Growing up in Toronto, it’s not hard to comprehend how deep the roots of the Toronto Maple Leafs really go. The city comes to life when the buds are riding high; followed of course by cautious optimism after years of heartache and disappointment. Last year was supposed to be different (stop me if you’ve heard this before). With the Toronto Maple Leafs seemingly cruising through their opponents in the North Division, fans and players alike couldn’t resist romanticizing that the 2020-21 NHL season was going to be special. But like a roller coaster, the drop always hits you the hardest.
When you’re left to pick up the pieces of yet another disappointing end, against archrival Montreal no less, you wonder whether the fellas wearing the Maple Leaf crest really care as much as you, your neighbor, the guy in your fantasy pool or your grandma for that matter. That question burns through Leafs nation all summer long and as the seasons roll over into Fall and training camps re-open, you question whether there’s any emotional capital left to invest.
All or Nothing
That is exactly what makes the new Amazon Prime Canada series about the blue and white so timely. Aptly titled “All or Nothing”, the series follows the storied franchise in their quest to end the longest Stanley Cup drought in NHL history. Between seeing the raw emotions after losses, to the playful personalities in between practices, it’s a refreshing take on the modern day hockey player.
“With this year being so different, that allowed the camera crew to fit in pretty easily.”Kyle Dubas, General Manager, Toronto Maple Leafs
As Covid restricted essentially all fan access to the organization, there was a disconnect between the fans and the team. I was lucky enough to get an up-close look – by way of invitation from Amazon Prime Canada – of a training camp session. The day included a tour of the training facility, a chance to connect with Maple Leafs team personnel, as well as taking in a team practice.
As I toured the facility, I had the opportunity to speak with the team’s Media Director, Steven Keogh, on the series. When asked what this series aims to accomplish, Steven noted “we were so far away from our fans and this brings us closer”. During a media scrum, star player Mitch Marner added “it will show that we have things going on in our lives that isn’t hockey. Last year a lot of guys sacrificed to not be with their family and be dedicated to this team”. The series most certainly peels back the curtain showing the human side of the game.
Defencemen Justin Holl took time after the practice to chat with me and made it known that the series will show how much goes into a hockey season (let alone a Covid hockey season) and just how much everyone involved cares. He also mentioned that having the cameras around all the time wasn’t as odd as it may appear. This sentiment was shared by Head Coach Sheldon Keefe, who remarked “You get used to having them around. You don’t notice them except for the times where you’re by yourself”.
The series drops on October 1 and is worth investing the time. It’s five episodes and each one touches on a different element of the team, while following the timeline of the NHL season. Think reality TV minus the staging. It does a great job highlighting the human element to a difficult season. Final thoughts over to Sheldon Keefe – “I hope what comes out of this show is how much we care and how much we are putting in to get this right”.