Something I Learned Today

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We here at Cox Bloc get so wrapped up in the excitement of the Toronto Sports Writing scene that we often forget about those reporters and columnists that somehow exist outside the centre of the universe. Lest we get tarred with that common smear about being smug, self-satisfied pricks who don't know about anything happening outside of the 416, we've decided to mount up and venture into the cold, barren wasteland that constitutes the rest of the hockey world and see what  the provincial Mittenstringers are saying.

First up we have the Kingston Whig Standard's Jan Murphy.  I have nothing but respect for Mr. Murphy's anger, belligerence, and insistence on addressing a terrible injustice:

For whatever asinine reason, the Leafs have four Saturday nights off over the course of this season. I'm not 100% certain, but I'd go out on a limb to bet this is the first time such a travesty has occurred.

During a brief discussion with Whig sports editor Mike Koreen, I mentioned this abomination and he down-played it like it wasn't a big deal. The Leafs, he said, are rebuilding, they are not drawing TV audiences like they used to and the CBC and the league are looking elsewhere.

Thanks for the explanation. Maybe there is even some truth to that.

But guess what? I don't care.

There is no excuse for this, as far as I am concerned.

Damn right. If Till or I had bothered to address Hockey Night in Canada's stubborn refusal to show the Leafs every Saturday night this season, we would have dug around on the internet for ratings numbers and tried to prove that it is bad business to show anyone but the Leafs on Saturday night. Instead, Mr. Murphy follows U.S. Associate Justice Potter Stewart's maxim about porno ("I know it when I see it") and just calls bullshit. Respect.

A little further up the road, the usually spot-on Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette threw his hat in the ring for the previously unheard of "Best Working Class Howard Impersonation" contest

Then we have the mighty Maple Leafs. Some day, someone will write a really interesting book about the psychology of Leafs fans and some of their media cheerleaders, who strut and bluster despite decades of failure.

The Canadiens have won 10 Stanley Cups since the last time the Leafs held a parade that mattered, and yet every time you mention the team, Maple Leafs fans go ballistic and start shrieking about how the Habs haven't won since '93. I don't know, maybe they can't afford calendars, so they don't understand how far back 1967 really is.

Mysterious media cheerleaders? Check. Wildly inaccurate generalizations about Leafs fans? Check. Entirely made-up encounters with those same fans? Check. Someone has cracked Howie's code.

The saving grace of Todd's column is this little anecdote about Mikhail Grabovski:

When Grabovski was left out of the lineup for the Canadiens' 2007-08 home opener, he appeared in a suit for the opening ceremonies, then vanished from the building: several fans reported seeing him with his girlfriend at a downtown sports restaurant in Montreal, where Grabovski spent most of the evening chatting on his cell phone, ignoring both the girlfriend and the game his teammates were playing.

We'll file this one under 'yeah, he's a bit of a dick, but he's our dick'.

Something called MLive in Michigan recently rekindled a debate that only appeals to a certain type of hockey-loving footy fanatic:

Maple Leafs fans would argue that they're the "Manchester United" of hockey, but Red Wings fans have fewer conditions (not using the word that describes a vacuum's operations) and offer a real and honest chance to see games.

Well, Manchester United wins a lot of trophies, so I don't think you'll see many Leafs fans making this comparison. Sure, the Leafs are well-supported and have a history of success (emphasis on history), but any comparison with United ends around 1988. I don't know what the fuck this dude means by fewer conditions, but the Red Wings are about as close as it gets to United in the NHL. They haven't reached quite the same success, but the Red Wings have been consistently at or near the top of the NHL for 15 years. The Devils are close, but they don't have Detroit's ability to fill up the bandwagon - a major concern when trying to find a Man U comp.

Other comparisons are easier to make: Liverpool's NHL equivalent is clearly the Montreal Canadiens. There's the same owner, the red uniforms, the unmatched history of success , era-defining rioting,  and a recent resurgence after a decade in the wilderness. On the other hand, Liverpool won the Champions League a few years back, while all Leafs fans know that the Habs HAVEN'T WON SQUAT SINCE 1993!!! YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT!!! 15 YEARS!!!! I'VE GONE BALLISTIC!!!!!!!

