By now, you’ve heard of Dart Guy. You know, the portly dude with the blue maple leaf painted on his face and the Du Maurier Signature King Size hanging from his mouth. Since being shown on camera during Game 2 of the Toronto’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Washington Capitals, he’s become the Maple Leafs’ unofficial mascot (sorry Carlton) and an Internet-famous folk hero for the entire city. He now gets invitations to TSN panels, free admission to games, and buttons made in his likeness.
All to which I say: bollocks. Dart Guy has had his 15 minutes. It’s time for Toronto to rally around Fist-Pumping Old Man.
Eagle-eyed fans noticed this elderly gentleman during Game 3, shooting from his seat — in the wary, gradual way a pensioner only can — to raise his fist in solidarity with the Leafs’ William Nylander, who’d just scored a clutch game-tying goal. Hair-raising stuff.
The codger hasn’t attained nearly the same level of social media micro-celebrity status as Dart Guy, but he should. As this young, eighth-seeded Leafs squad give the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals one hell of a time, stealing the lead in the series and stunning the league, Fist-Pumping Old Man embodies the true reason this all feels so thrilling. It’s not just that the Buds now have a swath of speedy, inordinately talented millennials on their roster who are too green and bright-eyed to even comprehend the pressure of post-season hockey. (Though that’s certainly nice.)
It’s that Leafs fans have been through some shit. Decades upon decades of shit (and waffles). Their franchise is currently going through the longest active Stanley Cup drought (at 48 years and counting), and nearly the longest championship dry spell in all of professional sports. (The only time in the last 14 years this team was in the playoffs, it ended like this.) Which means there are people out there — people like Fist-Pumping Old Man — who have been waiting a long damn time for this moment. Grizzled, faithful fans who have stood by the Leafs only to get crapped on — over and over again — by their team’s consistent legacy of failures. Fans who’ve come to know never to expect anything good. Fans who now can’t believe what they’re seeing: a team full of 18-20-year-olds who have become, hands down, the heartbeat of the NHL, drunk on energy, heart, and self-belief. This geriatric dude slowly standing up represents the slow ascent of Leafs Nation, rising to their feet to give these boys a long overdue fist salute. It’s something they’ve been waiting for since the ’60s; the stuff goosebump-inducing sports ad campaigns are made of.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some crafty Redditors have edited the Leafs’ current “Stand Witness” TV spot — which sees an elderly fan recount the glories and heartbreaks of watching the Leafs over the decades — to include Fist-Pumping Old Man at the end.
Besides, Dart Guy is kind of singlehandedly undoing 50 years of anti-smoking campaigns. That can’t be a good thing.