Registered: Sep 2014
Local time: 08:05 AM
TORONTO - The Toronto Raptors will celebrate their 20th anniversary in the NBA by bringing purple back -- for a few games, anyway. The team announced Thursday it will return to the original purple jersey used by the Raptors in the 1990s for select home games during the 2014-15 season. "We are excited to bring back a piece of team history as part of our 20th anniversary celebration," said Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri. "Our fans have shown affection for the original purple uniform and I think our players will enjoy the chance to wear them next season." When you grew up in Ottawa, back in the days before the Sens, you really had just two choices when it came to NHL teams to cheer for: the Habs and the Leafs. If I could afford a therapist, I imagine the good doctor would tell be that my affection for the Leafs was part of an ongoing and pathological need to be alone and unhappy. Though, quite simply, its more likely that its because thats what was on local TV in Ottawa. I admit I could be wrong. I dont have a PhD. Thats right. I was a Leafs fan. I had a Leafs sweater that I slept in, that my dad bought me after some endless whining in the aisles of a Canadian Tire. An Allan Bester poster hung above my bed. I wore number 9 in Little League because of Russ Courtnall, and I may have cried when he was traded to the dreaded Habs for John Kordic. My parents werent sports fans, but they let me bring an old black and white TV into my room to watch Hockey Night in Canada, to fall asleep to the third period charms of Bob Cole and Harry Neale. I cant often remember my postal code, or where I lived in 2009, or the name of that girl, but I easily recall the names of Dale Degray, Peter Ing, Brad Smith, Ken Yaremchuk, and Dan Daoust, forgettable Leafs from a forgettable era.The arrival of the Ottawa Senators coincided with the arrival of my first love. Well, the first reciprocated love. Fittingly I used this sea change to shift my affections to the Sens, whose losing was familiar but who provided a new hope, a virginal slate upon which to build a new love. The Sens got better, but love did not. Like it tends to, it left, mostly my doing, as I had found affections for all sorts of other things one does as they enter their 20s.The Sens and I remained true to each other, even though I carried the relationship. I lived in Vancouver for a few years, but never felt any connection to the Canucks, nor for any West coast girl. Well, there was one girl, but she left me for my best friend. In that manner, she was not unlike the Sens. All kinds of promise, ending in sure disappointment; the better looking, more mature Leafs beating the Sens in the playoffs year after year.With both the Sens and the Leafs the pain was the same: expectations were crushed by reality. No matter what I did, season after season they hurt me. They left me alone in June, as other teams and their fans moved on to full playoff beards, Cup parades, and what I can only assume is happiness.Years passed. I moved back to Ottawa. I watched hockey less. I dated seldom. I grew a playoff beard in January. My mother worried. She had nightmares that I was floating through life without RRSPs, without a mortgage, without a wife, and without kids. My dad seemed to understand, even though he wasnt much for hockey. I moved to Costa Rica. My beard got longer. My tan was superb. Televised hockey was difficult to find. Beer was cheap. There was no fear of commitment, because everyone was transient, moving on, moving forward, or at least sideways.But the rains came and I returned to Canada, but this time to Montreal, a city that truly appreciates the lovelesss.dddddddddddd A city where the bars are open late, and life exists only in the present. And I found myself watching hockey again, with people who didnt know about my past, about the Leafs and the Sens, who didnt know of my failings in my mothers eyes. And I found myself cheering for the Montreal Canadiens, the longtime enemy of both the Leafs and the Sens. Outwardly I was a fan, but inside I was in turmoil. I felt like I was cheating on myself, as if I was committing hockey adultery, even though I was single and every team I ever loved sucked.And then came 2010. And a magical run through to the Conference Finals. And Halak signs. And PK Subban. And overtime wins. And there was a girl. A girl I loved. And for a brief moment I thought about breeding, about ceremony, pageantry, making my mum happy, a parade down Ste. Catherine, about my dad in a tuxedo, about rings.But, as hockey and love have taught me, all good things end in horrible, crushing, debilitating disappointment sometime in June. The Habs lost to the Flyers, and someone else won the Cup, and Halak was traded, and the girl left because I was afraid she might not, and summer arrived with condolence beers and late nights on terrasses and waiting for next year. Always next year. My mum didnt say anything, but I could see her deleting imaginary grandchildren in her mind, and transferring familial hope to my sister and her young family.And life went on. Seasons changed, both on the calendar and the NHL schedule. I still rocked a playoff beard, out of both laziness and hope, so Id be prepared in case of victory. The Habs sunk back to middle-of-the-pack mediocrity. The Leafs and the Sens lived in that same ether. My mum would send me promotional materials for post-graduate programs and ask how my married friends were doing. My dads tuxedo remained in the back of his closet, dry-cleaned and at the ready. I still watched Habs games, but my interest has waned, my commitment faltered.Then, two weekends ago, I was having a few adult beverages and watching the Sens and Habs battling each other in an important late-season game. It was like watching the past fight for your affections. With just under four minutes left, it looked like the Sens had the game won. But the Habs scored once, twice, and a third time with only .3 seconds left to tie it, before winning it in overtime.So buoyed by the victory, and spirited by the spirits, I headed out to the local to meet a friend and celebrate the victory. And in the back of the bar, a bar cheered by the win and the hour, was the girl from 2010. And we talked for a bit. And she asked about my folks. And we smiled when youre supposed to smile. And we spoke longingly about spring coming. And after a silence, and a pause, she had to leave, and as she did she looked back and said, "Maybe Ill see you soon." Maybe. And maybe the Habs will make a run, and my mum will stop worrying about matrimony, and my dads tuxedo will be content in its stasis, and maybe I will see her soon. That wouldnt be so bad. Better than being a Leafs fan. ' ' '