Leaf fans paint their town blue

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 5:23 PM ET

 TORONTO -- Victor Fraser ("That's with an 's' like the river or the valley," he said) is on his knees outside the Air Canada Centre.

 No, the Mohawk-coiffed artist, known for his murals around town, is not praying for divine intervention.

  Fraser is putting the finishing touches on a 25-foot-high Toronto Maple Leafs logo on the sidewalk along Bay St.

 "I've got the jitters," he said. "You know how they have to get the grip on their sticks? I have to get a grip on the brush.

 "I think it's a good thing they lost the first game. You've got to lose before you can learn how to win," said Fraser.

 Fraser, like other Leaf fans around town, is a little jittery after their club's 4-2 loss to the Senators in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final.

 The talk here has centred on how badly the Leafs played in Game 1 rather than how well the Senators played. The papers have been filled with criticism of Leafs coach Pat Quinn and captain Mats Sundin and the need for Quinn to use the advantage of last change to try and get Sundin away from a matchup with big Senators defenceman Zdeno Chara.

 But Fraser, like thousands of other Leafs fans, isn't afraid to fly the club's colours. Fraser just makes them a little more noticeable than most.

 He's a character who brings added colour to the circus around the ACC in the hours leading up to game time.

 Fraser was born in Ottawa, he said, "and I was adopted after being sold by gypsies, my dad said. I'd like to go back there and find my parents one day."

 He's done a number of murals around Toronto and has done some artwork for the band Pearl Jam. He spent 71/2 hours on his knees outside the ACC Friday doing the stenciling for the logo, the fourth time he has painted the Leafs colours. It hasn't always been smooth sailing for him. He was hauled up on mischief charges when he painted the sidewalk outside the ACC before, but had the charges thrown out.

 "Management is a little uptight," he said, while filling the logo in with white paint.

 "This is the one thing that's free down here. People come down with their entire families and get their picture taken on the Maple Leaf."

 He's right.

 While Fraser works on the logo, the shadow of the ACC slowly creeping across his fine work, scalpers are already working the sidewalk outside the ACC nearby, seven hours before game time. "I hope to get a ticket, but that's all it is, hope," said Fraser.

 There's much more of hustle and bustle around the ACC before a game compared to the Corel Centre. The big difference, obviously, is the ACC is located right downtown. Traffic is heavy around the building.

 There's a steady stream of people around the building, most of them wearing Leafs sweaters.

 Inside, the folks in the expensive seats are attired in business suits and ties, something you don't see much of at the Corel Centre.

 NO COMPETITION

 The Corel Centre, frankly, has a bigger buzz for a Leafs-Senators game than the ACC thanks in large part to the Leafs fans who jam the building. There isn't the competition between Leafs and Senators fans here that exists in the Corel Centre.

 Some would argue there are real fans in the seats at the Corel Centre and not just a bunch of corporate types who care more about networking and schmoozing than actually watching the games.

 Some around the Leafs feel the home side loses a bit of an advantage at the beginning of each period because so many of the fans in the lower bowl linger in their luxury bunkers beneath the stands.

 Rather than getting a vocal and energetic greeting when they return to the ice, they see a bunch of empty seats.

 "People are hungry and thirsty," said veteran Toronto forward Gary Roberts. "Maybe the lineups are too big, I don't know. I've got enough to worry about without worrying about that."


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