“This way, we get to cheer more”: This father-daughter duo attend every Maple Leafs home game in the opposing team’s jersey
Leafs Nation anti-fans Irv and Dani Di Guisto on the origins of their unusual ritual, their devotion to the Montreal Canadiens and what they’ll wear if the Leafs make it to the Stanley Cup finals
Father-daughter duo Irv and Dani Di Guisto are hockey superfans with a unique way of expressing their allegiances: they attend every Leafs game decked out in the opposing team’s jersey. They’ve been at it for years, but they were recently “outed” on Twitter by a split-screen image of the pair wearing two different jerseys at two separate games (Tampa Bay Lightning gear in one, Florida Panthers attire in the other). The attention has led to both adoration and outrage as well as a few conspiracy theories. Here, they dish about being Leafs Nation’s most famous anti-fans.
When and how did this unusual ritual start?
Irv: I grew up in Toronto and started playing hockey when I was seven or eight. In my pre-teen years, the best team out there was the Montreal Canadiens. My idol was Guy Lafleur, who’s still my all-time favourite player. I watched the Habs win four Stanley Cups in a row in the late ’70s—they’ve been my team for ages, and they still are.
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Even though you’re a Torontonian?
Irv: Yes. But I do live here, so I started going to Leafs games in the late ’80s—those were the Maple Leaf Gardens days. At first, I went in regular clothes, but the Leafs kept losing and losing. At a certain point, I just wanted to be able to cheer. I saw all the people happily supporting the competition, and I got the idea to join in. The first time I dressed up for the opposition was when the Leafs played the Washington Capitals in 1985. The Capitals won, and I had a great time.
Dani: I’m also a big Canadiens fan. I grew up playing hockey, and as a goalie, I absolutely idolized Carey Price—my jersey was number 31. After we watched NHL games, my dad and I would run drills based on what we had seen. Hockey has always been something we bond over. When I was first going to games, I would wear a Leafs jersey, but then a friend of mine joined my dad in buying the opposing team’s jersey. She’s in Hong Kong right now, but when she gets back, there will be three of us.
Can you explain the appeal?
Dani: We can’t go to games in Montreal because we live in Toronto. But, since the Leafs are the Habs’ major rival, cheering for the Leafs’ opponents is our way of supporting our team from afar. Plus it’s just fun. As a Leafs fan, you’re the same as everyone else in the arena, but we get to be our own little unit. And, usually, we get to cheer more.
So the opposition jersey routine is ultimately more about loving the Habs than hating the Leafs?
Irv: I don’t hate anyone. I love sports, and above all, I’m a hockey fan. I once went to 400 Leafs home games in a row. I’ve been doing this for years—and now, all of a sudden, I’m a troll!
Right—people are calling you guys the ultimate Leafs trolls. Is that a fair description?
Dani: I’m okay with troll. I’ve also seen “anti-hero.” The one I don’t like is haters, because that’s not us. The last thing we want is to spread negativity.
Irv: To me, it’s a comedy act. The people in my section know me—some of them have been sitting near me at the games for thirty years. They understand what I do. But now other people are suddenly taking notice.
Can you explain how you became internet celebs?
Dani: Someone saw us at two different games, and they posted photos on Twitter. It caused a lot of speculation about who we were. A few people thought we were from Florida—they called us “reverse snowbirds.” Others thought we were paid actors, like the NHL was employing us to prove that the Panthers have devoted fans. Some people called us heroes and offered to buy us beers, which was great. But there was also a lot of negativity and mean comments. It got to the point where the Leafs’ official account made a post telling people not to hate on us.
What was the reaction like when you went back for the second home game?
Dani: I actually decided not to go to the game last Thursday. I’m a high school student and a young woman. I was worried about my safety.
Irv: Everyone was so disappointed that she wasn’t there. They were asking, “Where’s Dani? Where’s Dani?” If people were saying anything negative at the game, I didn’t hear it. I heard a lot of, “There’s that guy—there’s the troll.” At intermission, a bunch of people came over to chat and take pictures with me.
Of all the jerseys you have now, which are your favourites?
Irv: Mine is one that I don’t have anymore—and it wouldn’t fit me even if I did. It’s the old Guy Lafleur jersey I had when I was ten years old.
Dani: I love the retro jerseys that some teams are doing, bringing back old designs to pay homage to the team’s history. I care more about whether the jersey is pretty than my dad does.
Do you guys own any other bling?
Dani: We have all kinds of stuff for the Habs. When Montreal comes to Toronto, that’s when we go all out: the blazers, the jewellery, the socks. We are preparing for weeks in advance—brushing up on new players and stats, discussing wardrobe, making sure we match.
Things aren’t looking so hot for the Leafs right now. If there is a game five, will you be there?
Dani: I hope so. I think all the attention will have died down by then, although it’s hard to say. We went to the Blue Jays fan fest on Sunday, and people were asking us for photos.
Wait—Do you wear the opposing jerseys to Jays games too?
Irv: No. Our jersey tradition is just for the Leafs. We would love to see them go through to the next round so we can bring out our Devils or Hurricanes jerseys.
So you are cheering for the Leafs?
Irv: Like I said, I’m a hockey guy. I just want to see more games.
And if the Leafs were to go all the way?
Irv: I have actually said to my buddies over the years, “If the Leafs make it to the finals, I’ll wear their jersey for those games.”
Dani: All right—if they make it, I’ll wear it too.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.