Billy Kapogiannis kept screaming long after the TV camera stopped recording. He found himself screaming as he left his seat inside the Amalie Arena and found himself continuing even after crossing a street, walking outside on a hot, victorious evening in Tampa, Florida. .
“I just couldn’t stop,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know what came out of me.”
His reaction made him famous with viewers and social media users on Monday night, giving a primal cry after watching Leafs forward Alex Kerfoot complete an unlikely comeback with an overtime goal to secure a 3-1 lead. on the Lightning in their first round. series. Kapogiannis was seen on Sportsnet shouting into his phone, before dropping the call to shout into space.
By Tuesday morning, hoarse and happy, he had forgotten who was on the other end of that call.
“It could have been Jesus Christ at that time, I don’t know,” he said. “I just said, ‘Hi, Jesus! It’s the Leafs! »
Kapogiannis is a restaurant server and entrepreneur from Aurora, Ontario, just north of Toronto, who flew to Florida on a whim. Sam Cortese, a friend and colleague, was standing next to him as the camera zoomed in after the victory. Cortese laughed as Kapogiannis screamed to the skies.
“That’s passion, that’s what a Leafs fan is,” Kapogiannis said. “That’s what the world doesn’t understand: we’re not fans, we’re Sheet fans, and there is a difference.
He promotes teams in other sports, including the Dallas Cowboys.
“As far as the Leafs go, I don’t know what’s happening to me,” he said. “I’m just going crazy, if you want to know the truth.”
Tampa took a 2-0 lead in the first period and added distance in the second. The Lightning were leading 4-1 when Kapogiannis leaned over to Cortese to say he had to use the restroom. It was near the halfway point of the third period in Game 4.
He was on his way to the facility when Auston Matthews scored. It was 4-2, and Kapogiannis returned to his seat in time to witness the events that followed.
“I get tweeted all night long,” he said. “This guy in front of me kept chirping and chirping and chirping. I’m like, ‘Relax, bro: (The series is) still 2-1, take it easy.’
“And boom! And boom! And boom! The goals followed. I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to lose my mind here.’ »
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Kapogiannis works at Avenue, an Italian restaurant in Kleinburg, a 45-minute drive north of Scotiabank Arena. Cortese is a chef. They are also partners of VTL Indoor Golf & Academy, an indoor golf center in Vaughan. (The tickets were offered to them by a customer in Tampa.)
At 59, Kapogiannis is old enough to have been alive when the Leafs won their last Stanley Cup, but not to have a living memory. He’s been a lifelong fan of the franchise, with the 1993 playoffs etched in his memory.
He said he served former Leafs captain Darryl Sittler twice. Once, he said, the retired striker left a sweater inside the restaurant. Someone passed him a cell number for Kapogiannis, who put the sweater aside for safekeeping.
On Monday, Kapogiannis spotted someone in Tampa wearing a Sittler jersey. He took a picture and sent it to Sittler.
He said Sittler texted back, “Come on Leafs! Enjoy.”
The Leafs were also still in Tampa on Tuesday morning. With two days between games, they opted to stay the night before returning to Toronto for practice on Wednesday.
Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe suggested the extra day would help the players decompress from the chaos of their frantic comeback from a 4-1 deficit. (It would also, he said, give staff more time to decide whether forward Michael Bunting would return to the lineup for Game 5 on Thursday, after a three-game suspension for elbowing the Tampa defender Erik Cernak in Game 1.)
“We have to prepare to win a hockey game – a very tough hockey game,” Keefe said in a brief Zoom session with reporters on Tuesday. “Anything that is not related to our preparation and then our execution at game time is a distraction.”
Kapogiannis was still struggling with the endless distraction of his cellphone. His nephew called him during the game, as well as his niece and brother. At first, the messages were about his appearance on television.
When these images hit social media, her phone became a whirlwind of ringtones and notifications. Cortese was still sorting through his messages the next morning. They were to fly later that evening.
They were heading back to the arena for some pictures. Kapogiannis was smiling, but it was hard to do much more shouting. His was hoarse.
“I have no voice,” he said. “I kept screaming.”
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(Photo: Courtesy of Billy Kapogiannis)