If tattoos are any indication, Toronto Maple Leafs fans really are the greatest in the world. The Leafs logo is the most tattooed sports team logo in the world, according to a recent study by Gambling.com that looked at global Instagram hashtag data.
The study found 5,662 hashtags including the Toronto Maple Leafs team name followed by “tattoo.” That’s compared to the second-most tattooed sports team on the list, the Denver Broncos, for which the study found 3,805 associated hashtags on Instagram. And the Leafs are the only hockey team out of the top five teams on the list (which includes the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots).
It turns out the Leafs are also the sixth-most in-demand sports team tattoo, based on country-specific Google Trends data, the study also found. Again, out of the top 20 teams on the list, the Leafs are the only hockey team.
The news might come as a surprise to some hockey fans, especially those familiar with the team’s questionable success rate – the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup was in 1967. Over the past 10 years, they’ve made the playoffs six times, though four of those times, the team lost in the first round.
But for die-hard Leafs fan Matt Kaleta, this study isn’t a surprise.
“The Leafs have been around for over 100 years, so they do have a rich history despite struggling the last 20 years,” he says. “People always say it’s the most dedicated fan base, and what other team could not win a cup for 50 something years and still be the richest team, with the most supportive, the most passionate fans?”
Kaleta has a Leafs tattoo, one that he got in 2013 when the Leafs made the playoffs after the longest active drought since 2004, before losing in the quarter finals to Boston.
“When I was a kid, my dad and I would always say that when the Leafs won the cup we can get matching Leafs tattoos together,” Kaleta says.
But after almost a decade of not even making it to the playoffs, Kaleta decided to get his after they made it through in 2013, even though his dad still wanted to wait for the big win.
“I joked with my dad, I said if we wait any longer, I’m gonna have to roll him in his wheelchair at 80 years old to get the tattoo,” he says.
Kaleta says his tattoo, which is an image of the Leafs logo, is quite the conversation piece. “People obviously have strong opinions on it. I get from a lot of people, ‘Oh, that’s a stink you can’t wash off,’ things like that, but I don’t take it personally,” he says.
Christopher Flink got a large Leafs-themed tattoo in 2019, and he says he usually gets compliments on it from fans.
“It’s a way to show that you’re a fan without having to always be wearing a jersey or a hat or something,” he says.
He says he can joke about giving up on the Leafs when they let him down year after year, but that’s the thing about Leafs fans – they’ll never really give up. “Hope springs eternal,” Flink jokes.
Flink says he understands why so many Leafs fans like himself have gone the extra mile and tattooed themselves in honour of the team.
“There’s definitely a correlation between the die-hard Leafs fandom existing regardless of how good they are and the mentality of getting something that represents a mediocre sports team put on your body forever,” he says. “I think there’s a kind of a Stockholm Syndrome there.”
Of course, many Leafs fans aren’t under any illusion about the success of their team, even the ones with tattoos.
“I’m just so used to kind of being disappointed,” Kaleta says regarding the team’s recent playoffs loss to the Montreal Canadiens on May 31. “Obviously, I want them to win, but nothing really surprises me.”