Unfortunately, the easiest comparison is between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Newcastle United. Both teams are well-supported with a proud history and a sad-familiarity with batshit crazy owners (Freddy Shepherd manages to pull off the amazing double of having strong similarities to both Harold Ballard and Richard Peddie). Most importantly, neither team has won jack-shit since the late 1960's.

One major difference between Newcastle United and the Maple Leafs would be that Newcastle fans are generally pitied but respected, while Leafs fans are universally loathed. Yep, from Montreal to Michigan to Calgary, Leafs fans are the butt of easy jokes. Like this one from the Calgary Herald: 

- Derek Wilken of Calgary, on a poll being conducted to find the greatest natural wonders of the world: "Canada's entries include Niagara Falls, Alberta's Dinosaur Park and the faith of Toronto Maple Leafs fans.''

I'm sure it is supposed to be an insult, but the way I see it: Leafs Nation = Wonder of the World. Cheers Derek.

We often make fun of Damien Cox around here for his habit of contradicting himself, sometimes within a week, and on the odd occasion within a day. Well, unbelievably, we managed to find a guy who can complete the Cox-cycle in one single column. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...well...his name doesn't appear on the column...which is I present to you: some Mittenstringer from the Standard Freeholder in Cornwall:

I have much respect for a guy who, if you believe the rumours and innuendo, left a lot of cash on the NHL table, left his pro hockey career behind, to come back to his hometown to be with his family and raise his children.

I get that. So do others. Like one of Chad Kilger's neighbours I bumped into yesterday, who was out walking his dog in the brilliant icy sunshine. We agreed that Kilger had had a fairly long and lucrative NHL career, had every right to walk away from it to be strictly a family guy.

We agreed that Kilger is/was under no obligation to explain himself publicly, explain his sudden departure from the NHL 10 months ago, if he chooses not to.

That's small-town Canada for you. Guy wants to be left alone? Leave him alone. Unlike that big-city, fast-talkin', suit-wearin', original Mittenstringer-of-the-Year-winnin' Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. You see, a few weeks back Simmons wondered "Hey, whatever happened to Chad Kilger?" and dredged up the old masseuse rumour that followed Kilger out of town last year.

Apparently Kilger was a bit pissed about Simmons's column, and that anger extended to the Standard Freeholder which runs Simmons' syndicated Sunday Brainsqueeze. Of course, we all agree that Kilger is under no obligation to explain himself publicly. Which explains why the unnamed columnist from the Standard Freeholder turned up on Kilger's doorstep to get some answers and had the door slammed in his face by the hockey world's version of Desiree Cousteau.

Kilger is angry, very angry, apparently, that the local paper ran the Simmons column.

I feel this way about most Simmons columns, and none of them, to my knowledge, have contained allegations about me cheating on my wife. Well, anyway, Kilger is under no obligation to explain himself, so let's close the door on this one, eh guys.

And it's misguided anger. Should there be anger directed at Simmons? Mmm . . . it's a stretch.

Anger at how the whole situation has been handled? That's better. The ramifications of silence can be deafening.

Anger directed at the local daily? For running a column that appeared in the major papers in one of the largest media chains in North America? Anger at the Standard-Freeholder, a part of the Sun Media company, for making the easy and obvious decision to run a column that had been read by many people in Cornwall and area when it had appeared in the Ottawa Sun?

Wait...the easy and obvious decision for the Standard-Freeholder is to run content that people have already read in other publications? Like Reader's Digest? Or a David Pratt column?

Anyway, Chad wants to be left alone, and luckily for him, the local unnamed scribes are willing to grant his wish. Except when they, you know, come knocking on his door looking for answers. And, if Kilger decides he doesn't want to talk, well we all agree that Kilger is/was under no obligation to explain himself publicly, explain his sudden departure from the NHL 10 months ago, if he chooses not to.

