Cup burden on Maurice's shoulders

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

The Maple Leafs love to hype their history when it comes to selling vintage jerseys, spotlighting past stars on game night or flogging classic games on their TV station.

But the 40th anniversary of their last Stanley Cup is a little bit tricky given the steadily growing resentment of fans.

However, the Leafs are not shying away from recognizing the surviving members of the 1967 champions, who will get a special tribute night sometime before March 1.

Only the Chicago Blackhawks have endured a longer drought than Toronto, approaching 46 years. The Hawks have paid a heavy price in recent years with dwindling fan support, with the Leafs' severest critics insisting nothing will change until fans stop packing the Air Canada Centre.

It actually has been 39 Cup-less seasons if you subtract the lockout year, but impatient fans aren't going to cut the team any slack. Not when 2007 dawns with the Leafs out of the NHL's top eight playoff spots before playing the Boston Bruins last night.

The 2,000 Leaf die-hards who drove to Pittsburgh for Friday night's game certainly heard the derisive 'sixty-seven!' chant from the home side fans late in the 4-1 loss to the Penguins.

Fair or not, the Cup burden is now on Leafs coach Paul Maurice, who began the year without a player born prior to May 2, 1967, the night of the last Cup clincher at Maple Leaf Gardens.

"I did not know that," Maurice deadpanned of the anniversary during some good-natured banter on the subject yesterday morning.

Maurice has another significant '40' coming up on the calendar -- his 40th birthday on Jan. 30.

"That would just work, wouldn't it?," Maurice said of properly dealing with one or both storylines in the same year.

"Forty doesn't sound too old when you're talking about it in years in my life (he was an NHL coach at 28), but it certainly sounds like a long time when it gets brought up every day."


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