What I’m about to tell you is incredibly difficult to believe, I know that. But I promise you that, even if you don’t believe me, you’ll enjoy the story I’m about to tell.
On Wednesday, I was shopping at the grocery store that now occupies the former Maple Leafs Garden and, when reaching into the back of a freezer for some cheese-y pierogies, my hand knocked the base of the freezer off and… that’s when I saw it: a time travelling portal.
How I knew it was a time travelling portal is unimportant; all that you need to know is that I stepped through its doors and all of a sudden, I was still in a grocery store, but “Payphone” by Maroon 5 was playing on the radio, and that’s how I knew: I had travelled back in time, to the early 2010’s.
I felt a sense of panic come over me. I went to ask the woman next to me, who was wearing an oversized white shirt and blue cutoff jeans, with wedge sneakers, if she knew what year it was, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t ask her anything I wanted to ask. I couldn’t ask who the Prime Minister was, I couldn’t even ask her about the weather. I stood there like a deer in headlights until the question I needed to ask clicked in my head like a switch: “so, how about those Leafs, eh?”
A short conversation flowed, about how the line of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak were dominating once again. She clearly was a big fan, like me. The fact that she was talking about a whole different Leafs roster was hard at first, but I managed. I mentioned how the line of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin was also doing well, and she said “yeah, but not as good last year.” I was getting close to pinning down the year exactly.
She invited me to the Loose Moose for a drink. I couldn’t say yes; the only affirmative answer I could offer was “hopefully they’ll have the Leafs game on”. It was then that I realized: I can only talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs.
She hailed a cab and we were on our way. I wanted to ask why she didn’t call an Uber, but I remembered that I couldn’t. It’s a good thing, in hindsight, since Uber was not a thing yet.
We entered the Moose, her doing all the talking to the host and me smiling and asking more about the Leafs, it was clear she knew something was up. Her supremely curious nature was the only thing that kept me from getting ditched. We sat down for a drink and, here’s how that conversation went.
HER: Something is off about you. What’s your deal?
Me, exasperated: I am from the future.
HER, laughing: Yeah, okay.
Me: I’m actually from the future. The year 2022 to be exact.
Me: I’m getting the sense it’s 2012. Is that right?
H: Is there someone I should call?
M: Ask me something about the Toronto Maple Leafs only someone from the future would know.
H: That doesn’t make any sense.
M: Well, I can only talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs, for some reason.
H: That makes even less sense.
M: I promise you, I can tell you about the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ask me anything that you would like to know.
H: Okay, fine, I’ll humour you. Other than your words making no sense, you seem sane enough. We’re paying Kessel a lot of money and he doesn’t seem like the leader we need. Does he ever win the Cup while we’re paying his contract?
M: Oh. Um… yes. Partially.
H: The Leafs win the Cup with Phil Kessel??
M: No… the Leafs trade him to the Penguins and retain some of his salary to make it work. Then he wins the Cup there. Twice.
H: Phil Kessel is a star player, they would never have to retain salary to trade him.
M: Well… they did.
H: Okay, crazy person. Tell me about the 2022 Maple Leafs, then. How many Cup have they won?
M: None. The rebuild hasn’t been as successful as we had hoped.
H: I got that sense when they fired Ron Wilson last week.
M: So it is 2012! And, well, no…. not that rebuild. The next one.
H: There’s a next one? So they have to rebuild these Maple Leafs again? What an unmitigated disaster.
M: This rebuild is still going well, I’d say. They have real star players like…. well, you’ll learn about them in time.
H: They’re making the playoffs, right?
M: Yeah… you would think that would be good, but they haven’t won a playoff round.
H: Not a single one??
M: Not one. They even missed the playoffs once, on a bit of a technicality when..
I try to talk about COVID and nothing comes out. My only conversation piece is the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think: is this a dream, or a nightmare?
H: When what?
M: It’s not important. Hey guess who scored for us in our last game?
H: Joe Colborne? He seems to be the next Joe Thornton!
M: Oh wow. No, not Joe Colborne. But Joe Thornton did play for us last season!
H: Wow! That must have been special.
M: It wasn’t.
H: Was it him who scored?
M: No, he plays for the Florida Panthers now.
H: That sucks for him. They’re terrible.
M: Well, actually… they lead the Eastern Conference right now.
M: Yeah, they’re really good.
H: So who the [expletive] scored then?
M: Jason Spezza.
H: That’s pretty cool. It must be pretty expensive to have all these veteran stars play for the Leafs! Classic Toronto. Overpaying for guys who are past their prime.
M: No, actually they want to come to Toronto and play for league minimum contracts.
H: *chokes on her sip of Moosehead* what??
M: Yeah, all the home town players come to play for Toronto now.
H: What like Steven Stamkos and John Tavares? Never going to happen.
M: Well, not Steven Stamkos, though we tried. We did get John Tavares though!
H: Wow. If they have Tavares and Spezza leading their forward group they must be doing pretty well.
M: They are doing very well, but Tavares is their third or fourth best forward. Spezza is a fourth liner with Wayne Simmonds. Actually, Wayne assisted on Spezza’s goal last night, and so did Mark Giordano.
H: We have Wayne Simmonds and he’s a 4th liner?? And we have Mark Giordano?
M: Yeah and TJ Brodie too!
H: That’s insane. You’re insane.
M: Want to know what’s even weirder? We aren’t even playing them on the same pairing.
H: There are too many specific details for this to be entirely bull[expletive]. But it’s all so weird!
M: The Toronto Maple Leafs are weird. You’re going to hate them a lot over the next little while. If I can offer some advice… beware the 2013-14 playoffs. It will not be a good time.
H: Do I want to know?
M: The Leafs hold a 4-1 until 10 minutes left in the 3rd period of a game 7 and… they lose.
H: Well that’s the most believable thing you’ve said so far.
M: Trust me… it will feel pretty unbelievable when you live it.
H: Right. Because you’re a time traveler who can only talk about the Leafs. So I should believe that all this is going to happen.
H: Anything else I should be ready for?
M: Mostly pain.
H: That sounds about right. Check, please!
M: You’re leaving?
H: Yeah, I have to go post on HFBoards about this insane experience.
M: Wait you have to do one thing for me. Tell Dave Nonis not to sign David Clarkson!
H: Even if I believed you, no one would listen to me. So… no.
It was at that moment the bar around me faded away. I felt like I woke up, with my hand still reaching for those pierogies. Did it really happen, or did I have some lucid dream? Is there some alternate universe where the Leafs don’t sign David Clarkson and instead re-tool with a focus on the future… leading us to never getting any of the players we have now? Perhaps. Perhaps in that alternate universe, I don’t exist anymore, and that’s why I faded away.
Regardless, I urge you all to be more careful when you’re grocery shopping. You never know when you might slip an increment of 10 years into the past, only able to discuss the Toronto Maple Leafs, like I did. I will certainly try not to let it happen again…. *dramatic music plays in the background*
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