July 17, 2019

Twenty Fine to Eighty Hate?

It is the middle of July and hockey fans are starting to lose their minds and get anxious without hockey to watch. That is the case in Toronto, where hockey always leads the sports section no matter what time of year it is. You may be thinking to yourself “well the Leafs must have signed or traded Marner or maybe even that rumoured offer sheet has been drawn up.” Well you would be wrong; this installment of chaos has been brought to us by William Nylander; did he get traded? Nope, he changed his jersey number!

This is what Toronto sports fans have chosen to argue about. Nylander was a trending topic across Twitter as a result of this. Why it was trending was another strange situation all together. Nylander posted to twitter that he was changing his number from 29 to 88, which he wore in the in the Swedish league. The reason he has received so much hate is because he has taken the jersey number of Leafs “legend” Eric Lindros. The 33 games Lindros played for the franchise is causing ire to ripple through the corners of Leaf fandom…

Why are people getting so upset by this?

Lindros is a legend but not for the Maple Leafs and his number is not an NHL wide retired number like Gretzky’s 99. He is also not the only player in the NHL to wear such a number; Kane in Chicago, Pasternak in Boston and Vasilevskiy in Tampa Bay (who is a goalie mind you) all rock the number 88. 

What gets me is that no one even flinched when Mitch Marner went from number 84 to number,16 which previously belonged to the beloved Maple Leaf Darcy Tucker. That would have been most understandable if fans got upset but not for this, Eric Lindros was a huge player in the NHL, but he was on his last days when signing with the Maple Leafs. This was also in 2005 and the fans screaming about it on twitter probably do not even remember that season, if they were born at all. 

The best part of this whole “story” is that William even offered to re-crest any fans number 29 jersey with the 88 at the Leafs official store, Real Sports in downtown Toronto. A complete class-act from a player that understands that jerseys are not cheap and most fans would not be happy if they just spent between $200-300 on a jersey with their favorite players name/number on the back only to have it outdated in less than a year (my brother is one of those people). However, instead of applauding the gesture from the young Maple Leaf he was destroyed by most fans on social media to the tune of “overpaid” and “who even owns his jersey?”

Welcome to a slow news day in Toronto, where the change of a jersey number causes chaos and a mass divide among fans in the city. The center of the hockey universe is an odd and crazy place and whenever I think Maple Leafs fans have reached their peak; they never fail to surprise.

At least for one day we did not talk about the Marner contract, right?

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