Hockey means more in Canada than it does in the U.S., especially in Toronto where Maple Leafs fans waited nine years to see their team play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Thousands of Maple Leafs’ fans went home dejected from Maple Leaf Square near the Air Canada Centre on Monday night after Toronto blew a three-goal lead with just 10 minutes to play in Game 7 in Boston, eventually falling to the Bruins, 5-4, in overtime. When photographers and television cameras captured the anguish of the Toronto fans, it wasn’t over-dramatized; they live for the NHL playoffs.
Zachary James Smith, 21, of Rathburn, Ontario was a huge Maple Leafs fan who hadn’t yet reached his teens the last time Toronto qualified for the post-season. Tragically, Smith died in a one-car accident on April 28, just three days before the Leafs played against the Bruins in Game 1.
“He was a real, all-around sports guy,” his mother Norma Smith told the Orillia Packet.
“He was the biggest Toronto Maple Leafs fan you’ll ever meet … He was just so excited that the Leafs made the playoffs this year.”
Smith’s family touchingly made certain that everyone attending their son’s funeral connected him with his favorite team. A classic Toronto Maple Leafs logo and the chant “Go Leafs Go” were printed on the back of his funeral card. A relative submitted a picture of the card to Reddit prior to Monday night’s game. His message:
“…sometimes it’s more then (sic) just a game”