One great thing about living in Miami is the presence of the Florida Panthers. Don’t get me wrong–it’s patently absurd that there is a professional hockey team in South Florida. But as a transplanted, die-hard hockey fan, I have grown to appreciate that the Panthers’ desperate attempts to draw fans to their games means that I get to see my beloved Maple Leafs for a fraction of the cost of a ticket at the ACC in Toronto.
Yesterday, my friend Nick and I sat in the second row, just inside the blue line, to see the Leafs take on the Panthers. We were surrounded by Leafs fans who had flown to South Florida to see the Leafs, because it was cheaper to fly to Fort Lauderdale (the Panthers play in nearby Sunrise), pay for a hotel and a lower-bowl ticket, than it was to see the Leafs at home. Plus they got to enjoy 80 degrees in the sunshine in February.
Unfortunately, the Leafs were significantly outplayed by the lowly Panthers. If you know anything about the Leafs, you’d know that they’re one of professional sports’ most frustrating franchises. They’re surrounded by endless media hype, and have been disappointing their fans year after year since their last Stanley Cup win in 1967. The Maple Leafs are the Chicago Cubs of the NHL. The Leafs are Fredo Corleone: weak and stupid. The Leafs are the drunk and embarrassing uncle at Thanksgiving dinner; a travesty, but you have to love them anyway, because they’re family.
The Leafs came to Florida riding a six-game winning streak. The Panthers are a consistently and comically awful team. My friend Nick suggested a friendly wager: if the Leafs won, he would pay for the tickets. If the Panthers won, I would pay for the tickets. Perhaps I was just awestruck by our incredible view, but I accepted. In glorious fashion, the Leafs proceeded to play their worst game of the season. Of course.
While there was a lot of empirical evidence that suggested the Leafs were due for a bad game, when we returned to the parking lot, I figured out the exact reason that the Leafs lost. In my excitement to get into the arena, I stupidly parked in spot #67, which, of course, is the number that fans of opposing teams derisively yell at us to remind us of the last year that we won a championship. Oh, and on top of that, the battery in the car was dead and we had to wait 90 minutes for roadside assistance to unlock the Zipcar and charge the battery.
Thanks, Leafs. See you in April.