'Worse than swine flu'

JOE WARMINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Snake-bitten and winless!

It doesn't take much for Leafs Nation to slip into deep, dark and seemingly untreatable depression.

Last night's loss to the Colorado Avalanche did not help matters.

"This is worse than the swine flu," yells one fan.

But at least with that there is a vaccine.

They were hoping backup goaltender Joey MacDonald would be the right pill. Or youngster Tyler Bozak.

Not on this night. There doesn't seem to be any cure on the horizon for what ails the Maple Leafs.

It has been a long 42 years of fighting this flu.

All day long The Nation was restless and suffering from the oh-so-familiar symptoms. By the end of the night they were miserable. Zero wins and six losses to start a hockey season can have that affect on Leafs Nation.

It wasn't all bad last night. There was a very nice tribute to the passing of the late great captain Ted "Teeder" Kennedy. His son, Mark, his legendary teammates Gaye Stewart, Fleming McKell, Danny Lewicki, Jim Morrison, George Armstrong and Dick Duff were on the ice pregame.

"Leave them on there," yelled one fan.

That was the first clue there was some anger about this horrible start.

Then came the massive applause when PA announcer Andy Frost told the crowd that goaltender Vesa Toskala was out of the lineup, followed by a rousing standing ovation for current Avalanche and former Maple Leaf Darcy Tucker.

"Bring him back, too," yells the same fan.

The next blight on the evening came in the first period when the visitors took a two-goal lead.

"Garbage," yells fan Joe Cozzy. "Why isn't Nazem Kadri up here? We need to get rid of all of those old guys and get the young guys going."

Then came another loud cheer when Tucker scored -- giving fans something to at least cheer about.

And then there were the fights.

New Leaf Colton Orr has more of those it seems than this whole team has goals.

"The fights are exciting," says Erica Klie. "There is not exactly a lot else going on."

If only the NHL gave out points in the standings for each punch.

Dejection seemed to be the best word to describe the mood of the Hangar -- like the air being let out of tires.

Another word to sum up the mood of Leaf fans is frustrated.

Every conversation has a different solution and every fan has a well-meaning idea of solving this problem.

It's not really a question of trying to get the playoffs anymore. It's now all about trying to win a game.

"Bring in Chelios, Fleury or Shanahan," yells another fan, who adds nobody expects chants of "we are No. 1" but "we are No. 30 doesn't have much of a ring to it, either."

The sounds of boos heard last night were not just for the players on the ice but for coach Ron Wilson and GM Brian Burke, too. Neither have promised a quick turnaround but their very bombastic, and sometimes caustic and confident, presence offered promise to Leaf fans.

It has not translated into much so far and if this were to continue it might be an idea for both to consider stepping down from the U.S. Olympic team duties to focus on righting this teetering ship that pays them both well.

It's not as much about Leaf fans not having patience.

Having not won a Stanley Cup since 1967, few fans in sports have more. It's more a matter that many fans say they don't believe in this particular group of players right now.

"The Leafs stink," says Gary Klie. "I think this coach's time is coming."

He says he "hates" when Wilson throws his players under the bus after every loss and jousts with the members of the media, who a lot of people feel are having a better year than he is.

Sometimes it seems Wilson does have a chip on his shoulder toward the reporters which would be better channelled toward what is going on on the ice. Of course if he was 6-0 instead of 0-6, his approach would be applauded and even replicated.

"Hey, there are still 76 games left," says Kyle Hopman. "And the coach and GM still have four years left. Relax."

It's a fair point and usher of 42 years Andy Masturis, who was on board for the 1967 cup, agrees: "This is a brand new team and we need to give them a chance."

For families like Vito and Louisa Curcio and their children, Anthony, 5, and Nicholas, 3, the booing and catcalls are not for them.

"It's just a great night out as a family," says Vito, who adds whether Matt Stajan is a healthy scratch from the lineup has no bearing on that.

Same goes for Chris Fimis and five-year-old son Panayioti, both of whom are not falling off this bandwagon no matter what.

"Don't stop BeLeafing" was the sign Amanda Cunningham and Cait Woodroffe were holding up.

It seems a lot of fans already have.

Of course as Coach Wilson always says, one win and Leaf fans will be back planning the Stanley Cup parade!

When can Leafs Nation start planning, coach? Maybe after Saturday against the Rangers?

JOE.WARMINGTON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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