Kevin Armstrong The Hockey Writers
Canada Day is John Tavares Day for Maple Leafs’ Nation
Happy John Tavares Day! Or happy second anniversary Maple Leafs and John Tavares – either way, it’s something to celebrate.
For Leafs fans, it’s one of those moments that you remember how you found out, where you were and who you told first. I was mowing the lawn in preparation for Canada Day festivities. My phone started vibrating with notifications. I ignored it at first, but then it kept on vibrating, actually shaking with excitement. I stopped in the middle of the yard and pulled out my phone. The screen was full of all caps messages and celebratory emojis. Still, it took me a minute to figure out what was going on.
Tavares Signs with Toronto
Then I read it: John Tavares Signs With the Toronto Maple Leafs. Wait, it’s Canada Day, not April Fools’ Day, right? It was hard to believe. This was something that was speculated about for a while. But let’s be honest, every available player is rumoured to be coming to Toronto. Heck, even players who are not available are somehow coming to Toronto.
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It was just one year prior that Leafs Nation was positive Steven Stamkos was coming home. I remember an intermission report near the end of that season, where the experts were showing what the lineup would be the following season. It included Stamkos and Jimmy Vesey, another shoo-in for Toronto. Back in 2011, Brad Richards was supposed to be signing with the club. In 2007, Petr Sykora was apparently coming to Toronto.
The sun was shining, and it made it very difficult to read my screen — I kept turning to shade the phone and navigate to credible sources, but I couldn’t stand still. My phone was blowing up with text notifications from Leafs fans and haters. In Canada, you really are one or the other; there is no in between.
Tavares Signing Immediately Moved Up Toronto’s Window to Win
Between the love and the hate – I was trying to connect the dots. What does this mean for Toronto? The first thing I realized is that one signing just gave the Leafs that much needed 1-2 punch. The Tavares and Auston Matthews combo matches, if not surpasses, any in the league. I also realized Toronto didn’t have to wait for a leader to emerge from this young group.
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However, you couldn’t help but notice a lot of zeros on that contract. I started to sweat, maybe it was the yardwork or maybe it was doing the math in my head. I was trying to calculate how Toronto would be able to sign Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander while signing some pieces to the defence with this massive contract on the books.
There I was, pacing around a half-cut lawn, talking to myself, trying to read a small screen, my excitable German Shepherd, Ragnar, following my every move. He knew something was up. I ran into the house and announced, “Tavares signed with the Leafs!” Silence. My family is not sports-inclined, but this was a big deal. Surely they would understand what this means. I yelled a little louder: “Tavares signed with Toronto!” My wife looked up from a book and said something along the lines of “Oh, that’s nice.”
Tavares Stats Tell the Story
I’d spent too long trying to convert her into a sports fan, so I ran up the stairs to find my offspring. They have my blood, they would understand. I burst open the door to my 12-year-old daughter’s room, “The Leafs got Tavares!” She pulled her earbuds out and said something like, “Oh.” My 9-year-old son emerged from his bedroom and said, “Dad, did you know –” This was it, my son was going to spread the Tavares news! Then he continued, “the Canada Day fireworks are at 11?”
“All right,” I yelled, “family meeting, everyone to the living room.” I had accepted my family’s lack of interest in sports a long time ago, but they were going to understand how big of a deal this is. As they begrudgingly came to the living room, I was calling up Tavares highlights on YouTube. It was time they learned who John Tavares is. I told them about the gold medals he won at the World Juniors and the Olympics. His incredible stats from his years in the Ontario Hockey League, and his point-per-game production on some pretty terrible Islanders teams. They seemed moderately excited — which is a win with this bunch.
Later that day, I returned to the lawnmower in the middle of the half-cut front lawn. Everything was exactly as I left it, but the world had changed —Tavares was home.
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