These fans were born to suffer along with Leafs

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:47 PM ET


 Legendary defenceman Bill Barilko and iridescent owner Harold Ballard have been associated with a couple of Maple Leafs Stanley Cup "curses" through the years.

 But as the hockey club enters its 37th spring in search of a title, a London, Ont., orthodontist and a Pickering auto mechanic wonder if they hold the mystic connection to the second-longest Cup drought in National Hockey League history.

 Lui Redigonda and Anthony Moretton were two of 42 births in Toronto recorded in The Telegram on May 2, 1967, the day of the Leafs' most recent Cup win. Both grew up to be huge hockey fans, but their birthdates gain more significance as they and the team's losing streak approach 40.

 "In my late teens, I started to think about the connection," Redigonda said on the phone from London. "I thought it was the Ballard curse, but now I think it's on the other end with me."

 But don't mention that to Lui's father, Emilio. As far as he was concerned, Lui's arrival in the world was a good luck charm for the Leafs that night against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the final. After wife Mary had given birth to seven-pound Lui at Northwestern Hospital, Emilio and a group of friends from his construction company, who shared season tickets, went to the Gardens to watch the clinching game.

 "I just remember getting very, very drunk," Emilio said. "A son and a Stanley Cup. It was great."

 Whether Moretton's birth, also at Northwestern, came before or after George Armstrong's empty-net goal sealed the Cup is in dispute. But the former MTHL player used to have a sense of unseen forces at work whenever he watched the team on TV.

 "The Leafs would be winning, I'd leave for a while, come back and they'd be losing," he said with a laugh. "I thought, 'If I hadn't gone, I wouldn't have jinxed them.' But I don't have time to watch much hockey now. I have a family (wife Christine, daughter Jessie, 3, and 18-month-old Jake). All I watch now are cartoons.

 "But it would be great if they could pull it off it this year and win for the city."

 When Curtis Joseph started with the Leafs in 1998, there was reason to think he was the missing talisman. Of the hundreds of players in the NHL Guide and Record Book, he has the nearest birthdate ril 29, 1967 -- to that Cup win. When he chose sweater No. 31, the star gazers in Leafland were overjoyed. At the time, it was the exact number of years as the curse and was a combination of the 30 and 1 that Leafs goalie greats Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower wore that year.

 But Cujo, too, departed empty-handed.


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