Documenting the season of Maple Leafs, one comic at a time

Brian Evinou sat in his seat at Scotiabank Arena and watched his characters come to life.

Known among the Maple Leafs online community for his post-game comics, the Scarborough cartoonist was wearing his John Tavares jersey and sipping a beer while enjoying Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was also trying to identify the theme of his next midnight art project.

“I’m always thinking about what the comic will focus on. Right now we’re looking at a slow start for sure, the Leafs aren’t starting on time,” he said after a tough first period in which the Leafs outscored 14-5 and the Lightning outscored 2-0. He then pointed to the ‘C’ on his shirt. “I want to see the captain arrive tonight.”

A somber Evinou returned to his seat along with the rest of the eager crowd, looking for hope in the aforementioned slow start. Less than four minutes into the period, one of Evinou’s favorite characters followed the artist’s lead and inserted himself into Game 5 history. Tavares scored his first of the playoffs, a goal that sparked a dramatic win from behind to give the Leafs a 3-2 series lead and a happy ending to their comic.

“It’s probably going to be an incredibly late night,” Evinou said. But we’ll make it work. We always make it work.”

Evinou, who works at a small animation studio in Toronto and also teaches animation at Durham College, has been drawing comics after every Leafs game for the past two seasons. There are plenty of late nights for the 41-year-old, who has a son who has to get ready for school and his daily work in the mornings. At best, a game ends around 9:30 p.m. It takes about three hours to draw each comic, and if he comes up with the idea in a reasonable amount of time, he aims to be in bed by 1 a.m. I eat very late.

“The story of the game or the narrative of the game usually becomes very clear when you watch it, and then you’re looking for a twist or something that you find important or fun,” he said. “Can be anything.”

Evinou’s comics began as notebook doodles in high school and evolved into long-form books that he would sell at the Fan Expo. He started with the Leafs comics when Auston Matthews was drafted in 2016 and picked up a bit more during Mitch Marner’s contract negotiations in 2019. Evinou was totally immersed in sports talk, whether it was on radio, podcasts or social media. , and always felt the desire. to be a part of it. He had found his own way to get involved in the hockey discussion, and Leafs fans began to follow him. He stepped things up starting with the Leafs’ playoff bubble series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2020 and did the same with the Raptors-Celtics NBA bubble series. That’s when the post-game comics really started to resonate with fans online.

“I had some really tough family stuff at the start of last season, and I was looking for a distraction,” Evinou said. “And the comic was just, I did the first game of the season and people were like, ‘Oh my God, I hope you do this every game.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can do this in every game.’ ”

The next thing he knew, he was 25 games into the season.

When Brian Evinou saw that Boston's Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall seemed to be losing their composure in their loss to the Leafs, he drew them crying in diapers.

Drawing Leafs players so regularly has given Evinou a sense of connection to his favorite hockey team. He loves to show off the personality of Jack Campbell, or the style of William Nylander, or the poise of the Leafs captain who used to play for his hometown Oshawa Generals. His animation background really comes out when he can emphasize physical features like Matthews’ mustache or Pierre Engvall’s neck.

“I think the reason you get good at drawing is because you enjoy spending time at the table,” Evinou said. “I love being involved in the Leafs conversation, and there’s so much anxiety about being a Leaf fan, so I can only steer it somewhere.”

Eighty-eight games and counting, Evinou’s playoff comics will continue wherever the Leafs take them.

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