Leafs fans filled with hope

It was a rowdy, hungry crowd in front of the Air Canada Centre on Thursday night.

Hungry for the Leafs to finally get their season going, and what better way than with a win over the Montreal Canadiens?

There were Habs fans to be sure, but their presence, let alone their attempts to cheer, was forced back with serenades of boos from the blue-and-white faithful in attendance.

For hockey fan Brent Graham, cheering for the Leafs is sometimes just about his hatred of the bleu, blanc, et rouge.

“[I love the Leafs] mainly because they aren’t the Habs, that’s my main reason.”

From L-R: Brent Graham, Tristan Decunha, Chris Krundell (trio_first-try)

Hockey season may have just gotten underway, but opinions were easy to find from the crowd on hand to watch the game on the big screen.

Most fans, like Anthony Caruso, know pretty much how the season will go in his mind.

“I’ll put it this way, they’re not making the playoffs with the team that they have,” he said. “If they get a number one centre, possibly eighth, maybe seventh place.”

“Defensively they’re shaky, but big enough to hit.”

His friend Joe Desimone believes one of those big hitters, Dion Phaneuf, has some work to do if he wants to live up to the legacy of the great Leaf captains of the past.

“He’s gotta prove himself on the ice, that’s where it matters.”

Phaneuf’s introduction in the starting lineup drew the loudest cheer from the crowd, eager to get behind the Toronto captain.

Graham is confident the 25-year-old will step up for the Leafs this year.

“He’s going to man up, he’s going to bring Toronto through all these problems.”

Breaking a five-year post-season drought is certainly one problem the Leafs would like to fix, but in the meantime, Toronto-native Tristin Decunha has a message for anyone who doesn’t stick by the team they believe in.

“It’s about your hometown,” he said. “Whatcha going to be? A bandwagon jumper? Jump around to wherever’s winning? We Leafs fans stick with our team.”

Another Leafs fan, also named Anthony, agreed with Decunha’s assessment, and summed up the entire atmosphere of the night with one poignant observation.

“Hope is all we have, every year, right? We’re here to celebrate.

“I just hope we’re here in the spring to celebrate again.”