Playing the Field: Maple Leafs fans elected to not riot despite promise
Unlike Vancouver Canucks fans two years ago, Toronto Maple Leafs fans took a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins relatively well.
The CBC news in Toronto reported that the majority of Leafs fans watching Monday night’s game on a giant screen outside of Air Canada Centre left the area peacefully, save for a few isolated incidents, after Boston made its unprecedented comeback to win the game and the series. The CBC said there were several fans who threw beer bottles and some fans “pulled the tails and slapped the sides” of horses carrying Mounties (omg, that’s so Canada).
Toronto has not hoisted the Stanley Cup since 1967 and had not appeared in the NHL playoffs in nine years, so it’s safe to say that there was some excitement in Maple Leaf Square when the Leafs had a three goal lead in the third period.
A quick history note: In June 2011, there were riots in the streets of Vancouver after the Bruins beat the Canucks in Game 7. Over 100 people were reportedly injured in the riots, including nine police officers. Two police cars were destroyed.
Unlike in U.S. cities, which typically only riot when their team WINS a championship, Canadian cities were quickly gaining a reputation as the sorest of sore losers. In other words, people were EXPECTING Toronto to riot no matter how it lost, nevermind in the most excruciating way possible.
There was even one fan that brought a sign to a game early in the series which read, “If the Leafs lose, we riot.”
Normally a sign like that would be cause for alarm. “Nuh, uh!,” says I.
The sign was OBVIOUSLY a play on words from the infamous wrestling sign that appeared at a 2006 Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) pay-per-view in which the ragged, pot-smoking hero from the one-time, renegade wrestling company, Rob Van Dam, took on WWE’s clean-cut, cookie-cutter, modern day Hulk Hogan in John Cena.
ECW fans were known for creating hostile environments and that night’s crowd at the Manhattan Center in New York was particularly rowdy (the majority of ECW fans were Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets fans who liked professional wrestling … ’nuff said). Anyways, some brilliant poet in the audience that night summed up the feelings of nearly every “hardcore” wrestling fan in the world: “If Cena wins, we riot.”
It’s a statement that hit home for me. No, not because like most 12-year-old girls I think John Cena is soooo hot and the best wrestler evah (In actuality, I think his PG persona is ruining the fake sport), but because Cena’s mom used to be my school bus driver (no lie) and was one of the kindest souls on this planet.
Mrs. Cena was the furthest thing removed from your stereotypical bus driver. Mrs. Cena was the anti-Lunch Lady in Lunch Lady Land. Mrs. Cena was a saint. Mrs. Cena made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to take home after school … just because.
Therefore, I was a tad alarmed that night in 2006 that her son could very well be stabbed and maimed by a few thousand angry Tri-State area, unemployed, mom’s basement-dwelling 30-somethings if he somehow was able to “win” a fixed wrestling match. I prayed that Mrs. Cena wasn’t watching.
Still, I took away something else from that night: “If Cena wins, we riot” was without question the most creative sign in sports history, fake or otherwise. It was truly unprecedented and kudos to the Leafs fan that brought it back during this Bruins series. Obviously, most onlookers took the sign literally, thinking it would lead to Vancouver Part II. Instead, it illustrated Toronto’s undying love for their Leafs … and the fact that most literate people don’t watch wrestling.
Maple Leafs fans did not follow through on the “promise” written on that sign. And thank God. They quickly dispersed into the night and most are likely now quietly sipping on a LaBatt’s while watching the “Chicken Lady” sketch from Kids in the Hall for the 796,679,374th time.
Sports fans, don’t forget to show empathy to the Queen City today. They deserve your support. They didn’t riot when we were all expecting them to.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS