How Leafs fans made the best of a bad losing streak

Nobody wanted to see the Toronto Maple Leafs lose. But there was a way to avoid being seen supporting a losing hockey team in 1984.

Enterprising vendors made paper bags suitable to hiding one's identity while watching

Face savers for embarrassed Toronto Maple Leafs fans

38 years ago
Duration 1:45
Paper bags that proclaim one's shame at the team's poor performance in 1984 prove popular.

Nobody wanted to see the Toronto Maple Leafs lose. But there was a way to avoid being seen supporting that losing hockey team.

On Dec. 12, 1984, CBC Toronto reporter Jonathan Craven went to a game on a night where the last-place team had been winless for 10 games. (Two of them were ties.)

To keep their chins up, fans had taken to buying white paper bags with pre-cut holes for the eyes and a printed slogan asking, 'Where's the Leafs?"

"Face-savers for embarrassed Leafs fans [are] selling like hockey pucks," said Craven.

'Doesn't bother me'

Leafs centre Bill Derlago said as a player, he was focused on what was happening on the ice, not in the stands. (CBLT Newshour/CBC Archives)

Another version of the face-saver read: "Albert We Need You."

The man wearing it revealed his face to explain it referenced "a TV show" where one coach says to the other, "I wish we had a guy like Albert."

(He must have been thinking of a 1983 Canadian Tire commercial.)

But if the bags were meant to shame the players on the ice, the effort was apparently in vain.

"I don't care what people do in the stands," said Leafs centre Bill Derlago. "If they want to put bags on their heads ... doesn't bother me."

John Hunt, a Maple Leaf Gardens staffer who had worked the players' entrance for decades, told a different story.

"In the past, they all seemed all happy and jolly when they go through," he said. "Now they seem to go through with long faces."

He felt their pain

Toronto Blue Jay Ernie Whitt, who apparently happened to be attending the game, knew what it was to be an athlete on a losing streak.

"The Jays in '77, '78, we'd go out and play strong for the first five, six innings," he said. "And all of a sudden we'd go to the dugout and think, 'How are we going to get beat now?'"

But on this night, the Leafs weren't going to get beat.

They were leading 3-2 in the second period, and fans started taking off their face-savers in the third.

"By the end of the game, they were on their feet. The Leafs had finally won," said Craven.

Fans were all smiles at the team's 3-2 win. (CBLT Newshour/CBC Archives)