78: The Cursed Jersey

78: The Cursed Jersey

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

The Cursed Jersey

Superstitions are, for the most part, but the shadows of great truths.

~Tryon Edwards

Sports fans tend to be superstitious. Maybe it’s crazy, but we can’t help it. So much about sports comes down to luck, a good hit, a lucky catch, a bad angle. One can’t help but believe in bad luck and good luck, and that certain rituals, like not shaving during playoff time or wearing socks of a certain colour, can affect the outcome of a game.

For my mother, it’s the deep-rooted belief that her Toronto Maple Leafs jersey is cursed.

My father bought her the jersey in 1994, as an anniversary present. At the time, the Leafs were playing in the conference finals and she couldn’t wait to wear her jersey as she watched her beloved Maple Leafs on television.

The first game she was able to watch, the Leafs lost and then the next. Suddenly, the Leafs were down three games in the series and on the verge of elimination. Every time she wore the jersey, they lost. My mom decided to not wear it and instead she left it in her room, on her bed.

The Leafs rallied and took the lead in the game; it began to look like all hope was not lost. I was eleven at the time and I happened to go into my parents’ room. I saw the jersey there and I couldn’t figure out why my mother wasn’t wearing it, so I took it down to her. “Mom, you forgot to put on your jersey,” I said, handing it to her.

My mother nervously took it and as soon as she did, the Vancouver Canucks scored. The tide of the game changed, and the Leafs were eliminated that night.

“It’s the jersey,” my mother declared to my father and me. “It’s bad luck.”

My father rolled his eyes at her and grumbled about how it was a wasted gift if she wouldn’t wear it, but my mother was convinced and she banished the jersey to the back of a drawer. After all, it was a gift and she couldn’t bear to throw it out. Besides she’d occasionally wear it in the summer when she decided that it could do no harm.

The Leafs had ups and downs over the next few years, but they never made it to the Stanley Cup finals. Even if the jersey was bad luck, banishing it didn’t suddenly bring good luck. But my mom still wasn’t going to risk taking it out again.

Years passed and then during the 2002 playoffs I was a teenager who was just starting to get into hockey. I brought the jersey out, partly because I found that all the boys at school flirted with me when I wore it.

My mother wasn’t thrilled, but it had been a lot of years and she decided to let me wear it. The first time I wore it, the Leafs lost, badly. I figured it was a coincidence, but I couldn’t quite forget my mother’s old conviction that the jersey was cursed. So the next time I wore it, I took it off before the game started, but the Leafs still lost.

My mother forbade me from wearing the jersey again and I was spooked enough by the two losses that I did as she asked. My father thought I was as silly as my mother. “It’s just a piece of clothing. There’s no way it can influence a hockey game over a hundred kilometres away,” he’d point out. But my mother didn’t care and I thought she might be onto something. I didn’t wear the jersey after that, but soon it didn’t look like that decision mattered.

Game Six in the second round against the Ottawa Senators, the Leafs were down three games to two. The game started off badly for the Leafs, with the Senators scoring two goals in the first five minutes. It looked like it was going to be a humiliating end to the playoffs for the Leafs and that the jersey had no part in it at all — it was just silly superstition on my mother’s part.

Then, I happened to notice that the jersey was sitting in a pile of laundry in the living room, right in front of the television. I knew I was being silly, but I decided to bring the jersey upstairs. As soon as I left the room, the Leafs scored a goal and the game no longer looked like a lost cause.

The Leafs ended up winning that game and they won the series. They lost in the next round to the Carolina Hurricanes. But we never claimed that banishing the jersey brought good luck, just that the jersey itself was bad luck.

My father was never convinced. And every time he hears the story, my husband rolls his eyes. But my mother and I both firmly believe that her jersey, lovingly given as a present by her non-Leafs fan husband, was cursed. Neither of us has ever worn it since then.

~Michelle McKague-Radic

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