With the upcoming NHL season a few weeks away, it’s the one time of the year when all is equal.
Fans across the country are optimistic and hopeful heading into the new season. Every team dreams that the “diamond in the rough” will come to fruition. Who will be the biggest surprise? We as fans know there will be a dud, an injury or just bad luck. Those thoughts are buried for the time being.
Maple Leaf fans know that since the Gardens opened November 11th, 1931, was succeeded by the Air Canada Center February 20th, 1999, opening night, is the one night all to itself.
The appearance of the 48th Highlanders today takes the older fan back to how great it used to be. It has the newer generation asking their dads who are these guys in the skirts playing bagpipes.
The older generation may even reflect before expansion that the Stanley Cup Champs opened the season with a game against an all-star team made up from the other five teams.
Today the first games at the ACC are games made up of players who will never play a real game in the NHL.
The crisp air with winter approaching would bring the familiar sights, sounds and smells on opening at the Gardens. The smell of chestnuts roasting from the popcorn carts set up around the building. The ticket scalpers whose voices seemed familiar had a more distinct sound of confidence and hope. The streetcars clinked along Carlton. The sidewalks jammed with fans pouring off the streetcars and out of the subway, moved at a hastened pace with a “jump” of excitement in their step.
Once inside the smell of fresh paint couldn’t override the aroma of popcorn, cigarettes and hotdogs. The hotdogs even tasted better on opening night.
The program sellers were distinct and loud. The ushers and usherettes looked sharp in their freshly pressed uniforms.
Everyone on opening night had the feeling of “maybe this is the year”. From the players to the ticket takers the sense of pride sent a buzz through the building. It was contagious. The older generation can recall that opening night was the first live game for them to start the year. Today the Leafs will play eight exhibition games, have a mini camp, rookie orientation camp and even rookie tournaments. It’s all also covered by every source of social media. The up to the minute coverage can be overwhelming at times but every fan is tuned in so they wont miss the latest news item.
Fans attending opening night at the ACC today have numerous decisions to make. Babysitters, who’s driving, dinner, drinks before, who they are sitting with, what will they wear, should they pick up the new Leaf jersey at Leaf Sport tonight or wait? Maybe just wear the old jersey.
But back in the day, opening night at the Gardens, the Leafs were all that mattered.
The in game experience today is so much more advanced. Highlights of every goal and key play are shown on the overhead scoreboard. The out of town games if not shown on the scoreboard, can be viewed live on a smartphone. With fans engaged in fantasy pools and such, up to the minute information is paramount.
There are many differences between today and the past.
The world we live in today demands up to the minute information but it does dwarf the innocence of the unknown.
However, the one consistency that will never change on opening night, is we are tied for first place.