My sister Patricia picked the perfect game to be her first in attendance as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, a condition she was born with and has happily nurtured all these years since. She’s only heard stories about the Leafs when they were easy to root for, a child when they last won the Stanley Cup. When a trip to the New York area fell in her lap, around the same time as a Leafs game against the Islanders in Brooklyn, she bought tickets and invited me to the game.
The way they’d been playing since the All-Star break had me tempted to suggest we go bowling instead of to the Barclays Center, but on the heels of the donneybrook in Boston two nights earlier, where they eked out a 6-5 win after squandering a 4-1 lead, I was eager for the tilt, with the apprehension that goes along with being a diehard Leafs fan, in check. (Photos by Patricia Pistono – click ’em)
We were in time for the pre-game warmups, right behind the Leafs bench – and en route to our seats in the upper deck, we decided the sit twenty five rows up, center ice, until told to move, and spent the entire game there – best seats ever! During warmups I pointed out who to keep an eye on, starting with Matthrews, Marner, and Nylander, of course.
So, we ended up with great sight lines for what is becoming an all-too-familiar pattern: second game in a row letting in opposition’s first shot; several passages of dominance, 4-2 lead slips away – Willie Nylander nets a hero go-ahead goal with 2 minutes remaining, Isles tie it 30 seconds later then win in OT. All in all, a typical game from this team, but we got to see goals by the top 3 hotshots, plus a short-handed tally by the rookie Zach Hyman, and a rare tally by the scrappy Nikita Shoshnikov. Oh yeah, it was Bobby Nystrom bobble head night too, so there were parting gifts!
Coming next? My first Leafs game – April 8, 1963, 3-1 over Detroit Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup at Maple Leaf Gardens!