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October 24, 2012 Comments (4) NHL, Peculiar Side of Sports, Sports History

The Peculiar Side of Sports: Why Not the Maple Leaves?

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Toronto Maple Leafs logo
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You are either one of the millions who love the Leafs, or one among the many millions who hate them. For Leafs fanatics, they’ve heard it all before, and they’ve since developed a tough hide. Among the more common jeers thrown their way include the whole “not having won the Stanley Cup since the hippies crowded Haight-Ashbury” thing.  While this still finds a way to penetrate their thick exterior, it’s not the only insult that has become a part of the Anti-Leaf vernacular.

Of course we have all considered the “clear” screw-up by whoever coined the Toronto team the “Leafs” and not “Leaves”.  But really, how many of us actually understand the reasoning behind the madness?  Was this just a hallucination turned into lore?  Was it a mistake at all, or are we the ones who have been mistaken for having questioned its correctness?

Okay, let’s just look at what we think we know, which comes directly from the Maple Leafs website:

“In February of 1927, Conn Smythe, who had built the New York Rangers franchise but was dismissed in favour of Lester Patrick, raised enough money to buy the St. Pats and prevented the team from moving to Philadelphia. Smythe, a military man, immediately had the Toronto franchise name changed from the St. Pats to Maple Leafs, the name of a World War I fighting unit, the Maple Leaf Regiment.”

What we do know is that the maple leaf has been a symbol in Canada for centuries, quite literally.  As far back as the 1700s there is evidence of it being used to represent aspects of Canadian culture.  So it isn’t hard to believe the story about the Maple Leaf regiment.  Actually, on closer inspection, the maple leaf was the symbol used by the 100th regiment as early as 1860, and has been used in similar capacities over the next hundred years.

All of that is known to many Leafs fans, and some avid hockey fans in general.  Bravo.  But, that’s not the solution to our riddle of “Why not the Maple Leaves”?  Why was the name not pluralized with ‘ves’ as opposed to the ‘fs’ it currently has?  Well, the answer again lies in the fact that the team name was adopted directly from the Maple Leaf regiment.

Let me explain with a very brief grammar lesson.  Most know that words that end in ‘f’ are pluralized by dropping the ‘f’ and adding ‘ves’.  But that is true of common nouns (most, but not all – ie. “roofs”).  Proper nouns, simply put, are nouns that are specific names of people, places and things.  And when these proper nouns end in ‘f’, they are pluralized by simply adding an ‘s’.  So, Leaf (from the regiment) becomes Leafs.

Ta-da!  Really, not quite as difficult as I anticipated.  A simple reflection on the name’s origins, cross-checked with simple grammar rules, and we have a logical answer that is perfectly acceptable from a historical and grammatical stand-point.  Rest easy, Leafs fans—while I can’t assume the jeers will cease any time soon concerning the lack of silverware in recent history, at least you will have a good retort the next time someone mocks the team’s name.

Please visit my column’s homepage and see the rest of my Peculiar Side of Sports articles.

 

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4 Responses to The Peculiar Side of Sports: Why Not the Maple Leaves?

  1. […] Leafs – A while back I wrote a detailed history of the Maple Leafs name, which you can access here.  The short version is that in 1927, Conn Smythe, a military man, prevented a team move to […]

  2. jeff says:

    There is no singular to Leaves. It has to be Leafs, based on good grammar:)
    Jeff

  3. Owen Durkin says:

    We’re just glad the Leafs logo doesn’t resemble a multi-cloured toilet seat. Thanks for the history/grammar lesson! That clears up a decades-old argument…

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