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COLUMN: Singing the proud Leafs blues

With the conclusion of the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the friendly – and sometimes not so friendly – taunts were everywhere over social media, with, as always, a disproportionate number of them aimed at fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The most stinging comments, of course, arrived courtesy of Montreal Canadiens fans, who take an almost unnerving delight in the Leafs failures and the misery of their fans.

For the next calender year the number 51 will be an important one to Habbies fans, as they gleefully remind Leafs fans how many years it has been since Lord Stanley's Mug last paraded down young street.

Fair enough. No rivalry has been as intense as that of the Leafs and Habs for the past century. And, they deserve to get their digs in, even they don't quite hold the same weight coming from fans of a team that was outside looking in – by a wide margin – from this year's playoffs.

But the digs and jives from fans of the other Canadian teams is a bit mystifying, especially when you consider just how long it has been since the Leafs previous Cup victory (1966-67), yet each and every one of those clubs has to – if I may borrow a line – look up, way up, at the Maple Leafs when it comes to Stanley Cup triumphs.

But the thing that has this card-carrying member of Leafs Nation perplexed, is how many of these fans turn around and expect Leafs fans to cheer for their team because they're the only Canadian team left in the hunt.

Excuse me? Um, no. Not going to happen.

I hope the Nashville Predators bite the tail off of the Winnipeg Jets and have them crashing back to Earth as quickly as possible.

And one of my favourite Leafs of the past decade is one Mr. Phil Kessel, who I hope earns his third straight Stanley Cup ring with the Pittsburgh Penguins this year so I can send a genuine message of 'you're welcome' once again to the Penguins fans I know.

When it comes right down to it, those who cheer against the Leafs really can't lose. If their own team can't do it (eh, Habbie fans), then they just cheer for the next team, or the team after that, and then gloat gleefully over Toronto's demise.

Cheer for the other team because they're Canadian? Please. The only Stanley Cup I care about ever coming back to Canada (hopefully in this lifetime) is the one brought home to Toronto by the Leafs.

This is the NHL, not international competition. There's as many Canadian players, if not more, playing on each of the other seven teams still standing as with the Jets.

Our (Toronto) rising star and soon to be team captain, Auston Matthews, is an American. Hello!!!

So whether it be the Canuckleheads from Vancouver, the flash-in-the-pan Jets of Winnipeg, the not-so-hot Flames of Calgary, the always delusional Habs, the so-far-behind-they-think-they're-ahead Oilers of Edmonton (loving that Taylor Hall trade by the way), or the Senators (giggle, how appropriate) of Ottawa, the only Canadian team I cheer for in the NHL is the only one that matters to me – the Toronto Maple Leafs.

And, knowing the Leafs are steadily moving in the right direction makes the number 51 seem a little less menacing somehow.

A friend was teasing me awhile back – a Habs fan (sigh) – that I'm a scaredy-cat because I'll never take a wear-the-other's-jersey-for-a-day bet with him when Montreal plays Toronto.

Please!!! It would literally, not figuratively, but literally, burn my skin. Not gonna happen.

At this time, I exercise my right as a diehard Leafs fan to holler at the top of my lungs – just wait until next year!

In the meantime, GO PENS GO!