Remember the World the Last Time the Maple Leafs Won a Round

The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was in 2004. A lot has changed in the last 19 years, whether it be in society or sports, nothing is the same. During those 19 years, the Maple Leafs have missed the playoffs a total of 10 times, made the playoffs eight times, and lost in the first round seven of those eight times, with this year still being played out. They also missed an entire season in 2005 due to a labour dispute between the NHL and NHLPA.

Mats Sundin, Toronto Maple Leafs
Mats Sundin (Mike Lynaugh Photography)

The Maple Leafs have struggled quite a bit in that span of 19 years, with the seven years of first-round exits weighing heavily on both the team and fans. We have seen numerous coaches get fired, and several players and general managers (GM) come and go, but the one thing that remains is the lack of postseason success. Have you ever wondered what else has changed, or what was popular the last time the Maple Leafs made it past the first round? Well, throughout this article we will take a look at what life was like back in 2004, so buckle up for some nostalgia.

The World of Sports

NBA Champion

Unfortunately, for Toronto sports fans, the Toronto Raptors didn’t make the 2004 NBA Playoffs. However, the 2004 NBA champion did border Canada. The third seed in the Eastern Conference was the Detroit Pistons, who made a run for the ages to the Final. They beat the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the first round, then went on to beat the New Jersey Nets (Now the Brooklyn Nets) in seven games to advance to the conference finals. Over in the Western Conference, the powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, pushed past the Minnesota Timberwolves to advance to the Final.

The Pistons defeated the Indiana Pacers in six games, leaving only one more hurdle; Kobe and Shaq. Well, the Pistons made quick work of them, winning Game 1 87-75. The Lakers bounced back to win Game 2, 99-91 in overtime (OT), but that’s all the winning the Lakers did in the series. Detroit went on to win the next three games, 88-68, 88-80 and 100-87 respectively, and won the NBA championship.

MLB Champion

Unfortunately, similar to the NBA Playoffs, Toronto sports fans didn’t have the Toronto Blue Jays to cheer for in 2004. The Blue Jays arch enemy took home the World Series pennant. After beating their first-round opponents, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees met in the American League Conference Series (ALCS). The series went seven games, with the Red Sox coming out on top to advance to the World Series. As for the National League, the NLCS was between the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros, which also went seven games with the Cardinals coming out on top. That was the last time that both conference series went to Game 7, until 2020.

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The Red Sox and Cardinals were set to square off in the 2004 World Series, in what both teams hoped would be a quick series. Well for one team, it was. Boston took Game 1, 11-9, and Game 2, 6-2, taking a 2-0 series lead to Busch Stadium. St. Louis now back at home down 2-0 needed to pull their weight or else they would see themselves on the brink of elimination. Game 3 went the Red Sox’s way, by a score of 4-1, and with a 3-0 series lead was looking to get the brooms out in Game 4. That game couldn’t have been more disappointing for the Cardinals; they lost 3-0 and got swept by the Red Sox.

NHL Champion

On April 20, 2004, the Maple Leafs advanced past the Ottawa Senators but met their match against the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round. Philadelphia went on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final but ultimately lost in Game 7. On the other side, the Western Conference Final saw the Calgary Flames beat the San Jose Sharks in six games to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final against the Lightning.

Vincent Lecavalier
TORONTO – NOVEMBER 5: Vincent Lecavalier #4 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on November 5, 2005 in Toronto, Ontario.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

This series had it all, including a Flames no-goal call that was questionable in Game 6. The first two games were split but were both won 4-1, as the series headed back to Calgary tied at one. The next two games in Calgary were also split, with both teams getting a shutout. Game 5 back in the Sunshine State went into OT with the Flames coming out on top 3-2, and taking the series back to Canada with a 3-2 lead. Game 6 also saw extra periods, this time in double OT, where Tampa got the upper hand winning 3-2 to tie the series. Vincent Lecavalier and the Lightning then won a hard-fought Game 7 by a score of 2-1, securing their first Cup in franchise history.

NFL Champion

The worst part about the NFL is that there is no Canadian team to cheer for. However, for fans of the NFL, the 2004 Playoffs saw the beginning of the Tom Brady era. He and the New England Patriots were looking to roll through to the Super Bowl and make their mark on the NFL. The Patriots made quick work of the Indianapolis Colts beating them in the American Football Conference (AFC) Divisional Playoffs, 20-3. New England then moved on to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship, where they found success yet again, beating the Steelers 41-27.

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Over in the National Football Conference (NFC), the championship round saw the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons battle it out for their chance to compete in the Super Bowl. The Eagles came out on top of the Falcons, beating them 27-10 to advance to Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots. The Super Bowl was a close contest, but ultimately Brady and the Patriots came out on top beating the Eagles 24-21, to win the championship. This was Brady’s second ring, but he went on to win five more before retiring.

The World of Entertainment

Top Movie of 2004

The movie world in 2004 was historic, there were some of the best movies of the 2000s produced that year. Of the top 10 grossing movies in 2004, the top movie was Shrek 2. Some of the runners-up were Spider-Man 2, The Incredibles, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. However, as mentioned Shrek 2 was the top-grossing movie of the entire year. It was released on May 19, 2004, in 4,223 theatres around the world and made $441,226,247 in total gross profit.

Top Song of 2004

In the music world, 2004 seemed to be the year of Usher. He had song number one and two on Billboard’s year-end top 100 songs. His hit single “Yeah!” featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris earned the top song of the year. In the second spot on the list, his song “Burn” had many thinking that he was the singer of the year. A few notable runner-ups to his two hits were “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys coming in third and “Hey Ya” by OutKast slotting in at eight.

NHL 2004 Cover Athlete

The NHL 2004 cover athlete was Dany Heatley, who was at that point on top of the hockey world. In the previous year, he had 89 total points with 41 goals and 48 assists, which was good enough to put him on the cover of the latest NHL game.

Dany Heatley Atlanta Thrashers
Dany Heatley, Atlanta Thrashers, Oct, 23, 2002 (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)ΩAZ

NHL 2004 was released on Sept. 23, 2003, on PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube as well as Microsoft Windows (PC). Overall the game was given an 85/100 rating on all but PC. That platform received 87/100, giving it a very good overall rating for a game that introduced new features such as decorating the GM office and the addition of teams overseas.

Top Video Game of 2004

2004 was an interesting year for video games, the top game based on overall rating was “Half-Life 2” which received a 96/100 rating. It was released on Sept. 14, 2004, only on PC, which limited its selling factors, however, it was still voted to be the best game of the year. The runner-up for best game of the year, and an iconic game for many, was Grand Theft Auto (GTA): San Andreas. One of the best GTA games to ever be released scored a 95/100 overall rating and came in second for best game of 2004.

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It’s been a while since the Maple Leafs have found success in the postseason past the first round. Fans are confident that the team can get the job done this season, however, we as Leafs fans have seen this story before. In the blink of an eye, it goes from a 3-1 series lead for the Maple Leafs to a 3-3 tie and a Game 7.

Hopefully, this is the year that will end the 19-year drought and put the year 2004 to rest, so members of Leafs Nation can finally move on.