Sportress of Blogitude

Maple Leafs players create controversy by foregoing traditional stick salute (video)


As TSN NHL Insider Darren Dreger eloquently and succinctly put it in a tweet, “Everyday in Tor[onto] it’s something.” Specifically of course Dreger is referring to the Maple Leafs and how the incredibly passionate, dedicated (and sometimes immensely cynical) fan base, along with the incredibly passionate, dedicated (and sometimes immensely cynical) media creates controversy seemingly out of nothing.

In this case, however, it appears the latest controversy surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs was needlessly caused by the players, for seemingly no legitimate reason other than perhaps spite.

Maple Leafs Nation went into full meltdown mode on Thursday night, surprisingly following a must-needed 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Air Canada Centre.

It would be reasonable to expect that Maple Leafs fans would be happy — or at least relieved — with the team securing a victory. It stopped the bleeding by snapping a three-game losing streak and got the team to a 10-8-2 record and back in the right direction.

But it is what the players did after the game — apparently of their own volition — that has rankled and riled up the team’s fans.

Players did not do the traditional, customary and expected stick salute to the fans following the win.

As the video shows — first pointed out by Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky — Phil Kessel skates over to Dion Phaneuf immediately after the final horn sounded and whispered something. This appeared to set in motion a sequence of events where the players, instead of skating to center ice to raise their sticks in salute, simply skated off the ice and back to the dressing room (via @myregularface):


Of course, the supposed sticking it to the fans by not raising the sticks in salute comes right on the heels of Maple Leafs fans throwing jerseys on the ice in disgust during the team’s embarrassing 9-2 home loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, something Kessel called “classless.”

The terrible performance elicited questions from the media about whether or not players were trying to get head coach Randy Carlyle, which in turn elicited a a profane response of “F— no” from Cody Franson.

Team captain Dion Phaneuf insisted that no ill-will towards the fans was intended and that it was a collective decision by the players, according to a Toronto Star report.

“It’s not a slight to anyone and I’m sorry if anyone is taking it that way,” added James van Riemsdyk following the team’s Friday practice.

Additional quotes, etc. from social media.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reportedly offered up the following juicy nugget during an interview on the Fan 590 (via Sporting News):

It looks like from all appearances that no matter the intent, the Maple Leafs players created a huge, arguably unnecessary, mess with their decision not to salute the fans.

The easy remedy to the escalating problem? Keep winning.

(photo credit: Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS)