Maple Leaf fans hoping for a better season
It's been 41 years since the Toronto Maple Leafs hoisted the coveted Stanley Cup, but die-hard fans hope this will be the year the blue-and-whites reclaim glory.
The Buds open their season at home against the powerful Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night, beginning another round in the "Battle of Ontario."
The Leafs have disappointed fans over the years, failing to even make the playoffs the last two seasons.
In discussions on radio talk stations, analysts said they weren't expect much of an improvement since the roster hasn't changed much.
Some hockey fans in Toronto felt the same way.
"They haven't made any changes, and what are you going to get from the same crop?" one man told CTV News on Wednesday said.
But others are excited because Captain Mats Sundin has a speedy sniper alongside him. Jason Blake, however, shrugged off the "saviour" label he has received.
Other sports fans felt the Leaf captain will once again carry the team.
"Mats Sundin ... even if he's missing both eyes and both legs, he's taking them (to the playoffs)," said one optimistic fan.
Regardless of how far the squad goes, the start of the NHL season is welcomed by bars and restaurant in the hockey-mad city.
"We get all the crazy fans out, all the jerseys, the girls and guys cheering like it's the playoffs because it's that exciting," said Steve Pelton, general manager of Wayne Gretzky's. "It's big."
Hours before the game started, goalie Andrew Raycroft told reporters he would be starting in net, surprising some observers who thought newly acquired Finnish goalie Vesa Toskala was going to get the nod.
"It's really not a big deal to either one of us, obviously it's nice to be playing,'' Raycroft told reporters.
Acquiring Toskala was Toronto's biggest off-season move during the June NHL entry draft. The former San Jose Sharks netminder was also given an US$8-million, two-year extension and was largely expected to carry most of the load this season after Raycroft struggled last year.
"I don't want to make a big deal of it,'' Toskala said after the pre-game skate. "It's going to be a long season. I just have to stay patient.''
Both goalies, however, struggled during pre-season play.
The Leafs will battle the Senators again on Thursday night, this time in Ottawa.
With a report from CTV's Chris Eby and files from The Canadian Press