Some people equate Passover with Matzah. Some people equate Passover with marathon seders. Me, I equate Passover with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
My earliest memories of Passover are arriving at my aunt’s house and hearing the curses of my cousins yelling at the Blue and White who were, as usual, being smote by Les Habitants. I recall at more than one seder, my cousin (who later became a hockey play-by-play announcer) whispering to me that the Ten Plagues over Toronto were really: Lafleur, Robinson, Lapointe, etc. I imagined Darryl Sittler was Moses, parting the Red, Blue, and White defense and blasting the puck past Drydan.
And just like the Jews who wandered for 40 years in the desert, the Leafs seem destined to do the same.
Several decades later: I still connect Jewish Holidays with the Buds. Rosh Hashanah, for example, occurs right around the beginning of the season. As I stand in synogogue remembering the good and the bad of the previous year, I take several minutes to do the same for the Leafs. Recalling the sins of the past 365 days at Yom Kippur, I recall the sins of the Leafs’ past 100 plus games. And as I engage in the ritual of self-flagellation and ask forgiveness for my lack of discipline, laziness, and stubbornness, I always give myself a few extra little smacks (my mother thinks I am being really hard on myself) for a transition game that is as weak as my five year old’s, for the slothfulness displayed on the power play, and for our defencemen’s skill at passing the puck right in front of our own net.
During the year, I attend Friday night services depending on how poorly the Leafs are doing. After all, what else should one do during Silent Prayer except to pray for a win during Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada.
By Chanukah, I can figure out by the standings how reverent I have to be in the next few months.
But by Passover, all is revealed as the teams vie for playoff position-the Leafs trying to claw their way into the final playoff spot. Even the Passover rituals get into the spirit: The dry crumbly constipating matzah prepares the way for the ulcer that sits in our stomachs in those final games; the four glasses of wine which numb us knowing that the Leafs-if they even make the playoffs- will be out by the First Round; the Bitter Herbs which represent the suffering of all of us die-hard Leaf fans; the Charoset that provides a bit of sweetness when we don’t go down in four straight in the first round; the green that symbolizes the year-long colour of the grass in the inevitable home of the Stanley Cup somewhere in the Southern US; the Passover Sacrifice….need I say more.
And every year, as everyone looks at each other with hope in their eyes and recites. Next Year in Jerusalem. I look toward the Air Canada Centre, and say: Next Year the Cup.