This past Sunday came my wedding anniversary: 19. We were married at St. Lawrence Hall in 1992, and I remember walking home in the mild weather to our hotel—the King Edward—where we immediately ordered room service, having been too distracted during the ceremony to eat much of anything. The voice on the other end of the phone told us that the hotel’s chef was in the throes of apendicitis, and would we settle for soup and a clubhouse sandwich between us? We said that would be fine, and besides, it would give me a chance to check Leaf highlights, maybe on SportsDesk at 2 am. There were no iPhones, no instant scores in 1992. Back then, you went to the car and turned on the radio to know what was happening.
I can’t remember what I found on the screen—I can remember, however, that the food was delicious, and that we both passed out before having anything close to a Sean Connery wedding night—but, because it was November, 1992, chances are good that the Leafs had had a decent night. A handful of months later, they’d advance until Kerry Fraser’s blown call in Game 6 of the conference final versus Los Angeles would deny them a chance to play Montreal in the final. The Leafs would get this far only twice in the next 19 years, and if our marriage carried on like most others—struggling to maintain balance, weathering the trials of child-rearing, growing as malleable as we grow old—our winning percentage was better, our lineup more consistent. No one got fired from our championship team of love.
Last Sunday, the Leafs also played on November 27th, this time against Anaheim after a shootout win two days earlier versus Dallas, their surprising equal in the Western Conference. The game started at nine o’ clock, and if its nature wasn’t so different than the one played on our wedding night—19 years later, the NHL is still a trap league, and physical play continues to walk a tightrope between violence and hale competitiveness—the nature of our lives was. Alas, I could barely make it past the middle of the second period, forced into sleep after a week in Alberta and Saturday hockey with the Morningstars. I clicked off the screen and climbed wearily up the stairs.
That said, I went to sleep last Sunday with a feeling that has been foreign to me in the nearly two decades since our wedding: I hit my pillow thinking that the Leafs would win. Having taken a 3-1 lead on a goal by Joey Crabb (Joey Crabb!?!) and with Tyler Bozak scoring his fourth goal in as many games (Tyler Bozak!?!), one sensed that there would be no sad Leaf collapse against an inferior team; no neurotic mid-game defensive posture that would lead to foot-shooting giveaways; and no swiss cheese act by an overmatched, bobble-gloved goaltender. That night at the King Eddie, I’d slept the sleep of death feeling securely in love and confident that I could wander into the unknown depths of my future. Nineteen years later, it was for different reasons that I was pulled safely into the darkness. So far, these hockey nights have been good for all bluebloods. But for aging Leaf fans long down the road of matrimony, the mornings have been even better.