Resolving Theseus’ Paradox- Introducing: The Maple Leafs Alphabet

Danny Gray
April 30 2012 11:02AM

I am a fan of this team.

My grandpa was a lifelong fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. I am a lifelong fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Were we cheering for the same team?

Theseus’ Paradox asks that if an object that has had all its parts changed or removed is fundamentally the same object. It is based on a story first told by the Ancient Greek Philosopher Plutarch-

"The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned [from Crete] had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same."

—Plutarch, Theseus

NHL franchises are like The Ship of Theseus. Players, coaches, and GMs come and go. Teams are completely demolished and rebuilt, some even move to different cities. Very little remains constant.

Most people don’t consider the current Winnipeg Jets to be the original Winnipeg Jets despite playing in the same city, with the same name, and in front of the same fans. It’s not as though the same team that left is playing elsewhere. While the franchise moved to Phoenix it bears almost no resemblance to the one that left. Despite this everyone acknowledges, however begrudgingly that the current Jets are not the same Jets that left in 1997.

The current incarnation of the Toronto Maple Leafs bears almost no resemblance to the team that existed forty or even four years ago. Aside from the crest on the front of their jersey the fans are the oldest part of the Toronto Maple Leafs. While they have played in the city of Toronto over the last 80 years they have changed ownership a number of times and moved into a completely new building. Is the only difference between Winnipeg and Toronto the fact that the Leafs only moved down the block?

The key difference between The Leafs and the Jets is that there have always been players in Toronto to connect the old team with the new incarnation. Kulemin played with Kaberle, who played with Sundin, who played with Gilmour, who played with Clark, who played with Sittler, who played with Salming, who played with Keon,

You can keep going until you reach the original roster. It is the players who connect one another that ensure that despite all the changes the Toronto Maple Leafs that we cheer for are the same as the one founded in 1917.

As a way of remembering those players I’m going to go through the alphabet and choose one player, coach or GM for each letter. Some figures will be familiar, others-depending on your age- more remote, but each has played a role in making the Toronto Maple Leafs one of the oldest, most storied franchises in the NHL.

Stick Tap to Amelia L  of Silver Seven Sens for the inspiration for this series. If you want to get to know the Sens from A-Z head on over there. 

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Danny once met Doug Gilmour and it changed his life. Had he met Bret Hart the same day he would not have been able to handle it. He can be found on Twitter @ACatNamedFelix.
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