I remember seeing you in the garage at a very early age — a large blue flag hung above the window, with a big white leaf in the middle. 

I always wondered what it meant and who you were. However, I never paid much mind to you — at least not until a few years later when I attempted to find a genuine love for hockey. 

I tried to learn the ins-and-outs of the sport and connect with the players. But it just wasn’t working. I randomly picked a team to support that was sitting high in the standings — I thought that it would make me happier as a fan. But my love for hockey was just not blooming. 

Years passed, and I realized I wanted to move to Toronto in the future. I fell in love with the city and began romanticizing what it would look like one day when that dream came to fruition. 

But that’s also when it finally hit me. That flag that I used to see sitting in our garage as a kid was the Toronto Maple Leafs flag. What an unlikely choice for my dad to hang in the garage, as my family lived in Alberta. Nevertheless, it was at that very moment I knew it was meant to be. 

I didn’t realize the trials and tribulations I would face as a new Leafs fan. The team had such a strong fan base, yet had not been capable of capturing the elusive Stanley Cup since 1967. At that time, they hadn’t even managed to pass the first round of the playoffs in 19 years. So why would I support a team that never seemed to capitalize on so many opportunities? 

It’s because it was so easy to connect to the Maple Leafs. I could feel the true connection that each of those players had with each other. And I can witness that love every night the Leafs hit the ice. 

I don’t think I realized the love I had for this team until April 29, 2023. As I was sitting at the kitchen counter, watching the stopwatch slowly drain away, our captain, John Tavares, suddenly scored, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2–1. We won — the drought was over. The words “they finally caught lightning in a bottle” came out from the television, and I jumped with excitement, tears streaming down my face. Moments like this run through my head to this day. It was that feeling of finally knowing that we’re competitors in this league —  that this team has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. 

I’ve experienced the pain of watching players get traded and flourish with their new team. I’ve watched players get injured, and I’ve also seen players go through some of their worst career slumps ever. But that disappointment and frustration only lasts for a short time before you realize that being a Leafs fan is so much more than that. We are unlike any other fans in the world. With our passion, respect for one another, and competitiveness, we radiate such an excited energy that you cannot resist continuing to cheer for the Leafs. 

This season, I watched as our star goalie, Ilya Samsonov, began to crumble. He lost his spark. The fanbase, his teammates, and the coaching staff could have simply given up on him. But we didn’t. 

It’s in moments like these that I truly realize that my support for this hockey team runs deeper than purely enjoying the sport. It is the emotional connection you build as you learn more about your beloved hockey players and staff daily. Whether you support them during their journey to a possible 70-goal season or attempt to uplift and nurse back a goalie who seemingly lost his confidence, I am always aware of the love that runs so deep. 

To me, being a Leafs fan has become less about winning and more about enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong — I’d love nothing more than to watch our boys in blue hoist the Stanley Cup over their heads, declaring victory. But in the meantime, I go to sleep every night looking up at that big blue flag with the white leaf hanging on my wall, thinking about the team that truly stole my heart.