It was over a month ago now, but the memory of the great collapse remains as fresh as ever in the minds of Toronto Maple Leafs fans. The Maple Leafs, of course, famously squandered a three-goal lead versus the Boston Bruins with ten minutes remaining in the third period of Game Seven. To be even more specific, they blew a two goal lead with under a minute and a half remaining in the game.
It was the type of sporting rarity that we’re unlikely to ever see again. The type of thing one doesn’t usually see in his or her lifetime. Hell, it’s the type of thing that may occur once in sixty lifetimes.
You can joke to your heart’s content about how the Leafs were this close to marching to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since 1967. Leafs fans aren’t laughing.
I took it upon myself to solicit stories from Leafs fans on their experiences from Game Seven. Not even trolling, I swear. I received scores of responses via email, Twitter, and even conducted a couple of old fashioned face-to-face conversations. The responses I received were reflective, sad, bizzarre, incoherent, and sometimes hilarious. Some names have been changed (when requested). Here’s a thorough sampling for your reading pleasure/despair.
Joseph: Rangers or Capitals? That was the conversation I was having among friends and total strangers after Nazem Kadri scored. It was 4-1. We were legitimately debating who we had the best shot against in the second round. My local pub was overflowing with people and booze. People hugging people they didn’t know. The bartender looked at me and said the words “this is going to be great for business”.
Jerrod: Shots. It seemed like there were 100 shots lined up across the bar. That’s the last thing I remember before Nathan Horton made it 4-2. I think my boss paid for them. That was the atmosphere, though. Everyone was buying drinks for each other and exchanging high-fives. Panic hadn’t sunk in at that point, at least for my friends and myself. We were celebrating. We were celebrating far too early.
K: My friend and I accidentally gave a Budweiser shower to an 8 year old in the 300s. It was a $16 celebration
Evan: Three grown men jumping up and down in a Teletubbies hug (at 4-1). You can imagine the descent into hell from there.
Lawrence: I thought we had it all wrapped up and were off to the second round when Kadri scored. That was what, like five minutes into the third? Even after Boston made it 4-2, I thought we were off to the second round. I hugged my wife, and she went as far to suggest cracking an expensive bottle of Champagne we had been saving since our wedding.
P: (Email verbatim) Did Seguin or Hamilton score on us? No. Shut the fuck up then.
Joseph: I have never known a two goal lead to feel as safe as the one we had with a minute and half to go. Me, and others I’m sure, just ignored that the Leafs couldn’t get the puck out of their own end. I mean, c’mon, it was a fucking two goal lead. We couldn’t blow that, right? I can’t even think about what happened after he [Milan Lucic] made it 4-3.
P: (Email verbatim) Never mind last message I forgot about Tuukka Rask.
Marilyn: I didn’t know then, but I know now. We were done when Boston made it a one goal game.
Jerrod: I saw Phaneuf get knocked down and he just slid across the ice, like he didn’t have anything left. Can a team just be out-experienced? Is that a real thing?
Ethan: I grew up in Ontario as a Leafs fan my whole life. I moved down to Massachusetts for work about ten years ago. I had a few Leafs buddies come down for Game 7, even though I failed to get tickets. You can probably imagine the gloating on our part in a bar full of Bruins fans.
People will tell you that Bruins fans, or Boston sports fans, can be rough and say some awful things… they were pretty good to us even after the collapse. I suppose it’s possible that they just felt so awful for us. I still can’t make sense of what happened.
Stuart: Someone told me it was Carol’s fault when I was waiting in line to take a piss.
Jack: The Horton goal was too little too late. Lucic scores and it’s like “ok, they’re going down swinging”. Then Bergeron and it’s tied. You might as well have just given them the game right there.
Marilyn: I’m not one of those Toronto fans who has stewed over Kerry Fraser’s “missed” high stick in 1993, so this was the most devastating Maple Leafs playoff loss I’ve known in my lifetime.
Lawrence: It almost made me long for the days of fans plotting a completely unattainable playoff spot with a couple weeks to go in the season. I can only speak for myself, but I’d take missing the playoffs over what actually happened. Still sick from it.
Cathie: I was locked into the same emotionless state from the point when Lucic made it a one goal game right through Bergeron’s overtime winner. I don’t think there’s a movie or a book out there that’s put through the wave of feelings I experienced over the course of that game.
Rajit: I cried.
Nick: I was in Scottsdale for games 6 and 7, and watched game 7 from another hotel’s bar because they got NBCSN. A Czech/Dutch guy and his Dutch girlfriend were staying at my resort and came to watch the game with me. He wasn’t a Bruins fan but was a HUGE Jagr fan, maybe the biggest fan of a single player I’ve ever met.
He taunted me like crazy as I fell to pieces during the collapse, I had to sit there and listen as he talked about Jagr’s hometown and other Czechness about him. Double salt in the wound being tormented by a guy who didn’t even care about the team just one (awesome) player.
Oh and because the game took place at 4:00 PST I went to a family dinner with 14 aunts/uncles/cousins/my grandma blackout drunk from the rocks glass of tequila I ordered at the start of OT.
Jerrod: It’s not all bad. The Leafs were a good team this year, lucky I guess, but we have some really great talent and a number one goalie. It sucks going out like we did, but we’ll come back stronger.
Dylan: I swore I wouldn’t brood over this all summer. Would the Buds have beaten the Rangers? I don’t know, but I think the momentum coming out of a Game 7 in Boston would have been a big factor.
Randy: I’m half way through therapy. I am NOT starting it over…seriously… really.. damn.
Ryan: How bout this. Our boy Archer was born the morning of the game. My day: highest of highs to lowest of lows #emotionalmess… and now I get to remember it every day on his birthday. #justscorethereFrattin #lifeofaleafsfan
I think Joffrey Lupul speaks for everyone with a vested interest in the Toronto Maple Leafs…
That hockey game will haunt me until the day I die…
— Joffrey Lupul (@JLupul) May 14, 2013