This is where it all is. It’s not easy playing here. It’s a great organization, great fans, but there’s a lot of pressure. And it can get to you.
~ Jason Blake, shortly after his departure from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Blake was miscast as a top scoring forward and his contract was an albatross on the team (thanks JFJ!), but being a scapegoat for the team can take its toll. What was once thought to be impossible, Blake was traded to another team. For his part, Blake was noticeably relieved as well. Fans tend to forget how much pressure there is when playing in a significant hockey market where big money already precedes one’s reputation. Truth be told, I have a lot of respect for Blake. Despite many instances where he could have snapped at the pressure and lashed out in the media for not playing with more talented line mates or being relegated as a 4th-line checking player, he never once complained about his role on this team. Never mind that Blake’s departure was much needed. Hockey-wise, the Maple Leafs made out like bandits trading him and Vesa Toskala for Jean-Sebastian Giguere. But for Blake to thank the fans personally in his interview knowing how many people wanted him gone? That speaks volumes of his character and I can truly say I hope he does very well, in lieu of his overpriced contract. (via National Post)
At the beginning of the year it was brutal and at the end of the year, we had to have police escorts to our cars after games because the fans were so excited. The city was just on fire. It’s a tough thing, when you’re (in Toronto) and losing. It really is tough. But, man-oh-man, when things are going good. There’s no place you’d rather be.
Former Leafs player Russ Courtnall recalling the 1985-1986 season when the Leafs started the year 1-12-3, but finished the year sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and taking the St. Louis Blues in the next round to seven games before ultimately losing. (via Toronto Star