Since moving to Toronto just three months ago, I've been fairly ambivalent about the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As a New Jersey fan, and longtime NHL-watcher, the Leafs have always been something of a comedy team for me.
Their apparent inability to bring home anything of worth in the last few decades has provided me with an unlimited stream of heckles with which to taunt my Leafs-fan buddies.
That's not to say that they're not talented, but it's just too much fun to rinse my friends whenever the opportunity arises—and when they're Leafs fans, it arises often.
However, the potent love of the team that penetrates most areas of Toronto life has been swaying me ever since I arrived.
The attitude of most Torontonians is this: Yeah, they suck—but we love 'em.
I perhaps didn't realize the extent to which this had been affecting me until I stumbled on some Leafs-Devils tickets for Dec 16. And by "stumbled upon" I mean "lopped my arm off and sold it to medical science to get."
The big question was this: Who am I supporting?
I had bought a cheap vintage Leafs jersey a few weeks previously, with the excuse that I just like collecting shirts, and living in Toronto and not owning one is obscene.
Evidently, the jersey meant more to me than I had first imagined.
Leaving my blood-red Devils shirt at home, I found myself sitting in 318 in the blue and white cheering for no one in particular. I half-heartedly applauded the Devs in the first period, mainly as no one around me seemed to be bothered either way.
After a couple of goals and a couple of fights though, things began to change.
Taking the cue from their team's second goal, the ACC crowd suddenly woke up and started making some noise even when the overlord of the arena didn't tell them to.
"I love you Tomas! I love you Tomas Kaberle!" That was persistently screamed from behind me, and the Leafs, if not Kaberle himself, fed off this appreciation and paid it back threefold.
By the time the Devils evened up the score at 2-2, the Leafs looked electrified, Toskala was on fire, and I actually felt excited for the Leafs on every breakaway, no matter how unlikely a goal seemed.
I was definitely not a neutral bystander.
Overtime came and went, and I finally realised that the atmosphere had got me: I wanted the blues to take the game in the shootout.
The teams seemed even in the first few attempts, but Jason Blake's do-or-die spin move, that thankfully "did", and ended up as the GWG, left us all, and especially my friend at his first NHL match, wide-eyed in disbelief and deafened by the sound of a Leafs Nation finally having something to cheer about.
It also put the last nail in the coffin of my Leafs pessimism.
I was wearing the shirt, I was cheering the goals, and my heart was thumping for a Leafs win over my much loved New Jersey Devils.
Despite all my best efforts, it seems I've turned to the blue side.
So they'd better start winning.