The Toronto Maple Leafs may arguably be the most popular hockey team in Canada. They have a long history, spanning back about 105 years.
Some treat the Maple Leafs as hockey royalty because they are one of the "Original Six" teams. Others, however, may treat them as a laughing stock because of their recent struggles.
But, there is one thing for sure. That is that the Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the best fan bases in all of sports.
Those fans will stick by their team through thick and thin, and the Toronto area lives and breathes hockey because of it.
Some from the outside looking in may wonder how it got to be that way? What makes the Maple Leafs what they are today.
Here is everything from the past, present, and future that you need to know about the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As said above, the Maple Leafs are iconic in the city of Toronto but arguably in all of Canada. This goes back to the beginning of their existence.
The team was founded in 1917 and was not even called the Maple Leafs in their first years of existence. At that time, they were named the Arenas, and they had immediate success winning the Stanley Cup in their first year as a hockey franchise.
Then, they won one more as the St. Patrick's and eventually changed their name to what they are known as today, the Maple Leafs, in 1927.
That idea was to the credit of Conn Smythe, who acquired Toronto after a failed attempt at keeping the New York Rangers the year prior.
One of the best runs this franchise ever had was in the 1940s. During this decade, they took home the Stanley Cup five times!
That includes a stretch where they won the Cup three years in a row (1946-49) and five out of seven years.
There was one more period where the Maple Leafs had a real dynasty. This was in the 1960s when they brought the Stanley Cup back to Toronto four times within that decade.
Altogether, the Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup 13 times in the franchise's 105-year existence. On top of that, since 1927, they have been named after what is arguably the national symbol of Canada in the Maple Leafs.
As you can see, Canadian parents and grandparents probably have fond memories of this hockey team at their best. Unfortunately for younger fans of the Maple Leafs, they have not been as fortunate.
Why is this? Because the Maple Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967. A lot of Maple Leads fans are still waiting for that elusive first Cup in their lifetimes.
One of the big storylines last season from a fan perspective was when fans were finally going to be allowed to come to games again since Canada took a longer time to start allowing fans at larger indoor venues than the US did.
Last year, they basically went the entire season without fans. The only exception to this was when Toronto allowed 550 fully vaccinated healthcare workers into their arena for Game 7 of their playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens, a game in which they went on to lose.
Going into the 2021-22 regular season, news on that front seems to be a little more hopeful for Maple Leafs fans. At one point, it was looking like teams in Ontario were only going to be allowed about 1,000 fans.
Now, it appears that they may be allowed as many as 9,500 fans to go inside their arenas.
Last year, some can argue that Toronto was missing that home-ice advantage in the playoffs because of COVID protocols. During normal times, Scotiabank Arena is one of the best places to watch a hockey game in the entire world, with the place rarely having trouble selling a seat.
As for the team itself, there are questions to answer. Kyle Dubas, the youngest general manager in the NHL, has even admitted that his job could be on the line if the team does not take a step forward this season.
One thing fans have been keeping an eye on in that note is if the captain, John Tavares, is fully recovered from the devastating concussion and knee injury that took him out of last year's postseason series vs. Montreal.
If he is, then Toronto is still expected to have one of the best rosters in the league.
Fans have been waiting for about two years now to see a hockey game in Toronto live. Well, the wait will soon be over.
The regular season starts on Oct. 13 for the Maple Leafs with a home opener.
Who are they facing? None other than the Montreal Canadiens of course, who knocked them out of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, overcoming a 3-1 deficit.
Unlike the last two seasons, the 2021-22 season is expected to have a full 82-game slate. What does that look like for the Maple Leafs?
Well, they do not leave Canada for a while, with four of their first five games being at home and the one road game is not even outside of their province, that being in Ottawa.
Their first road trip of the season will be a challenging one. On Oct. 23, they go to Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, then to Carolina on Oct. 25, and then off to Chicago on Oct. 27.
There is also an interesting home stretch at the beginning of Nov., where they face Vegas, Tampa Bay, and Boston, all of whom made it pretty deep into last year's playoffs.
There are two noticeable things about this schedule that is not normal for an 82-game season.
The first is that in February, there is a 23-day stretch where the Maple Leafs do not play any games. Why is this?
