In terms of hearts, the Leafs will be the local No. 1 until people who were grade-schoolers when the Raptors won grow up.
But if we’re talking about minds, the Leafs are already rock bottom. They still sell out the building and do great TV numbers. They are a fun, drama-free team featuring several guys whose jerseys you would not be ashamed to wear.
But nobody believes in them. Nobody with sense would bet the rent money – or any money – on them. Because the Leafs are jinxed.
This basic lack has become a cornerstone of their corporate identity: “Come work for us at the Toronto Maple Leafs. We have a welcoming culture, opportunity for advancement and everyone gets the entire summer off.”
As of this writing, it’s not clear if Toronto will start the postseason at home against the defending champion Tampa Bay Lighting or their longtime schoolyard bully, the Boston Bruins, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone knows the Leafs are going down. Nobody’s upset about it. Like the passing of the seasons, it just is.
You’ve probably already got plans to travel in the third week in May. Somewhere without cell coverage, so that you can recuperate from that moment after Game 2 or Game 5 or at the start of the third period in Game 7 when, just for a minute, you thought it was possible. You knew you were wrong, but you couldn’t help yourself. Then the Leafs fell apart again.
This complex feeling is best expressed in German – weltschmerz der torwart enttauschung (the world pain of goalie disappointment).
Or you can use the short form – eisbahn storung (rink derangement).
Rink derangement peaks in April and May. It explains why otherwise prudent people are willing to pay twice the cost of a downtown condo for a lean-to on a swamp four hours drive north of Nowheresville, Ont. They will pay any price to flee the Leafs.
You know what that makes this? A good time to buy.
Like you, I read Rob Carrick every day. Despite not understanding some of the technical terms he uses – things such as “variable interest rates” and “never do this” – that reading has made me an expert in complex markets. And the Leafs look like a value proposition right now.
First and foremost, you get a local write-off for even pretending to believe in this team. Sure, the neighbours laughed at you. But the essence of Toronto hockey fandom isn’t front-running. It’s back-running. You root for a team that makes the 20th-century Chicago Cubs look like the Harlem Globetrotters. There’s honour in that sort of hopeless fight.
Then there’s the law of averages. When was the last time the Leafs won a first-round series? That’s right – 1978. Or something like that.
If you flip a coin and hit heads 10 times in a row, what are the odds the next one will be tails? Sure, 50-50, but you know, not really. It’s got to be tails some time. It’s just got to. What if that time is this time? And if it might be this time, doesn’t it follow that it has to be this time? It has literally been 112 years since the Leafs won a first-round playoff series. Think about it. But not too hard.
There’s the cool factor. Is it cool to be a Leafs fan? It is not. Regardless of your age, it makes you a dinosaur. Cool people like the Raptors. Cooler people like the Jays. And the coolest people of all like the Argos, because they are so uncool that they’ve circled back around to cool.
This terminal lack of cool makes now the perfect time for all social climbers to start believing in the Leafs.
The only downside is that you will have to start announcing your hockey epiphany right now.
You can’t use any weasel words. No “mights” or “maybes.” Declarative statements only. You are now convinced that these Leafs finally have what it takes and are going all the way (to the second round).
This magic doesn’t work after the Leafs have won Game 1. In fact, it performs the opposite function – making you look even stupider once they cough it up in six.
There are non-sports benefits to this as well. Publicly and unequivocally endorsing the Leafs will help you figure out which of your friends and family really care. They’ll be the ones trying to wrestle you into their car so they can take you for a CT scan. Clearly, you have suffered a serious head injury. You shouldn’t be walking around.
The real kicker in buying Leafs stock now is that you know it’s immune from tanking.
What happens if the Leafs lose again? Worst case – they fire the coach. Maybe trade a goalie. Tell a few of the bigger guys to go easy on Instagram for a couple of weeks, and then for a month after that, nothing but gym photos.
If the Leafs lose, the same thing will happen that always happens – nothing. Because this investment withstands all market shocks. When they lose, the sticker price goes up. The Leafs are like Amazon before Jeff Bezos figured out people were even lazier than he’d thought. The Leafs market cap is based on hope, not reality. As an early investor, that means you cannot lose.
The Leafs will win eventually. Not a Stanley Cup. C’mon, let’s try to stay serious. But a round. Math strongly suggests that’s inevitable.
So why not this round? With the weight of history crushing down on them, with a wobbly back end and all the space on the ice disappearing, going up against a team that has won things in the recent past, while everyone around you has their fingers poised over the crying Jordan memes.
When you say it like that, it makes me feel that I should have borrowed to invest even more.