A Time for Choosing
During the hectic split-second timing of a hockey game, this is a man who took time out to sit beside an old friend who was angry over waffles. His Maple Leafs fans were understandably impatient, but he said, "There aren't many left who care what happens to this team. I'd like this team to know I care." This is a man who said to his 19-year-old son, "There is no foundation like the rock of honesty and fairness, and when you begin to build your team on that rock, with the cement of the faith in the Hockey Gods, then you have a real start." This is not a man who could carelessly send our draft picks to the Boston Bruins. And that is the issue of this hockey team that makes all the other problems we've discussed academic, unless we realize we're in an NHL season where we need to finish out of the bottom five.
Those who would trade our prospects and picks for a quick fix of players in the "veteran" state have told us they have a utopian solution of peace with a Leafs team without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we'll only avoid any direct confrontation with the NHL entry draft, the fans will forget his evil ways and learn to love him and his new Leafs team. All who oppose them are indicted as "haters" or "Laffs Fans." They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer—not an easy answer—but simple: If you and I have the courage to tell our general manager that we want our Toronto Maple Leafs based on what we know in our hearts is morally right.
We cannot buy our season tickets, nor our roster from free agency by simply committing ridiculous contracts like John Ferguson Jr. It would be like saying to a billion human beings now enslaved behind their dedication to the Leafs, "Give up your dreams of the playoffs because to save our own skins, we're willing to make another terrible deal with the Boston Bruins." Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer disgrace to success is prepared for a master, and deserves one." Now let's set the record straight. There's no argument over the choice between playoffs and golf, but there's only one guaranteed way you can have the playoffs—and you can have it in the next season—fire the head coach.
Admittedly, there's a risk in any course we follow other than throwing waffles, but every lesson of hockey history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning Leafs fans refuse to face—that the MLSE policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between lower ticket prices or building through the draft, only between profits or a sale of the organization. If we continue to accommodate, continue to buy season tickets and be silent about our frustrations, eventually we have to face the final demands—higher ticket prices and bringing back Jason Blake. And what then—when Nikolai Khabibulin can shut us out while drunk? When he has told the rest of the NHL goaltenders he knows how easy it is to beat us? He has told them that we never backcheck under the pressure of the opposition.
Someday when the time comes and the Leafs deliver a winning product on the ice, our surrender will be voluntary, because by that time we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. The Leafs believe this because from our side they heard voices pleading for "draft picks at any price" or "the Leafs are Wawful," or as one commentator put it, fans would rather "live hoping Phil Kessel can score more than 30 goals than die with the realization that he's not that good." And therein lies the road to waffle war, because not enough of us have stepped up and made a statement about how unacceptable the Leafs are right now, they feel they still have us under their control.
You and I know and do not believe that hockey is a peaceful sport, nor that our loyalty can be purchased at the price of trading away prospects for a third line prospect (Kris Versteeg). If no hockey team is worth crying over, why have we accepted doing so for the last four decades? Should Brian Burke have told the fans to just accept his decisions, and to live in hockey-fanaticism slavery under MLSE, as long as the Teacher's Pension Plan owns the team? The hockey martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored legends in the Hockey Hall of Fame who gave their careers to try and stop the Leafs from being terrible did not waste their efforts. Where, then, is the road to winning? Where is the same dedication from management, instead of only making sure they met their increasing profits prediction? Well it's a simple answer after all.
You and I have the courage to say to our Leafs players and management, "There is a price we will not pay." "There is a point beyond which, should you advance it, you will be hit by waffles." And this—this is the meaning in the phrase of Waffle Guy's "peace through the strength of waffles." Winston Churchill said, "The destiny of man is not measured by material computations, but by the size of the waffle he throws. When great players are on the move in the league, we learn we're not the destination to which they are moving to." And he said, "There's something going on in Toronto, and has been going on in Toronto for a long time, which, whether we like it or not, shows we're not a prefered destination for star players."
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny and waffles.
We'll preserve for our children and future Leafs fans this, the last best hope of Leafs fans, by throwing waffles when the team does not perform up to standards, or we'll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of missing the playoffs, and likely trading away our first round picks for overpriced snipers.
We will keep in mind and remember that Waffle Guy has faith in us. Waffle Guy has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions to throw waffles and determine our own targets.
Thank you very much.