Because of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The NHL has allowed its players to participate in this, so the league will be taking about a three-week break from play to accommodate this.
Toronto plays its last game before this on Feb. 1 at New Jersey and then starts back up on Feb. 24 with a home game at Minnesota. Because of this, their regular season will end later, on Apr. 29 against Boston.
As of the time of writing, the 2021-22 NHL regular season has not started yet. However, two preseason games have come and gone, both against the Montreal Canadiens.
What were the results? The Maple Leafs won the first preseason battle 4-1 but then lost 5-2 when there was a re-match on the road.
If it feels like the Maple Leafs have played their arch-rival Canadiens a lot lately, it is because they have. In last year's playoffs, the Maple Leafs were devastatingly eliminated by them, blowing a 3-1 series lead.
Toronto lost the first game of that series 2-1 when captain John Tavares took a devastating hit that resulted in a concussion and knee injury which took him out for the rest of that series. For revenge, the Maple Leafs won the next three games and took a commanding 3-1 series lead.
But then, they could not close the deal. They lost the next two games of that series in overtime, then lost Game 7 at home, the first game with any number of fans live at the arena, by a score of 3-1.
They were the top seed from their division, playing the lowest-seeded Montreal there. On top of this, Montreal ended up making a run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
As stated above, this was supposed to be one of the best teams in the NHL last season. This year, they still have most of their familiar faces.
Their roster is led by captain John Tavares and young superstar Auston Matthews.
Last year, Matthews was the league leader in goals scored with 41 in just 56 regular season games. The next highest amount was 33 by Connor McDavid.
Matthews is questionable to start the regular season with a wrist injury but it is not looked at as a long-term issue. Then, there is Tavares who had 50 points last season (19 goals, 31 assists).
The 12-year veteran has proven to be reliable when he can play a full 82 games, scoring over 80 points per season in his career when he plays all 82.
Another guy to watch on this Leafs roster is Mitchell Marner. He led the team in points last season with 67 (20 goals, 47 assists). His showing last season also put him in the top 5 in assists and points for all players in the NHL.
The rest of their first line includes the likes of left wing Nick Ritchie and defensemen Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie. One notable veteran deep in their lines is Wayne Simmonds. However, some may question how much he has left in the tank, considering he has just 34 points in the last two seasons combined.
Finally, there is goalie Jack Campbell. In his career, he has never really had a full season where he was the definitive starting goalie.
Last year, he started 22 games in the regular season and won 17 of them. He allowed just 2.15 goals per game.
Ah yes, the famous logo which dates back a long way. Some may question why the team does not have a red and white logo like the Canadian flag?
Well, there is a little history behind that. Conn Smythe claimed that he chose the colours blue and white to represent the colours of the sky and snow that you would often see in Canada.
However, the colour was also part of sand and gravel business trucks that he had, so some argue it just matched the image of his other businesses.
But, the Maple Leafs were not the first Toronto-based team to use the colour blue. One example is the Toronto Argonauts, the Canadian Football League franchise that started using the colour way back in 1973. The Toronto Blue Jays baseball team also uses the colour blue in today's logos and has for decades.
But, why a maple leaf? This is one of the national symbols not just in Toronto but in all of Canada, with Smythe having a connection to the symbol.
This is because as a symbol of Canada, it is worn by people in the Canadian military. Smythe had his own attachments as an army veteran and prisoner of war during WWI.
A maple leaf has a meaning of strength and endurance, so the logo is not only nationalistic for the country of Canada but also arguably one that can motivate people to play their best and endure what is arguably one of the most gruelling seasons in all of sports to win the Stanley Cup.
It is a little early in the season to have any definitive trade rumours right now. But, with elite offensive players such as Tavares, Matthews, and Marner, it is hard to imagine that they would not be trying to trade for additional talent rather than sell off their talented roster.
Watch for them to perhaps make a move later in the season like the Islanders did last year that nearly got them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Then, the Islanders acquired both Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac (who is now retired) right before the trade deadline.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are arguably Canada's National Treasure and represent all things Canada. This season should be an exciting one for their fan base and hopefully for them, one that is not heartbreaking like the end of the 2021 season.
Do you want to read more from people who love Canada? Read this to learn about another National Treasure of Canada.