Logan Saul came home from school one afternoon last week and found the contents of his bedroom arranged neatly beneath a canopy tent in the front yard. The 17-year-old’s bed was there, covered in a Lightning blanket, with a nightstand beside it. A jersey signed by Nikita Kucherov hung behind the bed, along with one autographed by Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn and other hockey heroes.
Logan’s mother, Stacey, temporarily gave him the boot not for bad behaviour but because he is a relentless Tampa Bay hockey fan.
“He is a smartass,” Stacey says. “Annoying.”
Stacey and her husband Jason moved to Clearwater, Fla., from Mississauga 23 years ago. They always have and always will adore the Toronto Maple Leafs. So does Logan’s much more reasonable 21-year-old sister, Madison, who calls Leafs star Auston Matthews “her future husband.”
“We brought him home from the hospital in a Maple Leafs onesie,” Stacey says of Logan. “We did the same thing with Madison and she turned out all right. I don’t know what went wrong with him.”
For the first time, the teams are engaged in the NHL playoffs. The Leafs lead the first-round best-of-seven playoff series against the Lightning 3-2, with Game 6 in Tampa on Thursday night.
Logan is an 11th grader and knows little about the torment experienced by his Maple Leaf-loving parents. Tampa won its first Stanley Cup in 2004 six months after he was born and has won the past two as well.
Mom and dad were both born after 1967 so they have not yet had a Stanley Cup to celebrate in their lifetime.
“We told Logan we couldn’t live with him during the series because he was going to be mean to us,” Stacey says. “He lives and breathes the Lightning. I told him that his stuff was going to be on the doorstep when he came home.”
Instead she set things up nicely for him. He has a fan, a study light with which he does homework, a suitcase and a TV that’s attached to an extension cord. Also toilet paper.
“It is all in fun,” Stacey says. “Out of the four of us he is the only non-Leafs fan.”
Stacey skated on the Credit River as she grew up. She played hockey on it, too, first scraping off the ice and snow. Some of her fondest memories involve gathering in the basement with family and friends on Saturdays to watch the Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.
Her favourite Toronto player was Doug Gilmour and she has a photo of him in her home office. She also has a framed poster of goaltender Curtis Joseph and a picture taken during the last game at Maple Leaf Gardens.
She and Jason once briefly lived on the 27th floor of an apartment building behind the Gardens.
“We would see players in the parking garage,” Stacey says. “I was like a kid in a candy store.”
Like most Leafs fans she holds a grudge.
“The one team I can never cheer for is Boston,” Stacey says. “I hate them.”
She still laments that playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 1993, when a referee missed a high-sticking penalty on Wayne Gretzky.
“It was Kerry Fraser,” she says, eyes flashing.
Eventually the Sauls moved to Florida to work in Jason’s father’s industrial business.
“The reasons we were nervous about moving here were snakes and whether we could watch all the Maple Leafs games,” she says.
They made sure they were able.
Now her beloved team is on the verge of advancing to the second round for the first time since 2004. If it does not happen on Thursday night, the series returns to Toronto for Game 7 on Saturday.
“I am nervous and I am scared,” she says. “[Thursday] is not going to be good. I don’t think I will be able to eat all day.”
Logan is not totally barred from the house, which sits at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. He comes inside during storms and when the mosquitoes get bad. It’s Florida and it is almost summer so they are bad most of the time.
He is mostly worried what his parents might do if Toronto wins.
“We’ll be very humble I am sure,” his mother says.
She adds that when they return to Toronto for the Stanley Cup parade this year Logan will not be invited.
“I don’t think it is ever going to happen,” he says.