stuhackel
Tuesday December 21st, 2010

By Stu Hackel

Those with some Old Testament knowledge can rattle off the 10 Plagues that befell Egypt prior to Moses leading the Hebrews on their Exodus. There were some lovely infestations -- lice, frogs, boils, locusts and diseased cattle were the most tame. But after a third time in 12 days that the Blue Team has been taunted by frozen toaster-ready breakfast food, it must be asked: Is the throwing of waffles part of a bigger picture? Is it just the first in a series of increasingly severe plagues that the Maple Leafs must endure prior to their exodus from their enslavement to pro hockey incompetence?

What could possibly happen next? The melting of the ice? The erosion of the brand? The selling of the club? The leaking of the goalies? (wait, that happened on Monday night, too)

Or maybe the throwing of waffles is not an Old Testament plague, but that great Festivus ritual, The Airing of Grievances.

In any case, Maple Leafs announcers Joe Bowen and Greg Millen don't seem to know the meaning of the waffle throwing, and perhaps few do. So we'll have to look back into ancient history for the answer, all the way back to the year 2010, in the month of December, when on the 11th of that month, it was written in the holy Toronto Sun by the prophet/crime reporter Tamara Cherry that the originator of this ritual, one Jack M. -- or "Waffle Man," as he prefers to be known -- saith, "They need to wake up and eat some breakfast. I’m just trying to help them out with a balanced diet.”

Perhaps Waffle Man was channeling this guy...

...and on the night of Dec. 9, he expressed his concern for the dietary habits of his favorite club after the final buzzer...

...and suddenly it was on.

Last Saturday's devotional demonstration of waffle throwing was conducted by the two wise Green Men on a holy pilgrimage in Vancouver...

....and who knows where the next waffling might take place? We certainly don't condone throwing anything on the ice in the direction of players or officials during game action or even stoppages. It's honestly dangerous. But there is a time, place and direction for everything, and the throwing of waffles at Maple Leafs games, if properly conducted, has viral potential.

Just think of the great hockey tradition of tossing chapeaus to celebrate a hat trick. And, of course, Red Wings fans celebrate their team's great Stanley Cup successes and aspirations by throwing octopi...

...and that tale may or may not be apocryphal, but it's a tradition nonetheless. Once upon a time in Florida, Panthers fans threw plastic rats...

...after Scott Melanby one-timed a rodent and killed it in the dressing room before the Panthers' home opener in 1995. Melanby scored twice that game and goalie John Vanbiesbrouck called it a "rat trick" in the papers the next day. Soon plastic rats started to be flung after each Panthers goal at home, a practice that grew to enormous proportions during the playoffs. The Panthers were swept by Colorado in the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, but the celebratory throws continued (despite an official NHL ban) until the team moved out of Miami to Sunrise, Fla., where they faded along with the team's fortunes.

Waffles could easily become the Maple Leafs' tradition. It has already spawned some fascinating YouTube submissions (here, here and here) and more than a few blog posts (among them here, here, here and from a Bruins fan who tracks the Leafs' ineptitude since Boston gets Toronto's first draft choice next June, "The Waffle Watch" ). And Maple Leafs waffle T-shirts are now for sale! (Thanks to Greg Wyshynksi at Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog for the link.)

We could be witnessing the dawn of a great new hockey institution. Long ago, when we thought of December and the Maple Leafs, we thought of Johnny Bower's classic holiday song, "Honky the Christmas Goose"....

...but going forward, a younger generation may fondly think of the holidays differently. For this has been the time when the great tradition of throwing waffles at Maple Leafs games was born. It certainly beats lice, frogs, boils, locusts and diseased cattle.

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