I’m not going to pretend that I’m a hockey expert by any means. I know others who are much more knowledgeable than me and have spent many years deeply involved in the hockey world. I grew up as the son of an immigrant who was introduced to hockey by friends and outsiders who showed me what it was like to be the Canadian stereotype. I started following the biggest name in hockey at the time and it fueled my love of the game AND got me excited in Canadian hockey players. To this day I still dream of the day I own a signed Gretzky Oilers jersey, the man was the reason I started watching hockey.
Then I made my decision. I decided to throw my support behind one team, and logic dictated that this team would be the city of my birth, the centre of the universe – the Toronto Maple Leafs. I didn’t know it then but it was a choice that would teach me how to endure ridicule from almost everyone. Bruins fans automatically hate me, same with Ottawa and Detroit fans. Montreal fans just laugh at me but they have to endure Montreal winters so I’ll let them have their laughs. Through all that, I can still hold my head high and be proud to have such greats belong to my storied club. The likes of Sittler, Vaive, Salming, McDonald, Bower, Mahovlich, King Clancy – those that I’ve only seen in highlight reels but players that are legends and have brought home Lord Stanley’s cup. Then there are those that I remember watching; Clark, Gilmour, Potvin, Domi, Macoun, Andreychuk, Tucker, Roberts, Gartner, McCabe, CuJo. I’ve seen such great games, classic playoff rivalries, heartbreaking upsets but regardless of the outcome, there was always hope for next year.
Unfortunately that is no longer the case and it’s not just due to the stunning upset against the Preds or the Sabres. This has been building up for close to a decade now, and my hopes and dreams for watching a Stanley Cup final in Toronto are flickering away. My wife is a Blackhawks fan and I watch them play as much as I watch the Leafs, and I must say we’re not even CLOSE to their level of play. Sure they have an off night where they get beat by shitty teams (Nov 8th) but not only is their calibre of play better, but their team cohesion and leadership is something that I haven’t seen since the Burns and Clark days. As the richest team in the NHL and one of the richest sports franchises in the world HOW CAN THIS BE POSSIBLE? How can we not attract an inspiring coach or a captain that both the players and fans can get behind? There is no respect for the current captain as is evident in the Phaneuf Pylon Halloween costume that was passed around my news feed by both fans and non-fans alike. Is that the kind of leadership that will take us to the playoffs, let alone the Cup finals?
At this time I’d like to address the management, executive offices, coaching staff and players directly. What are you doing? Seriously what is your end goal with this team? Do you even care about winning not only the cup but the fans as well? You’re losing more fans than ever. I don’t see kids sporting Phanuef jerseys, I see Crosby and Towes and Ovechkin jerseys but why don’t kids want to be seen wearing our Captain’s jerseys? I’d ask if this is sustainable to ensure that you’re investing in the fans of the future but we all know that the suits that sit in the platinum seats are going to make sure that you can fund the ridiculous contracts for players that aren’t worth their salary. I’d love to sit down by the ice and be part of the excitement but to be honest, I’m not paying over $500/seat to watch them play mediocre hockey against a great team. I’ve been able to attend four games in my lifetime as a fan, three of them were given to me as corporate seats and the game I paid for was against the Lightning and I had a chance to watch Stamkos give a stellar performance (hat-trick). In fact, I’ve only ever seen the Leafs win live one time and it was against the Sabres before they fired Lindy Ruff. And to make it clear, it’s not that I can’t afford to go to a game, I just don’t want to pay $100 for shitty seats only to watch my team lose. I can’t take the heartache. I hate our modern Leafs and by that I mean the idea of the MLSE, the large corporate conglomerate that seemingly needs to make sure that only the 1% could afford to attend its games. But that’s ok because the tiny surges that the team makes will be enough to keep fans shilling out dough and keeping your pockets lined. I still love the idea of my hometown team, but it’s buried deep under the shit that the MLSE has turned it into.
I’m going to end my rant with a commentary on the recent trend of fans throwing jerseys onto the ice. I don’t condone the act. I feel that it is a harsh action and a waste of money. I do however understand the frustration that has led to this. In fact the symbolism of the act is quite significant. You give money to the MLSE for merchandise and you return it, without WANTING a refund due to the frustration of what seems like poor choices and an uncaring corporation that just doesn’t seem to care about it’s fans any longer. While I would NEVER participate in that act (I value each dollar I spend) I promise you that I will NO LONGER spend any money attending games or buying merchandise until I see some marked improvement in the MLSE’s attitude to winning and it’s attitude to its fans. I know that my money is a drop in the bucket for you but please understand that the act speaks volumes and you should seriously consider why you’re in the hockey business to begin with.
A frustrated fan