Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The five stages of finding out your team just singed John Tavares

You've probably heard of the five stages of grief. More formally known as the Kubler-Ross model, the concept was first introduced almost 50 years ago, and posits that people will respond to difficult life events by moving through feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. The five stages have basically become the standard way to think about how people will react when something terrible happens.

Maple Leaf fans are very familiar with the five stages of grief.

You kind of have to be. Being a Leafs fan over the last few decades has basically meant cycling through the five stages almost constantly. From Harold Ballard to Kerry Fraser to Draft Schmaft to JFJ to Burke/Nonis to "It was 4-1," Leaf fans were always miserable about something. They could basically use the five stages as a greeting when meeting other Leaf fans. "How are you?" "I'm bargaining right now, thanks for asking. Go Leafs go."

But while it came as a surprise to Leafs Nation, recent evidence suggests that not everything that happens has to make you sad. There's this weird new realm that Leaf fans are just getting used to, where life sometimes makes you happy. First came the Mike Babcock sweepstakes, and then the Auston Matthews lottery. It's been weird.

And now this. John Tavares is coming home to play for the Maple Leafs. He even took a bit of a discount to do it. And now the Leafs look like they're going to be really good.

We're not quite sure how to process this.

I want to help. So today, let's walk through the Five Stages of Realizing the Leafs Signed John Tavares. Everything will make more sense if we can all get on the same page.

(One important note: This is the Five Stages of Realizing the Leafs Signed John Tavares if you're a Leafs fan. If you're a fan of some other team, your five stages probably went something like: making a 1967 joke, making a "plan the parade" joke, desperately trying to argue that Tavares somehow isn't worth it, making a slightly different variation of the same 1967 joke, and then realizing the Leaf fan you're trying to annoy isn't even pretending to care what you're saying. Sorry about that. If it's any consolation, I'm sure your parade joke was devastating.)

Stage 1: Denial

Weirdly, the Five Stages of Tavares starts off just like the five stages of grief: With a whole lot of standing around, shaking your head, and muttering "no freaking way."

Among the rest of the hockey world, Maple Leaf fans have a reputation for always thinking that every Canadian-born superstar will inevitably want to play in Toronto. Obviously, that's not true. It's only almost every Canadian-born star. And we only think that because they keep telling us about it.

But the reality is that deep down. most Leaf fans didn't think Tavares was actually going to happen. We'd been burned once by Steven Stamkos, back in 2016, so we knew not to get our hopes up. Sure, maybe if Tavares actually left the Islanders, Toronto might be his first choice. But he wouldn't leave the Islanders, because no NHL star ever leaves his team, at least not as a free agent. At best, they pretend to be thinking about it, and then they sign an eight-year extension. That's what happened with Stamkos, and he actually did seem like a guy who wanted to be in Toronto. He even liked a tweet! But in the end, he stayed put without even having to think about it too hard. Tavares would do the same. Hell, the Leafs had even gift-wrapped the Islanders with a new GM to close the sale. Tavares probably wouldn't even make it to the negotiation window.

Then he did make it. And then the Leafs were one of the five teams he invited to make their case. And then he made it past June 29—i.e. the Stamkos Line—without announcing anything. And then the Saturday deadline for an eight-year extension in New York came and went. And suddenly it was July 1, and the league's official free agent list came out with Tavares on it, and you started to hear rumblings that Islander players were being told that their captain was headed to Toronto.

And every Leaf fan who saw that tweet went right back to where we started: "No freaking way."

But there was a way. And Kyle Dubas and the Leafs had found it.


  1. Hey Sean, would you post the link to the full article? Thank you!

    1. https://sports.vice.com/en_ca/article/mbkmby/the-5-stages-leafs-fans-went-through-to-process-the-john-tavares-signing

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. These are the same five stages that Sabres fans went through on lottery day.

  4. May want to spellcheck the title of this post, unless you meant lightly burned. haha

  5. I only recognize 2 stages of grief: Anger and Drinking

  6. Signed is spelled incorrectly in title - it says singed. Which I'm sure Leafs fans are doing with joy. ;)