Having an NHL entry contract means you have to shut up, work your way up the ranks, and you will get your chance to show your stuff when it matters.
Being a fan of the Maple Leafs, I have the usual upbringing.
Kid grows up in Canada, plays hockey, watches hockey, basically eats, sleeps, and breathes hockey. Same goes for growing up in the Big Smoke. You bleed blue and white as soon as you're born.
I can recite every single player since I was two years old, and many from before I was born. From Lou Franceschetti to Mikhail Grabovski to Bill Barilko.
I went to every hockey signing (growing up in the GTA, there was almost one every weekend), shook hands with everyone from Dave Andreychuk to my favourite Bobby Hull. And I have more than one room full with Leafs and NHL paraphernalia. I have almost every NHL McFarlane figurine, and more than a closet full of NHL jerseys.
Then about five years ago when the Carolina Hurricanes took out my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, everything changed. I was shocked at that moment when it happened.
Being in my early 20's the Leafs were one of the main things I cared about, and that moment was a turning point in my life. I knew that I shouldn’t care so much about a team that does not care about me. I grew up.
It's not just the losing; it's about the heart of the team. I realized it's more about business than anything else and each year it only gets worse. Ever since I can know, Leafs tickets for the whole season get sold in less than an hour, even though they are the most expensive tickets in the NHL.
Then five years ago, they added Leafs TV, which you can only get if you have the super digital cable package, with the additional price a month of the channel itself. So you can't watch about 15 games each season unless you have that separate channel.
Last but not least, the organization will try everything and anything not to have another franchise within an hour of the team, even though they will always sell out. And they will never be even second best in the final amount made each and every year.
In the New York area, there are four teams within less than an hour-and-a-half of each other—Rangers, Islanders, Devils, and Flyers.
MLSE has just become more and more of a business, not caring about its personal relationships and its fans.
The organization of this team was moving in a different direction, and I had finally had my eyes wide open. I am now a free agent.
I have become a man.
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