Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
September 15, 2003

Courtesy of: On The Wall
Story by: Navin Vaswani

They say breaking up is hard to do. Whoever "they" are, they're right.

At first, it really affected me, maybe because I never saw it coming. Sure, the months near the end of our relationship were rocky, but it's not always going to be smooth sailing. Breaking up is always in the back of your mind but you never expect to see them walk out the door and not even look back…

But then it happened. July 1st, 2002, Curtis Joseph signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings. The HATED Detroit Red Wings! His career with the Toronto Maple Leafs was over. No parade down Yonge Street, not even a bloody Stanley Cup final appearance. It wasn't supposed to end this way, but Cujo made his decision. He walked out on me, on all of us, and didn't even care. Our four years together meant nothing to him. After all this city and the fans did for him, he just picked up and left.

You know, I still remember our first night together. There was a buzz around the city that night in October 1998. No more Felix Potvin in goal. Now we had Curtis Joseph, a goaltender just entering his prime, playing for his hometown team. It was the start of something special.

Oddly enough, it was Detroit in town for Cujo's first game. Ahh, I remember like it was yesterday. Joseph was phenomenal as the Leafs took the game 2-1. Alyn McCauley scored the game winning goal that night and thus started the legend of Curtis Joseph.

There were so many good times. The All-Star games, the awards, Cujo's elevation to celebrity in hockey mad Toronto, Canada and the NHL. There were the deep playoff runs, the amazing saves, and the dreams of Cujo lifting up that silver cup. But in the end, I don't remember the good times, I only remember the bad.

A lot of my friends and even my family didn't understand why I was so upset by his leaving. I'm an emotional guy, I'm not going to lie. I thought we were in it for the long haul. That's what Curtis always said.

Seeing him put on that Red Wings jersey was traumatic. It was like cheating on me with the enemy. I was so filled with rage by the things he said and the way he abandoned me. I sat in front of my t.v. that afternoon, literally in shock.

"Say it ain't so Cujo. Say it ain't so."

But it was so. He was gone. It was over…

The first couple of months were really tough. Back in high school while my buddies were putting up pictures of hot chicks in their lockers, I was putting up pictures of Cujo. I knew getting over him wasn't going to be easy, but I didn't think it was going to be so hard either…

I remember listening to that song by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow while I sat in my room, wondering how it all went so wrong.

"I put your picture away…"

One by one I took down the posters. I got rid of my Cujo bobble head doll, my Cujo stuffed animal and my Cujo organizer. I didn't want any reminders. I was bitter, and I still am. Nothing he says can ever justify what he did. He sold this city and me out, and he knows it.

The months after he left were really tough. Everyone was nervous that now that he was gone, the Leafs would flop. The media pegged him as the backbone of the team and without him, we were nothing. Everyone was ripping on Pat Quinn and it seemed like no good would come of the break up.

Then Eddie came along.

Eddie Belfour, my hero, my second love. This past season, Ed Belfour put up numbers that Curtis Joseph can only dream about. He showed this city what true goaltending is and he made everyone forget about the man named Cujo.

Belfour stepped up to the plate when the world told him he was finished, that he should have retired, and he had one of the strongest seasons of his career. He was a Vezina Trophy nominee, and Curtis Joseph wasn't even on the voting ballot.

I can't say enough about the man nicknamed "Eddie". What he did this season was simply incredible. He proved that the Toronto Maple Leafs were more than just Cujo.

I'll admit it, I was worried. Belfour was coming off a ridiculously terrible season in Dallas where he was ousted as the number one man. But he's got too much pride to just be thrown off to the side. We're talking about the man who back in 1998 beat Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek to win the Stanley Cup. Those are two of the greatest goalies of all time, and Eddie took 'em both out.

I was worried, but I had faith. I beleafed in Eddie. He knew fans like me were vulnerable, on the rebound so to say. He also knew how much love we had to give. It's safe to say he healed my broken heart.

Funny story.

Eddie, if you ever read this, it was me. Yep, that's right, it was me that night, in Buffalo. November 15th, 2002, Maple Leafs on the road in Buffalo, a building they never seem to win in, to visit the pathetic Sabres. I was there, sitting in the third row, going crazy. It was 2-1 Leafs in the third period, with about ten minutes to play. The Leafs were struggling, but seemed to be turning the corner on a terrible start to the season. Eddie was getting stronger and stronger and now it was time for him to steal the show.

"It's time for Eddie to shut the door and steal this win for us."

Those were the words that I spoke to my friend sitting next to me.

All of a sudden, the Sabres started to put on the pressure. Time after time, Belfour denied them. Then it happened…

"Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!"

My buddy, my brother and me. All standing tall, yelling at the top of our lungs.

It spread like wildfire in that arena. There were a lot of us die-hard Leaf fans who made the trek to Buffalo. All of us were chanting wildly, showing Eddie how much we loved him.

He heard us. He skated right over to the corner where we were sitting and I swear he looked right into my eyes.

It was unheard of, the fans of the visiting team chanting throughout the building. The "Eddie" chant hadn't even begun in Toronto at that point. Want to know why? Because we started it that night!

In another weird twist of fate, Cujo and his Red Wings were in Toronto the next night. Of course, Cujo picked that night to take a rest, and Manny Legace got the start. Belfour didn't care. He was awesome and in the end, I was glad that Joseph didn't play, because he had the best seat in the house to watch the goaltending clinic that Eddie put on. The Leafs lost the game 2-1, but as Belfour left the ice for the dressing room, he left to chants of "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!"

From then on, Toronto, thanks to the efforts of one Ed Belfour, was one of the hottest teams the rest of the season. Belfour, in only 60 odd games, showed that he is one of the greatest goalies to ever put on the blue and white.

As for Cujo, I'm sure he's going to be enjoying his LONG summer. A special shout out must be given to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. I'd like to personally congratulate them for making Curtis Joseph look like the biggest idiot on the planet.

Cujo, Cujo, Cujo…looks like you made a mistake! Swept by the Mighty Ducks. The seventh seed in the western conference. You know, the team inspired by the freaking movie!! Cujo proved that he can't win the big game and that he'll never win the Stanley Cup.
No one, and I mean no one, spurns the Toronto Maple Leafs and gets away with it. What goes around comes around buddy. When Cujo left, I thought I got screwed. I never thought I'd be so happy with being wrong.

Now I know the Leafs didn't accomplish much in these playoffs. They were eliminated in the first round, something that never happened when Cujo was here. But I don't care. Joseph left so he could win the Stanley Cup. He thought he was Mr. Smarty Pants by leaving us and slapping us all in the face with his words and actions. He was dead wrong.

I hope this personal reflection of a difficult time in my life can inspire someone out there. Even in a small way. Then I will feel like I've done my job, and that what I went through was worth it. My advice to those dealing with heartache is keep your head up and keep fighting. There's a goalie out there for everyone, and I've found mine. The long road known as heartbreak is difficult, long and winding, but I made it.

Up yours Joseph.

Who needs you anyway…

GO LEAFS GO !!!!!!!!!!!!!


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