Every year there are Maple Leafs fingerprints on the Stanley Cup.
You just have to get far away from the centre of the hockey universe to see them.
For all the ridicule and dashed hopes the Leafs have brought on themselves, all the years they've put their loyal fans through the wringer, including this year's awful start, many success stories around the NHL can be traced through Maple Leaf Gardens, the Air Canada Centre and the team so many love to hate.
Sun Media checked the employment rolls of all other 29 teams, as well as the NHL's head office, and found at least one Leafs connection, whether to the parent team, its past farm clubs or the now extinct Marlie juniors.
"The way I look at it, every general manager, coach, player and trainer should spend time with the Leafs in Toronto," former Marlies junior and Leafs assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. "When you win it's terrific, when you lose there's lots of pressure. Some can handle it, some can't. But you have to experience it."
Kitchen is now assisting former Leafs draft pick Peter DeBoer with the Florida Panthers on a club that has former fan whipping boy Bryan McCabe on its blue line.
"It's amazing the number of people from Toronto you see along the way," said Kitchen, who departed Toronto in 1998. "In the past few days I met Rick Wamsley (now with St. Louis) and we got caught up on a bunch of stuff. Around the league there's (Colorado coach) Joe Sacco, whom I used to coach and (his assistant) Sylvain Lefebvre. We had great teams and good times under Pat Burns."
There are nine head coaches with Leafs ties: John Anderson, Randy Carlyle, Paul Maurice, Joel Quenneville, Marc Crawford, Pat Quinn, Bruce Boudreau, Sacco and DeBoer.
But few Leafs depart town without some kind of burn marks from the media glare. Early in his Leafs career, fourth-liner Wade Belak once mused in public about asking for a trade and it was news for three days, with one radio station doing a skit about him.
"Many people who left Toronto probably brought their ulcers with them," Belak, now an enforcer with the Nashville Predators, said with a laugh.
"Everyone here asks me (and teammate Steve Sullivan) what it was like to be there, to be in the circus. Here, every little thing isn't dragged out for a week. If we don't score a power-play goal for a couple of days, no one really notices. I can just imagine what it's like for the Leafs this year; the team is rebuilding, but the people want results now and they can't wait.
"They've blown up our team now, and guys like Darcy Tucker (Colorado), Andrew Raycroft (Vancouver) and myself are all dispersed in the Western Conference.
"If you survived Toronto, you can survive anywhere. I had some great years and, after the lockout, my way of dealing with it was to have fun. But I was lucky. People weren't looking at me to score. At times you felt bad for the guys who were."
A few ex-Leafs were knocking on the door of the Cup while still with Toronto. Burns gave an informal news conference during the 1993 playoffs in an exercise room where the combined coaching staffs of the Leafs and their St. John's farm club were on stationary bikes. Peddling to their own posts that day were four future NHL head coaches: Kitchen, Mike Murphy, Quenneville and 1996 Cup winner Marc Crawford (Colorado). Burns won it 10 years later with New Jersey.
"We thought we were going to play Montreal for the Cup in '93," Quenneville said. "I think Toronto and (general manager) Cliff Fletcher in particular taught us a lot about how to treat people and that helped us go far."
Of course Trader Cliff and his penchant for dealing certainly helped swell the ranks of ex-Leafs. From 1991 to 1997, the Leafs media guide lists 83 separate transactions under Fletcher's watch.
Colour analyst Jim Ralph, who played in net on the farm team in Newmarket, says it's a breeze finding ex-Leafs for intermission guests on AM 640 radio games.
"You go to something such as the Hall of Fame induction and see how small that Leaf world is," Ralph said. "If you went through Toronto it's like you went to a top college or were a first-round draft pick, a good label to have. Maybe it didn't work out for you, but because it was Toronto, five or six employers still want to take a shot with you."
For former goalie Tim Bernhardt, now amateur scouting director for the Dallas Stars, the Leafs connection has taken a generational twist.
"The fascinating thing for me is now I'm scouting Steve Thomas' kid, Rick Vaive's, Bill Root's, Peter Ihnacak's kid. And when I go out on assignments, I bump into Terry Martin, Brad Smith and other guys I played with.
"We didn't have a great team (during the mid-1980s under Harold Ballard), but I loved the buzz of a Saturday morning skate with all the Hockey Night in Canada people at the Gardens.
"What I learned (for his current job) was not to rush players, not to slight anyone and be careful who you trade. I haven't had too much time to talk to (new GM) Joe Nieuwendyk about our experiences in Toronto, except what a fishbowl it is for the Leafs. Here, we can quietly develop kids.
"But I have to thank Jim Gregory and Frank Bonello (architects of great Leafs and Marlies teams) for giving me my start at NHL Central Scouting. I'm sure they had a soft spot for me because I was a Leaf."