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  • Nikhil Majumder-Singh

The Time I Fell in Love

A Personal Anecdote

By Nikhil Majumder-Singh
Posted on November 1, 2023
a pair of hockey shoes for Toronto Maple Leafs fans
Cover Image Title: Toronto Maple Leafs
Cover Image by: Vi Jha
Classification: Digital Art
Specifications: 1024 px X 1024 px, used Ibis Paint
Year: 2023
Location of Creation: Orlando, Florida

My heart pounding in my chest, my hands clenched into fists of sweat, my legs uncontrollably shaking in suspense, my face resolute and stalk-still, refusing to display even a crack of emotion, obscuring the truth of my fear. Beads of sweat rolled down my forehead and into my shifting pupils, as they mechanically followed the ceaseless bound of a hockey puck, as it darted back and forth in a whirling cycle, over and over again, while the score clock simply ticked on.

The events leading up to this moment had taken place over thirteen years of passion, dedication and excitement for the Toronto Maple Leafs, my favourite team, of my favourite sport, hockey. A team infamous for their failures, mocked by rival fans, and castigated year after year by their own fans, myself among them. We couldn’t take it any longer. This time, we thought, nothing would stop us. After six years of first round flounders, and of disturbingly losing in the most painful fashion imaginable, it was finally time for redemption. Or at least that’s what I had told myself after each and every disappointment. Unfortunately, such a dream hadn’t yet come true. As the sharp cry of a whistle was played through the television before me, I thought back to all I had seen over the past few years. How was it even possible? How was it that a club built for success on paper, with a squad of players that achieved such high levels of regular season success every year, could fall so agonizingly in the first of four possible rounds come spring?

After five consecutive seasons of being blown from the rink to the golf course in the final game of each series, it was arguable that the Leafs’ best playoffs remained the time they were beaten in only six of seven games. That first year to trail the barrage of squanders, had been the most satisfying to witness. After failing to achieve the playoffs for a number of years, and hitting rock bottom, the team had finally managed a sprinkle of success. This success was largely due to their misfortunes, allowing them to acquire the top draft pick of 2016. The Leafs’ management had assembled a team of talented young stars in the making, and though they had narrowly clawed their way into postseason hockey, the Leafs had put up a dogfight in the first round, and managed to drag the best team in the league to six games and five overtimes, defying expectations with two exhilarating victories. So after such a valiant and heroic effort, as the media had chosen to capture it, the premature wave of positivity would begin, with headlines predicting bright futures for the team and fanatics leaving on so-called “bitter-sweet” notes, unaware of the impending hurricane of disaster.

I shook my thoughts away as the run of play resumed. “Enough of the past, I thought. The focus is now”. As I sat motionlessly in the dim light of my grandmother’s living room, my father and brother intently examined the television, all of us hoping for a moment to explode from our seats. It was game six of seven against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the same team as last year, in the same building, where just like last year, it had gone to overtime. Deja-vu flashed through me, as I remembered how it ended a year ago. Because eerily enough, like last time, the Leafs were up by one game in the series, giving them a chance to win. A year ago they had blown it, and blown it again in game seven at home, so this time my fingers were crossed in frantic hope they would avenge their defeats. The Lightning, though conceding home ice advantage to the Leafs both times they faced them, had achieved the Stanley Cup Finals for three years in a row and had won the elusive Stanley Cup itself in two of them. Thus, they were as formidable an opponent as the hockey Gods could muster. When it came time to win or lose everything, it was the veteran squad’s determination and experience that always seemed to provide them with the killer-instinct to pull through, something Toronto has constantly been accused of lacking.

As my eyes darted from side to side, John Tavares, the captain of the team, and hometown acquisition from the New York Islanders, knocked the puck from the grasp of another player’s stick and circled behind the goal. Tavares then passed it to line mate Matthew Knies, who had been playing minor hockey at a tournament with the University of Minnesota only two weeks prior in the very same building. I saw an opportunity developing as Tavares received the puck again before circling in front of the opposing net. As a defender covered him, however, he turned his body to release a weak shot on goal, and the opportunity had been squandered, in my opinion. But as the puck lightly bounced off the padding of one of the best goaltenders in the league, Andrei Vasilevskiy, it seemed there was still hope. My eyes widened while the puck moved painstakingly slowly, and the seconds ticked away like hours as in a moment of frozen time, the puck had leaked across the goal line. I could not comprehend what just happened, my expression could not even process it, but my body moved instinctively to its feet, and the feral cry that left my lips was only by muscle memory. Before I knew it, my brother, my father and I were locked in a leaping embrace of pure bliss, as the curse of nineteen years without winning a playoff round was lifted from us with screeches of ecstasy. It felt like a dream, but one I did not want to wake up from, as the blue and white maple leaf emblazoned upon the chests of so many we had devoted our lives to had finally billowed on beyond the month of April. And in that euphoric moment, for the first time in my life, I knew the taste of true love.

[ * The End * ]

[ Writing Editor: Nikky Kroeger ]


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