Stefani Germanotta hadn't even started playing dive New York bars yet with her group the SGBand when the Leafs last made the playoffs. The fashion-forward, vocal powerhouse has since skyrocketed to worldwide fame with a young fan base — the Little Monsters — as devout as Leafs Nation.
The reality TV sensation, a beauty pageant toddler who coined catchphrases like "a dollar makes me holler," wasn't even born before Toronto’s last post-season run. Eight-year-old Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson entered the world in August 2005. She’s a Georgia native so it's unclear where her hockey allegiances lie.
During the Leafs’ last post-season appearance, nascent social media sites like Friendster and MySpace were just springing to life. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have since revolutionized the medium and the way we communicate. They have also provided an ample platform for long-suffering Leafs fans to gripe about missing the playoffs.
Not only have Canadian prime ministers and U.S. presidents changed since the Leafs last made the playoffs, the world's geopolitical landscape has altered too. Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and South Sudan have each since formed nation states that now exist alongside Leafs Nation.
Late Apple founder Steve Jobs was just beginning to realize the potential in cellphones when the Leafs were last in the playoffs. It wasn't until three years later that the first generation iPhone was introduced in 2007. The sleek device is now a technological and cultural touchstone and will be a tool of choice for Leafs fans to document Toronto's return to the post-season.
Blu-ray technology had yet to leave Japanese shores during the last playoff run for the Maple Leafs. After a battle with rival HD-DVD, the medium was introduced in North America in 2006 with Blu-ray players selling for an average price of $1,000, which, despite Toronto's playoff absence, was about the same price for a premium ticket to a Leafs game.
The NHL post-season isn't the only place where Toronto has lost its bragging rights over the last nine years. The Burj Khalifa building in Dubai officially opened in 2010. At 2,722 feet it easily eclipses Toronto's CN Tower as the world's tallest free-standing structure. Construction hadn't even started on the massive building the last time the Maple Leafs were bounced from the playoffs.
Provocative threats from North Korea are nothing new, but in 2009 the world took special notice when the reclusive country declared it had developed a nuclear weapon. The extent of North Korea's nuclear capabilities is unclear, but the last nine years has led to a more complicated and dangerous political climate with the country and its Pacific neighbours.
Nintendo ascended to the top of the video game industry — and unceremoniously fell back down to Earth — in the time it's taken the Leafs to return to the playoffs. With innovative motion controls, the Nintendo Wii took the game market by storm when it was released in 2006. But the gimmick eventually wore off, and its successor, the Wii U, has so far been a disappointment. At least Leafs fans won't have to fire up their Wiimote controllers just to get their team into the playoffs this year.
NHL fans in Manitoba's capital have endured a longer playoff drought than Toronto's faithful, but they have a better excuse than a comically underachieving hockey team. The Winnipeg Jets infamously bolted for Phoenix in 1996, where the rechristened Coyotes enjoy tepid support to this day. It's a far rosier situation in Winnipeg. The Atlanta Thrashers moved north to become the second version of the Jets in 2011.
When Comedy Central debuted "The Colbert Report" – a spinoff of "The Daily Show" -- for an eight-week run in 2005, George W. Bush was barely in his second term as U.S. president. Nine years later Stephen Colbert is still going strong with his fractured take on American politics and punditry, while in Canada the Leafs have finally stopped serving as a national punchline.