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michael

Toronto, ON

In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and the Beach Boys topped the charts with their hit Kokomo, but that isn’t why the year meant so much to me. On October 18, 1989 I attended my first Maple Leafs game. It wasn’t at Toronto’s fancy Air Canada Centre. No, it was at the much tougher Maple Leaf Gardens, a place where if you had the right seats you could rest your drink on top of the shot clocks and the nachos dripped hot cheese all over your hands. I had won the tickets in a community raffle. My choice was either a pair of Leaf tickets or a two hour private pottery lesson. To a ten year old boy from Toronto, who from birth dressed in blue and white pyjamas and was playing his first year of novice hockey, the tickets were the only choice. When my name was announced at the raffle, I thought of how happy my dad would be to see the Leafs with me. I was thrilled knowing that, finally, I would be part of a real, live, Leafs game and not have camera shots blocked out whenever the fans jumped up. Oh the goals and fights we missed back when they broadcasted from the Gardens. On the big night, my dad and I soaked up the pictures that graced the walls of the Gardens. Greats like King Clancy, Johnny Bower, and Darryl Sittler engraved in its revered halls. Wearing our Leafs’ regalia, we balanced our flags and steaming nachos, as gruff old men ushered us to our seats. The Leafs were squaring off against the Canucks. Kordic was not in the line-up that night, but Clark had just returned from a back injury, so I figured there would be some action on the ice. Bester was in between the pipes that night for Toronto and Weekes was at the other end. The organ belted out a combination of Van Halen's Jump and Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water just before the opening face-off and again when Franceschetti’s rough and tumble ethic paid off with the game’s first goal. I was one of the 15,528 fans who jumped to their feet screaming, “Go Leafs Go!” The game was tied at 3 in the third. My dad pointed up to the scoreboard where two animated white gloves were clapping and we both put our hands together and started clapping right along. Soon the entire arena was in unison. “Go Leafs Go!” Seconds later Olczyk let a shot go from an awkward angle and it bounced off Weekes’ pad flying in for the game’s winning goal. Many years later, as a seasoned fan and a more sophisticated hockey critic, I accept that I have no control over which goals go in through intense clapping; but, on that night, twenty years ago, in the mystique of Maple Leaf Gardens, clapping alongside my dad, I really believed I had helped the Leafs score the winning goal
 

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