Right? Unknown soldier of truth?

Me, and the Standard-Freeholder, and all of you readers not in the Kilger inner circle who aren't privy to anything but all of the rumours that are out there, got a terse sentence and a shutting door.
Thanks a lot, Chad.

Woah. From "he doesn't need to explain anything" to "fuck you buddy" in just over 500 words. Top that one Damien.

And, just because I can't link to things in the title, here is some dude dancing to Husker Du.


This is why you jerks need to post more.

It's weird being a wonder of the world though. Are people going to stop us to take pictures with us all of the time now? That could get more annoying than seeing Habs fans get all worked up about their Cup drought sneaking towards double digits...Wait, that is actually pretty fun.

Dick RiPietro said:

We have established my dislike of all things blue and white but seriously..Why do all these "journalists" talk about how much the leafs don't matter and how their fans are blind sheep, but they keep printing the columns. You don't see Calgary or Detroit papers talking about the Coyotes fans. If the leafs really don't matter then stop fucking talking about them.

Gaul Pardner said:

Great entry, but isn't attacking Jan Murphy a little easy? Fish in a barrel, I says. The guy used to write a pro wrestling column for the Whig, a ginormously shitty newspaper. He'd watch SmackDown, then recap it for the paper. You can barely call him a sportswriter.

Kim Jorn said:

Hey Gaul,

I didn't think I was attacking Jan Murphy. I thought his column was kinda funny, and I really did like his visceral reaction to the HNIC situation. Sometimes you just know something is wrong, and you don't need facts to back it up.

I didn't know he was also a wrestling columnist! That only increases my respect for him. And hey, whatever happened to that guy who used to write a wrestling column for the Toronto Star?

Metal Circus was Husker Du's finest hour. Well, probably not an hour. More like 12 minutes.

Oh, wait I can't comment here any more.


Wohn Jensink said:

think of all the ruined careers and self-loathing screeds that would occur from a Leafs Cup win...the horror the horror


Dick RiPietro said:

Norm Decosta was the wrestling guy from Star. I used to live for his column back in the days before Internet and when I was to poor to get PWI or any of the other Apter mags.

LeafBoy said:

re: Cornwall...

Being from Cornwall, I know that the Standard Freeholder is a rag. But despite the fact that they are owned by Sun Media, they rarely show Steve Simmons articles. This one was an exceptional case (relevant because they are talking about Chad Kilger who is from Cornwall, in fact his dad is the mayor). Was not handled very well as you can see. They need to rethink publishing Steve Simmons articles (and they aren't the only ones who need to rethink that!).

As for the Simmons article, most of the content in it is stuff that I know to be untrue. Which actually is not surprising for a Simmons article.

Kim Jorn said:

Hey LeafBoy,

Fascinating stuff. I'd be interested in hearing more about how you know what Simmons wrote is untrue. If you can share, feel free to send me an email at if you don't feel comfortable sharing in the comments.

Derek said:


You totally missed the point on the joke I gave about the Leafs being a Wonder of the World... I am a Leafs Fan and just because we comics make fun of the team does not diminish the love we have... everyone thinks people who write jokes are being mean... how about a different view.... we are pointing out the stupid way owners, managers and players try to deride the game we love... Not everyone has to be an ass kissing sycophant to love their team... try reading jokes as they are intended... I'm pretty sure if you went to a Comedy Club you would laugh even though you may not always agree...

Kim Jorn said:

Hey Derek,

Thanks for commenting. It is good to know that you meant the joke in the way I took it (I only assumed it was an insult because it appeared in the Herald). I might be a little thin-skinned sometimes, but I blame that on all these years I've spent cheering for a team that everyone loves to make fun of.

Trust me, we've learned to laugh at the Leafs, and I don't think we could ever be called ass-kissing sycophants. Thanks again for stopping by, and I hope you stick around.



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This page contains a single entry by Kim Jorn published on January 27, 2009 5:42 AM.

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