This is a hockey only city we are told. Our newspapers, television and radio stations cover hockey and the Maple Leafs almost exclusively. While the ACC may not be entirely sold out every single game, it certainly is close. Corporate tickets, sponsorships and advertising for the Toronto Maple Leafs are second to none in this market. We know more about the Maple Leaf players on a given day then any politician, actor and in some cases likely even our family and friends. The number of blogs covering hockey and the Leafs in this city is incredible. I swear when Al Gore created the internets the markets he envisioned were porn, travel, spam and of course Toronto Maple Leafs hockey.
I, like many of you weren’t alive the last time the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. I was in Maple Leaf Gardens when they los to Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings. I am told I was there in (was it 1978) when we did battle with the Montreal Canadiens. I spent most of my Saturday nights at the Gardens during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. While I am not a Gord Stellick stats guru, I never missed a game.
So, here’s the question for you fellow Maple Leaf fans: How low do they have to go? Where is your breaking point? Are we all so delusional that we will just keep coming back for more, year after year? Or do we have a tipping point. How many times have you turned off the tv at the conclusion of another year and said ‘That’s IT!- I won’t watch again. Yet you follow every off-season move. Come training camp, you’ve read every article and you even listen to the call in shows after the exhibition games.
We’ve seen it with the Toronto Blue Jays. I know, baseball, it’s not our game. I went to so many Jays games as a kid. I was there at exhibition stadium. I was at the game when Windfield hit the seagull. I was there opening night at the dome. All those years, the not so good and the good I went to games. I knew every stat and useless tidbit about every player on the Jays from inception until the time they canceled the World Series. After that it wasn’t nearly as fun. Ownership changed, Gillick and Beeston left and suddenly it wasn’t the same Blue Jays. That being said- my tipping point moment was JP. From the get go I hated him. He just reminded my of Montgomery Burn’s pesky little sidekick on the Simpsons. Every time he opened his trap I wanted to smack him. What did it for me as a fan was his attitude when he used to talk to fans. When he undressed the player on the other team and then when he made the comment about it not being a lie when the teller of the lie knew the truth. I was done. Now, I pay attention, but I am not certain I am going to go. I asked my son today if he wanted to go to a game and the 7 year old said no.
Like JP, I didn’t like JFJ either. I suffered through every miserable move and interview the guy gave. I bent, but I never broke. No matter how frustrated I’ve been, no matter how many times I’ve turned off the television – I always come back. WHY? I have no idea. I used to joke that my blood was blue and white. What is it about the Maple Leafs that captures our attention and our hearts? Why do we keep watching. I know the lovable losers thing. It’s got to be more than that though doesn’t it?
I’ve just turned 38. I said to a friend the other day, 2 years. The Maple Leafs have to be back on track to respectable by the time I’m 40 or I’m done. “Done?” he laughed, “You will never be done”! Personally, I hope Burke gets this team back on track in 2 years so I don’t have to decide. But, I ask you- what would it take for you to write them off? If the Maple Leafs finish dead last next year and win the lottery for the Boston Bruins, will that do it for you? Will 5-7 more years of non-playoff teams do it? If they play so poorly this year that they are a lottery team, missing the playoffs and Brian Burke loses his job (as Greg Brady predicts would happen if they are a lottery team next year) – are you done? If Phaneuf, Schenn, Kessel don’t improve, if Kadri can’t score and Gustavsson is the next Toskala- will you throw in the towel????? What would it take for you to walk away? Is there nothing so bad that could happen that you find another team?????????
I’m not hoping for any of this to happen. I remain helplessly devoted to the blue and white. I’m just curious where your tipping point is, if it exists at all.