The dog days of summer for me start about two weeks after free agency starts, until the rookie camp starts. That's not to say I don't salivate for any and all Leaf news during that time, but its harder to stay juiced.

    I find the CBA negotiations to be interesting but at the same time very depressing because the sides seem to be so far apart. If it means a lockout and a delayed or cancelled season, it just extends the dog days for me. *sigh* Guess I'll have to feed my Leaf cravings through the Marlies. ;-)

  6. Yes, training camp was always an exciting time for me, Gerund O', even in the old days. There is more media coverage now, of course, but though I didn't live in Toronto as a youngster, The Globe & Mail was my window into Leafworld. Thanks for posting on this one Gerund.

  7. A hockey league that fills in the NHL off-season! That's pretty good timing, Peregrine 11. But as you say, nothing is quite the same as once the Leaf season kicks into gear. Thanks for chiming in on this one...

  8. Yes TML__fan, I, too, sense the Marlies will be closely followed this fall, especially if there is a lockout! We'll get our hockey fix one way or another, though, Don. Thanks.

  9. MIchael,

    The free agent frenzy, is sadly when I get ramped up looking forward to the upcoming season. It didn't bring me very much happiness this year. Despite the usual bluster from Mr Burke, the Leafs did almost nothing. I am sadly disappointed that I keep believing him when he says that there is zero chance that the team he has is the one that will open training camp. I am not really that enthusiastic about the prospects. The Leafs need to be a better team long before Morgan Reilly becomes a viable NHL defenceman. Although, Komisarek has proven that you don't need to be a viable defenceman to get more than $4 million a year.

  10. I hear you clearly, Jim. Funny, everyone is excited now about an 18 year-old defenseman (Reilly) and yes, he does look "good" now. But Schenn impressed the Leafs so much at the same age that he made the team right away, and a few years later, he was disposable- which good young defensemen never should be. (For me, that is another sign that the Leafs develop their players poorly in many respects. Schenn should never have been here at that age....)

    So I'm with you. While I'd like to believe the hype around Colborne, etc., the truth is, every team has a lot of young guys with "potential". The Leafs need a big-league roster that is ready to contend and, right now, they are woefully behind the mark. Thanks Jim.

  11. Michael,

    You and I agree on the potential debate. I think it is a two part problem. There is a lot of media attention in Toronto, they need new stories. What is better than a hometown boy makes good in the NHL? Kadri, anyone?

    And second, are we really supposed to talk about how much value Jay McClement brings to the club? We are starving for some good news about the Leafs. I am sure that he is a nice addition, in a defensive or checking role, but really I say, so what. The team has so many other huge needs, this is the best management can give us.

    Talking about potential always makes me think about the future, and then about how bad the team must be if this is the talking point from management. Potential only matters to me when you have a Malkin or a Crosby, waiting to play.

    They finished 14th in the conference last year. I see nothing from Burke that makes me think they will improve on that if the season gets under way,

  12. Jim you've expressed my thoughts almost exactly. A new fourth-line centre? And we're talking about this stuff when the objective in Toronto 10 years ago used to be not just making the playoffs, but actually aiming for the Cup- and coming close in the real world (1999 and 2002).

    The bar is so low with this regime that "making the playoffs" is some kind of standard.

    As an NHL coach once told me: prospects are exactly that...they are called "prospects" because they haven't done anything yet.

  13. Michael,

    At this point, I feel like making the playoffs and getting our asses kicked in the first round would seem like a glorious victory. Something to be remembered as a wonderful achievement in the awful, difficult Toronto hockey playing environment. It really is hard, I am told repeatedly.

  14. Exactly Jim - just another excuse that always gets trotted out.....

  15. Hey Michael

    As I've mentioned before, life as a Maple Leafs fan began for me relatively recently: 2000 to be exact. Between then and now I've had periods living in places and doing things where keeping in touch was difficult and my attention waned.

    So now that I'm in a situation where I can keep up with what's going on far more readily (even though I'm yet to discover any cost-effective way of watching more than the odd game live; we get about one a week during the regular season) I am not really unplugging at all. I'm a huge sports fan and hockey is my favourite game, so I'm reading whatever I can fit in and my enthusiasm remains undeterred by the likely lockout, even now.

    It seems to place me, amongst those who chirp in on blogs like yours, as the eternal optimist and I like that. Hopefully, that provides a bit of energy for those others who are feeling jaded and tired by how weakly we've performed recently. I guess I'm now in the frame of mind most of you were when you were all teenagers.

  16. There's nothing wrong with being hopeful and optimistic, KiwiLeaf. Goodness knows, cynicism and negativity is often the order of the day in Leafland, so I applaud anyone who sees the pure joy of the sport and loves following the team simply because they're a fan. Good stuff.