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If "Airplane!" taught us anything, it's that disaster begets absurdity.

It's disastrous, for example, when the Toronto Maple Leafs are 10-14-4 in their 43rd year without a Stanley Cup. They possess an ill-conceived, financially bloated roster; a coach that could burn down the arena and not receive a pink slip; and the creeping sense that the Boston Bruins will have another high lottery pick this season.

What it begot in the Toronto Maple Leafs' last home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night: The Air Canada Centre ice and Leafs defenseman Francois Beauchemin(notes) getting hit with several round, toaster-sized waffles. Which is the aforementioned absurdity.

Will this odd, unexpected fan protest (or diversion) continue against the Montreal Canadiens tonight at home? (7 p.m. EST, preview here, and check out more on tonight's 3-D experiment for the game.)

Canadian Readers: Click here to watch Hockey Night in Canada on Y! Sports Canada, featuring the Habs at Leafs (7 p.m.), the Lightning at the Canucks (9:10 p.m. EST)

They've clicked with the fans. There's a Toronto Maple Waffles T-shirt. Leafs fans on message boards are creating waffle-inspired avatars. Pension Plan Puppets has a waffle-image Photoshop contest rolling. The waffle has become the centerpiece of inspirational signage.

The players? Not exactly warming up to the waffles.

From the Toronto Sun, the Leafs react to the waffles:

"I don't appreciate it, really, a guy throwing waffles at me as I am skating by," Leafs forward Colby Armstrong(notes) said. "Almost hit me. I don't know if the guy was aiming at me or whatever. Who knows? A guy brought waffles. "We're trying to make light of it in here. Throw a filet, throw a T-bone. Spend some money."

One would have to think that waffle-tossing doesn't catch on. An octopus on the ice at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit? Cool. The plastic rats that Florida Panthers fans pelted the ice with during the Panthers' run to the Stanley Cup final in 1996? Not bad. But waffles? Seriously? And besides, those things were thrown in support of their teams.

Someone who had nothing better to do already had posted a video on-line on Friday that depicted Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson(notes) swearing after a goal and catching a waffle in his mouth before taking a swig from a bottle of maple syrup.

"I didn't even know they sell waffles at the game," defenceman Luke Schenn(notes) said. "That's a shocker. (And) if you're bringing waffles to a game, maybe you have issues of your own."

But what did the waffles signify?

Hats, octopi, plastic rats, snakes, sexual pleasure devices ... each had their specific motivation. National Post columnist Bruce Arthur was told in a email that the thrower was wearing a Gretzky Oilers jersey with homemade lettering who may have called them "losers."

Was it a comment on their lack of success? On Brian Burke being a "waffler"? Arthur doesn't buy that line of thinking about Burke:

As metaphor, the waffles don't work, unless you consider that they rhyme with awful, or if you think some Leafs have oversized egos -- Eggos, get it? -- but even that doesn't really work. It might make sense if fans threw one of the 11 varieties of hot dogs available at Burkie's Dog House in the ACC, though Eggo waffles are admittedly more cost-effective. And as the great columnist for The Vancouver Sun, Cam Cole, put it, "A waffle is an odd missile to throw at Leafs when they're playing like crepe."

(Well-played, Mr. Cole.)

Will the waffles continue to fly at the ACC? That's up to the fans. It was so random that one could envision copycats taking part. But by Saturday, perhaps the waffles meme had gone cold; and really, who likes cold waffles?

Perhaps it's time to move to another more appropriate breakfast treat? Donuts have nothing in the middle and neither do the Leafs. Apple fritters look rough on the outside but are clunky and soft on the inside. Hell, just throw a bowl of old Rice Krispies: You were promised snap/crackle/pop, and all you get was soggy mush.

Also on HNIC:

Tampa Bay Lightning at Vancouver Canucks (10:30 p.m. EST, preview). Not a good time for Canucks prospects, as Cody Hodgson(notes) has a broken orbital bone after taking a puck to the face and Jordan Schroeder(notes) appeared to badly injure his leg in the AHL.  Meanwhile, another young standout, Cory Schneider(notes), gets the call in goal on Markus Naslund(notes) jersey retirement night. Hopefully if this thing goes to a shootout, the Canucks show some respect to the Tampa Bay goaltenders, because they're getting pissy about it.

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