As I sat in the gold section of the ACC, in a seat with a listed ticket price of $203.00, and poured over a menu with a "chef's selection" that featured a portabello mushroom sandwich with goat cheese and arugula, with advertisements incessantly blaring over the PA, I marveled at how the game has changed.
I had not been to an NHL hockey game in over ten years, and chances are it will be longer than that before I go again. Getting to see my Habs against their storied rivals, the Leafs would be great I thought. Watching Andrei Kostitsyn float around the ice like a cloud in a gentle breeze, I wondered where my Canadiens had gone.
Seeing many Leaf games as a child living in the GTA, I was lucky enough to see Patrick Roy, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Steve Yzerman, Segei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Doug Gilmour, and the great one, Wayne Gretzky, all in their prime. I was not reminded of any of those players last night as I watched what was once one of the greatest rivalries in all of sport, and what it has become. A ghost of it's former self. The game has changed so much from my childhood, only 20 years removed, that I am now beginning to understand what my father, at age 61, who sat beside me, was talking about when he said the game is not as he remembers it. We both agreed that it has changed, and not for the better.
The choruses of "go Leafs go", countered by "go Habs go" were few and far between, and I actually had to hang my head in shame when I saw 20,000 of my fellow human beings give one of the loudest cheers of the evening during a TV timeout, for a contest between bouncing bank cards on the big screen. I was ashamed to called myself human at this moment. This is a great example of how people like Hitler can come to power. If people can be convinced to cheer on a bank card, they can be convinced of almost anything. I recall thinking that it was my assumption we had been gifted with a brain capable of intelligent and independent thought, but at this point I had to wonder.
It seemed that the hockey game itself was nothing more than an excuse for a 3 hour advertising collage. Every few whistles when the extremely beautiful, but equally irritating leaf spokesperson came over the big screen and PA to ask some random fans a mind numbing question such as "how many ice cubes you could make with the ice surface", brought to you by your friendly local neighbourhood international mass conglomerate corporate entity, this point was hammered home. Not to mention the innumerable eyesores all over the rink, with not and inch seemingly unscathed by the corporate takeover of what was once a working class person's game.
As for the Habs/Leafs rivalry, it was not even close to the same atmosphere as I witnessed at the old Maple Leaf Gardens, which now seems like a lifetime ago. The passion was just not there. Nor was a second of silence in order to think, or speak to my father, and just enjoy the atmosphere of a hockey game. The game is now no more than a convenient way for the North American Corporate monster to shovel it's shit down your throat, all the while telling you it's five star food. 203 dollars a piece for this insanity. Never again.