Before I continue, I must apologize for my most brutal photoshop skills. As you can see, I have none. I don't know how guys like Greener and Chemmy do it. But, like I always tell my girlfriend, it's the thought that counts.
Oh, Tomas. Where do I begin? You came out of nowhere 10 years ago and stole my heart. You've held it ever since. I'll never forget the first time I saw that smile, and those rosy cheeks.
I remember our first night together, October 10th, 1998, like it was yesterday. The Detroit Red Wings, the defending Stanley Cup champions, were in town. We had a new coach, a new goaltender, and a new attitude. Coming off a disastrous season in which the Leafs missed the playoffs, no one knew what to expect.
Wait a minute, that sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Tomas, you were new on the blue line that night, yet you quickly showed that you belonged. You helped start the season on the right foot. We were victorious that night 10 years ago, 2-1, and on Monday morning at school we, the die-hard Maple Leafs fans, were all abuzz over #15 on the blue line. I won't lie, Tomas. Not on a day as special as this. You had me at hello.
Like any long term relationship worth a damn, we've battled. We've been through our ups and downs. We've seen the good and the bad. Sure, we've had great times: the lengthy playoff runs, and the All-Star game appearances. We've also had our troubles: your contract holdout in 2001, douchebags laying you out with late hits, the Paul Maurice years (try to block them out), and, of course, the NHL lockout of 2004/2005.
I missed you so much during the lockout, Tomas. It was, arguably, the most difficult year of my life. A long, cold, depressing winter without you. Without the Toronto Maple Leafs. Without hockey. Oh, how it hurts my heart to just think about those days.
You, however, had faith. You said we needed the time apart, to figure things out on our own, and you were right. You returned in due time, just as you said you would; a man of your word. Sure, the lockout didn't mean a damn thing as player salaries are once again completely out of control, and the salary cap's floor has gone through the ceiling. Sure, the Leafs have missed the playoffs three seasons in a row and all signs are pointing to that trend continuing. Sure, all your closest friends in the dressing room have been shown the door. None of that matters, Tomas. What matters is that you're still here with me. Where you belong.
(Allow me to keep it real for a moment: it also matters that Kaberle comes at a very reasonable price. Thank you.)
I know that last year some people tried to tear us apart. Others will try and do the same this year. They're jealous of our love. Fuck Jeff Carter. Fuck a first round pick. Call me selfish. Call me a stupid face. I don't care. Tomas, you're the one I want here in Toronto, and we must stray strong. Until
death Cliff Fletcher asks you to waive your no-trade clause (again) do us part, right? Right.
My point is, we've persevered. Here we are, 10 years deep, 10 years strong. Ten glorious years. Have I told you how much I love the way you rush the puck up ice today? Nobody starts a break out like you do, Tomas. Nobody. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. And your tribute song on YouTube, which is now my cell phone ring tone I might add, says it best: "He make cross-ice pass like you won't believe."
It's been one hell of a ride, Tomas. I've enjoyed every second of it with you. As we embark on another chapter in our lives together down in Detroit tonight, all I want us to do is live for the moment, and live for today. I know everyone in the world thinks the Leafs are going to be terrible this season. Let's prove them wrong. Fuck John Tavares. Fuck Victor Hedman. I mean, who knows how long we have left together? Who knows how long we have left on this earth? I won't be cheering for the Leafs to lose. I don't have it in me. I'll be cheering for you, Tomas, and for the rest of the boys. Live for today. Have faith. Let's shock the world.
I'm counting on you, Tomas, like I always have. Regardless of what letter you've got on your jersey, you are the leader of the Toronto Maple Leafs. I know that Mats Sundin has taught you well, and I know that you won't disappoint. Make me proud, Tomas, like you always have.
Please, raise your glass. I love you Tomas Kaberle. Here's to 10 years. And ten more.
Go Leafs Go.