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How the Maple Leafs broke an astronaut's hockey-loving heart

The Canadian Press

5/17/2013 5:51:02 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs have tortured their fans many times over the years -- but never quite this way.

In what had to be a Maple Leafs first, the star-crossed squad dashed the hopes of an astronaut just as he returned to Earth.

Chris Hadfield told The Canadian Press in an interview that when he landed back on the planet Monday he asked his wife two questions.

The first was how she was. The second was what happened in the Leafs game.

What happened was a spectacular, perhaps-once-in-a-lifetime, collapse in Game 7 of their series against the Boston Bruins, where they dropped a three-goal lead in the final period to lose in overtime.

Hadfield said he was wearing a Leafs T-shirt under his space suit when he returned to Earth, after five months on the International Space Station.

"I decided that was the best I could do to show my support for the team," he said Friday from Houston, where he is undergoing tests and debriefings.

Hadfield and two other astronauts, a Russian and an American, were barrelling through the fiery atmosphere in a Soyuz space capsule while the Leafs were playing their do-or-die game.

"When I landed and the Russian search-and-rescue technicians pulled me out, they carried me over, set me down in a chair and then NASA officials hooked me by satellite phone with my wife Helene," Hadfield said.

"As soon as we checked with each other that we were alive and doing OK, the next question I asked was: 'How did the Leafs do?"'

That when Hadfield's wife said she was sorry to have to tell him that Toronto went all the way to the end, but unfortunately didn't win.

"It turns out," Hadfield quipped, "(that) both of us went down in flames on the same day."

Ever the diehard Leafs fan, Hadfield added that he's proud of the way his team played this year and he's looking forward to next season.

"I am so proud of how the Leafs did this year," he said. "They played really good hockey, entertaining hockey, motivated and creative hockey."

The 53-year-old said he had managed to watch previous games in space. He had even seen the Leafs win Game 6 the day before he undocked from the station.

Hadfield was the first Canadian to command the giant orbiting space laboratory while he was on board.