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My Leafs Story: How Mats Sundin, Jeremy Williams & Morgan Rielly turned me into a Leafs fan

Hey Leafs Nation! My name is Brendan and I’m one of the new writers for theleafsnation.com! I’m super excited to start providing content for you guys to read! I thought the perfect way for everyone to get to know a little bit about me was to share my story on how I became a Leafs fan.

I was born in October of 1998 in Brampton, ON, with my parents naming me after this Brendan Shanahan guy. Both of my parents grew up as Maple Leafs fans and of course they passed that down to me. My dad played baseball growing up, but still had an affinity for hockey. His favourite player growing up, like many at the time was Darryl Sittler.

The day I became a die-hard fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs was on March 7th, 2006. My mom and dad got tickets to see them play the Montreal Canadiens. When they came back from the game, they gave me the game program. From that day forward, that game program became my Maple Leafs bible. I probably read through it hundreds of times as a kid, memorizing all the names of the players on the team and their stats up to that point in the season. There was definitely a point in time where I could recite all of that back to you without hesitation, but if you asked me to recite my multiplication tables, I would have struggled.

October 14th, 2006 is the day Mats Sundin became my favourite player. For those who don’t recognize the significance of this date, this is the game where Mats Sundin scored his 500th career goal. I was seven, almost eight at the time and at a relative’s house for a belated Thanksgiving dinner. I remember sitting on the couch in the living room next to my grandma and watching the game unfold. When Sundin scored the Overtime winner to complete the hat-trick, I sat there in awe at how sick that goal was. After that game, I declared Mats Sundin to be my guy.

The first NHL game I went to was on February 17th, 2007. The Edmonton Oilers were in town and my dad managed to get tickets for us. Our seats were located in section 312, row 18. After pulling up a 3D map of Scotiabank Arena, I can confirm that is the very last row of seats in the arena. For a kid who had never seen the Leafs play live, the seats were more than okay for me. My dad and I ended up sitting next to two guys from Edmonton who came to see their beloved Oilers play. Kudos to both guys as they kept their drunk chirps and banter PG throughout the whole game. The Leafs ended up winning the game 4-3, powered by two goals apiece from Mats Sundin and Johnny Pohl! Remember that guy?

I feel like everyone has that one random player on their favourite team that they love for no reason. My guy was Jeremy Williams. Williams had played one game with the Leafs in each of the previous two seasons (2005-06, 2006-07), scoring a goal in each game. My terrible player projection and scouting abilities led me to believe Williams was the next big thing. On November 1st, 2008 I had my birthday party at a Toronto Marlies game. They lost 3-0 to the Lake Erie Monsters, but there was an autograph session with Jeremy Williams afterwards. He wished me a belated happy birthday and signed my ticket stubs. 10-year-old me was on cloud nine after getting his autograph.

The story of how I became a Morgan Rielly fanboy goes like this. At minor bantam I ended up playing for a new hockey team. First practice, my new coach comes up to me and says that on his teams, everyone has a nickname. At the end of practice he declares my new nickname is Mo. My new nickname ended up catching on pretty fast and quickly spread like wildfire. By the time I was a senior in high school, almost everyone called me Mo. Nobody questioned it, everyone just went along with it. When word first got out that Morgan Rielly’s nickname was Mo as well, I knew right  then and there that he was my new favourite player on the Leafs. It didn’t hurt that he is pretty good at the whole hockey thing too.

Fun fact about my coach from that season. He is the guy interviewing Mitch Marner in this video from when he was a kid. 

My all-time favourite Maple Leafs game is Game 3 from the 2017 playoffs against Washington. My friends and I from college went down to Maple Leafs Square to watch the game. That was the first time I was at the square for a game. The atmosphere at the square was unreal and the game itself was spectacular. Coming off of Kapanen’s double OT winner in Game 2, the Leafs fought back from down 3-1 to win 4-3. Matthews and Nylander scored their first ever playoff goals, followed by Tyler Bozak capping off the comeback with the OT winner.

All of these stories have in one way or another led me to this point. It’s a dream come true to be able to write and talk about my favourite NHL team and I can’t wait to get started.