The Toronto Maple Leafs suffered a heartbreaking loss on Wednesday night when they lost Game 7 of their first round playoff series to the Boston Bruins. Again. The Leafs entered the final frame with a one goal lead, but the Bruins rallied and delivered an offensive onslaught in the third period, again, an onslaught that by the end left no doubt about who would be moving on to the second round. For the second time in 5 years their playoff drams ended in Boston's TD Garden.
It's easy to see why the emotions in the Maple Leafs locker room would be running extremely high after the game and they were indeed. Maple Leafs veteran defenseman choked back tears as he spoke to reporters after the game, his voice shaky, a game that he feels the Leafs lost in large part due to his play on the evening. All the players who spoke to the media after the game were understandably disappointed, but it was a report from the locker room that caused the biggest controversy.
According to James Mirtle of The Athletic, when reporters were given access to the Leafs locker room after the game, a Toronto Maple Leafs hat was spotted in the trash inside the Leafs locker room. It wasn't long after he made the comment on social media that he was inundated with replies from fans who were equal parts furious with the Leafs as well as furious with Mirtle merely for reporting what he saw.
Of course the obvious imagery that comes to mind when a journalist makes a report like this is that it came from a disgruntled player who was venting his frustration by tossing the hat in the trash, but according to Mirtle he merely saw that the hat was in the trash, not how or why it ended up there. It is possible that a player threw it in there in frustration, but it also could have been a coach, a trainer, an equipment manager or any other number of people who have access to the locker room.
There's also the very real possibility that there was a perfectly good reason to throw the hat away. The hat could have been damaged at some point while it was in the locker room, someone could have accidentally stepped on it with a skate, hell it could have even fallen in the toilet for all we know. Despite that there were fans who were quick to be outraged over the report and it has caused a great deal of controversy.
Former National Hockey League player Jeff Ulmer was quick to come to the defense of the Maple Leafs, adding that players often toss their hats out at the end of the season, due to the fact that they are so readily available to them at any time they require one.
"Most players wear the same hat for the full season as a sweaty dressing room hat for between periods. I always throw them out after the season’s last game too. Don’t read into this too much Maple Leafs fans. In NHL they’d get as many hats as they need for the season/off-season."
It may have been the result of a disgruntled player, but it may have also been nothing at all.