Mike Wilson is on a mission to go to every single Toronto Maple Leafs game this season – home and away. That’s 82 games, and a whole lot of travel.
It’s the latest way of paying tribute to his favourite hockey team. The first was amassing an impressive collection of memorabilia in his Toronto home.
“I like to think of it as preserving history and I like to think of myself as the gatekeeper to the pieces,” Mike told CTV’s Your Morning host Ben Mulroney.
His impressive basement man cave now houses only part of his collection. The rest was sold to the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa for nearly $2-million dollars. The hope is that one day they will be able to make into a permanent exhibit. Once dubbed the “Ultimate Leafs Fan” by ESPN, Mike hopes to stay involved and be able to speak about the history behind the pieces.
“Why I did it was with the understanding that it would be on display,” says Mike. “It’d be for other people to share. I think that’s the right thing to do.”
One of his most impressive pieces is still in his home – the 1962 Stanley Cup banner. It is the only one of the original banners left. The rest were used as paint tarps during summer cleanups in Maple Leafs Gardens. This one was saved by an upholsterer who worked there, and eventually made it into Wilson’s collection.
“It did get a lot of attention when it come out because it was thought they were all destroyed,” says Mike.
Mike’s focus has now shifted from his collection to what he’s calling “The Ultimate Road Trip.” Dallas, Washington, Winnipeg and more are already ticked off. If the Leafs are there, so is Mike.
He’s easily identifiable at the games. His shirt always bears his Ultimate Leafs fan logo. He wants to be recognizable because a big reason behind the trip is to talk to other fans.
“It’s been overwhelming because of how embedded this hockey club is in families and people throughout the nation,” Mike says. “Everywhere I go, there’s Leafs fans everywhere.”
He has an active social media account where he encourages people to get in touch and find out how to connect with him at games. In every arena he goes to, he picks a spot where he can meet up with others to swap stories. At home games, he can always be found at the Draught Deck on the third level at every second intermission.
“The fans are passionate, “ he says. “They start telling me their family stories and about how deep it runs in the family. It’s just been amazing.”
Wilson’s already written a book about his collection, titled Inside the Room with the Ultimate Leafs Fan. After his adventures this season, he may plan on another creative venture. There’s even talk of a documentary.
As for right now, his focus is getting through the season.
“Get through the 82 games first. Make the playoffs and then we’ll see what happens. ”