Girls just wanna be Leaf fans

HIMANI EDIRIWEERA -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:53 PM ET

 Hockey is just for guys -- or at least it was the last time the Leafs won the Cup.

 In the past 40 years, the game has changed considerably, along with its die-hard fans.

  Last night at the Air Canada Centre for Game 5 of the Battle of Ontario against the Senators, almost 50% of the house were women, some with male companions, some without.

 "It's awesome and I think more women need to get involved -- and not just at playoff time," Jodie Boltuc, 20, said outside the ACC. "It's better to get involved at the beginning of the season so you're not just a part of the final hype."

 Boltuc, of Milton, and friend Pam Hrick were decked out in blue and white with little hope of getting into the arena. Infected with the Blue Virus, they were happy to just be in proximity of the team and watched the game at the tailgate party.

 "People are very accepting of female fans and there's no stigma attached to it," Hrick, 20, said. "But that's only if you know the sport you're watching because it just gets annoying to people if you don't."

 Hrick, who's studying in Ottawa, said she enjoys its hatred toward Toronto's team.

 "It's great being a Leafs fan in Ottawa. It really stirs up excitement and it's a perfect rivalry," she said.

 Ali Slaight, 15, cozied up in her platinum seats in the moments before the game's start.

 EXCITEMENT CONTAGIOUS

 "I've been a big Leafs fan for about three years now," she said, adding the Leafs disease is contagious. "I really think the team is going to do well this year. I can't say all the way, but definitely well."

 The disease has also hit Mayte McVeigh, 32, who was decked out in a flashing Leafs pin, a jersey and a tattoo.

 Asked how she got into the sport, the native of Mexico pointed at her husband accusingly.

 "It was partially my husband and partially that I missed soccer," said McVeigh, who moved to the city two years ago. "The thing I like most about hockey is that it's so fast."

 Some women didn't just catch the disease -- they were born with the spirit of hockey running through their blood.

 "I've been watching hockey since I was a little girl," Jen Esford said. "I've always been told that boys like girls who understand sports and those that can enjoy sports alongside them."

 Esford, 20, said her father is a Canadiens fan, but she adopted the Leafs because she lives in Guelph, so close to Toronto.

 "I think the excitement around playoff time is great, and it's so much more fun if you understand the game," she said.


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