Hodge: ‘Go Leafs Go’ chorus may find old members next season

There is something comforting about Canada’s iconic hockey franchise making such a significant move on the nation’s birthday.

Synergy, symbolism, or just another odd aligning of time and circumstance?

Regardless the perspective, there is something comforting and suitable about Canada’s favourite iconic hockey franchise making such a significant move on the nation’s birthday.

Certainly with a team name of ‘Maple Leafs,’ the timing seems reasonable enough.

If not for the years and years of inept decision making on the part of the club one would almost want to believe the trade was actually planned to culminate on July 1.

Regardless, fluke or planned, the long anticipated trade of controversial star forward Phil Kessel signifies the true turning of a new leaf in the club’s long and complicated history.

A franchise of great respect for many decades the team from Canada’s alleged centre of the universe fell off the shelf of success and into the limbo bin of mediocrity following their last Stanley Cup win in 1967.

It has been a long and frustrating tale of bad luck, bad trades and bad drafts led by bad management and ownership the past half century.

But July 1, that all changed with the simple decision to rid themselves of a player with a plethora of talent yet a questionable work ethic and disruptive nature in both the dressing room and occasionally on the ice.

For all of his talent, Kessel has proven to be his own worst enemy—a trait which seems to parallel the infamous ownership of the Leafs of the past for so many long, lean years.

Maple Leaf fans, like myself, have been abandoning the team like rats on a sinking ship for years now largely due to not only the club’s apparent lack of willingness to spend the money or the energy to acquire star players but also for the crass and often cruel way management treated the players they had.

With the recent changes in ownership and the new brain trust in charge of things such as Brendon Shanahan and Mike Babcock,  Leaf fans may actually have reason to once again be proud of the blue and white uniform with the huge maple leaf on the front.

Drafting potential star Mitch Marner and then shipping the enigma Kessel to Pittsburgh for a passle of youngsters and future draft picks affirms the club’s desire to truly  rebuild the club for the next couple seasons with the goal of eventually becoming a powerhouse franchise again.

I’m sure I won’t be alone in happily digging out my old Leaf sweater for the upcoming season,  even putting it on again in public places.

Not since Conn and Stafford Smythe dumped all over Davey Keon and traded away fan favourite Eddy Shack have I been able to legitimately cheer for my Leafs.

So just as it seems the Vancouver Canucks are dismantling a reasonable team in what appears a mini-rebuild of their own, and my beloved Boston Bruins seem to be imploding with dumb deals, I am finally provided the option of cheering for my boyhood idols again.

Getting to once again shout, ‘Go Leafs Go’ on Canada Day seems so appropriate.

•••

Speaking of Canada Day, one of the highlights of the local activities in Kelowna was a brief four-song tease performance by the cast of the rock musical Raft Of The Medusa.

Not surprisingly, Pat Brown, Ashley Atkinson, Neville Bowman and the rest of the impressive cast gave a spine tingling performance for the audience.

The riveting, emotionally charged and highly engaging stage show will hold its world premiere performance July 24 and 25 at the Kelowna Community Theatre. I absolutely guarantee this is a show worth attending.

The opening evening will literally be a red carpet affair complete with all the gala and trimmings of a Broadway type show.

I have been honoured to watch the rock-opera creators Randall Robinson and Pat Brown write and develop this outstanding storyline—and craft their jaw-dropping music and lyrics to accompany the narrative.

Raft Of The Medusa is a play based on one of the world’s greatest marine disasters, the sinking of the French frigate the Medusa off the coast of Africa.

More than 100 passengers were forced to seek safety on a flimsy raft due to a shortage of life boats. When they were finally rescued only 15 were alive, with eventually five more of those initial survivors dying in hospital.

The play not only captures the angst and passion of that ordeal,  but also the impact and eventual insanity that the tragedy inflicted upon a French painter who later captured the crime against humanity of canvas.

This is a brilliantly written and performed bit of music theatre.