A victory was in the (paper) bag

JOE WARMINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

The Stanley Cup may not be in the bag for this season but some frustrated Maple Leaf fans were half in it last night.

And others were just using them to cover their faces -- and disgust -- as the Leafs were winding down toward their first win in weeks, 5-4 over Carolina.

The most prominent was in Section 114 where two fans 10 rows up donned paper bags with eight minutes left and even turned their Leaf jerseys inside out.

"We love the Leafs but this is to protest the season," said Chris Groenendyk.

"We need a change," said Mark Barbosa. "This says we need a change."

Up in the purples they cheered. In section 313 there were rows of people also wearing paper bags and chanting "Fire JFJ" and "Fire Peddie."

It wasn't too loud. But it was certainly the loudest I have ever heard it there.

But not every fan approved.

"It's just not right," said fan Nicole Seguin, who tried to rip the bags off fans' heads.

Whatever way you feel about it, the appearance of the bags did sum up the frustration Leaf fans have been feeling this season.

Meanwhile, it looks like fans will have to wait for a management change as long as they have waited for a Stanley Cup.

In fact, what started out for hockey scribes as a night waiting outside the gallow doors of John Ferguson's box became more like waiting for the announcement of a trade -- something the embattled Leafs GM alluded to in a fascinating second-period interview with Rogers Sportsnet's Darren Millard.

For a guy on the ropes, he sure seemed composed and if he was about to be fired -- as everybody in the building was thinking -- nobody told him. In fact, he talked of having meetings with several teams and working on a trade "to shake the team up a little."

Speculation last night had everybody from Darcy Tucker to Bryan McCabe going to the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.

Sometimes what you hear is not the way it shakes out and team president Richard Peddie is driving the gossip crowd nuts by not relieving his once protege from his duties and replacing him with a Cliff Fletcher, Scotty Bowman or even Punch Imlach from the grave.

I saw Hockey Canada's Bob Nicholson down there last night so there's another rumour.

Fans on call-in shows with Andy Frost on AM 640 or with Stormin' Norm Rumack and Roger Lajoie on The FAN 590 are also demanding changes.

But they may have to wait because Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment doesn't operate at the behest of the media or react just because someone says you are supposed to react.

They can handle a few fans wearing bags since the bags they respond to are filled with cash.

As brave a face as he is putting up, the admirable John Ferguson Jr. must feel enormous pressure, sitting there in the box with the jackals all around waiting to pounce. He looks like such a likeable guy that you hope he has a bag of tricks somewhere to turn all this around.

But unfortunately he reminds me of a bug caught in a spider web -- still alive and wondering when that beast is going to finish him off.

But not so fast.

As of last night he was still the GM and there is still life left in this season.

And nobody knows that more than Leaf legend Gaye Stewart -- a member of the famous 1942 Leaf team that came back from a 3-0 deficit to win the Stanley Cup. A lot of people counted that team out too.

"You never quit," said Stewart, who will be 85 this June. "When you do that, you never know. You just keep playing."

Who knows? Maybe Ferguson makes a trade today and this season can be salvaged.

Or maybe you are wondering what it is I am drinking inside that paper bag?


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