It has been 27 days since James Reimer
last played for the Maple Leafs and while he is currently tending goal for Canada at the World Championship, most Leafs fans would be shocked to find out he is still putting on the pads.
So what to make of a Toronto Star poll that named Reimer the second most popular athlete in town behind the smokin’ hot Jose Bautista, whose Blue Jays, you probably know, play every night.
Bautista captured 38 per cent of the vote. Reimer is next with 21.
Now as a barometer of public sentiment an online poll is about as accurate as checking spoonfuls of your morning Alpha Bits to find the name of your future love.
Still, the next closest athlete was Luke Schenn
at 13 per cent. No one else broke the 10 per cent barrier.
How did this happen? Last September more people knew about Matt Lashoff
than James Reimer
. Jonas Gustavsson
was the heir apparent to J.S. Giguere. Reimer was the Marlies guy.
Reimer did not make his first start for the Leafs until New Year’s Day and he needed a groin injury to Giguere to get into the lineup. There seemed little reason to expect success. Since Reimer was drafted 99th in 2006, a dozen goalies had attempted without success to establish themselves in the Leafs cage.
And then came the remarkable half season, a 20-10-5 record, .921 save percentage and 2.60 goals against average.
Even all that does not explain why a goalie on a team that missed the playoffs is the second most popular athlete in his city.
Especially a goalie who played just 37 big league games in his career.
Somehow, the skimpy rations that are Reimer’s body of work have made him more popular, not less. His to-the-marrow earnestness won the interest of fans more than any slick, pre-packaged personality could. It’s the unlikely nature of his story, his personality, his statistics that have given goosebumps to the people who vote in online polls.
Should Reimer follow up this season with an accomplished 2011-2012, he will stop being the second-best player in any poll at any time of year.
Second, I make it a policy never to think I have found conclusive evidence of the limits of the affection people hold for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Then I read an online poll.