The NHL is a protected ecosystem that allows thirty teams to exist when far fewer are economic under true market conditions. 9 years after the first lockout effectively removed the Leafs from contention by (handi)capping its lineup, a second lockout reignited some Stanley Cup dreams, by admitting the Leafs to the post-season predicated on a reduced denominator resulting in an increased standard deviation and therefore the role of luck. Of course, a seven-game series is hardly won by luck. A team that is twice as good will only lose 17% of the time. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the Maple Leafs are on the cusp of reasonably assured destruction (only 8.7% of teams have achieved a comeback from trailing 3-1, nhl.com).
As a hockey player in my youth, my interest in the Leafs peaked in 2004. They had assembled an all-star line-up including triumvirate of Sundin (though injured), Mogilny and Roberts supported by star defensemen Kaberle and McCabe as well as Cujo-replacement Belfour, Nieuwendyk from the Devils that had expelled us one year earlier, Nolan by a last-minute trade from the Sharks, and crowd-favourite Darcy Tucker. The team racked up over a hundred points and defeated the senators for the second straight year in the first round. It lost to the Flyers, what is largely considered to be an upset. Worse, the champion was not one of the five competing Canadian teams, though Calgary did make it to the final.
As a younger person, the draw of sports is benign. It is even helpful in nurturing teamwork, determination, and most importantly, the acceptance of defeat. Sports is a high predictor of future success, more than where a university degree is from. But sports also has an evil side. It is a distraction from what matters in life. It is a modern day release valve for the wars not fought and the build-up of cave-men, hunter-gatherer testosterone. The unglamorous side is exemplified by the riots in soccer stadiums and the incident in Vancouver that seriously damaged our nation’s good reputation.
Sports is an opportunity to turn off the brain and join the bandwagon. Beer guzzling fan(atic)s are modern day Colosseum attenders hungry for a good fight. In the worst case, it is ascribing your own happiness not to your own accomplishments but to the accomplishments of others. Whether they win or lose, you have absolved yourself of any responsibility. I myself found this fourth playoff game a pleasant distraction from issues that require action. But it is a short term fix; when they lose, your problems will not be fixed. You just have less time to deal with them.