I have a confession to make. On January 6th, I went to a Toronto Maple Leafs game. I know, I know, there are self-help groups out there for people like me, but some of us just can't help the way we are.
Now, being a diehard, born in the blue Leafs fan, it probably shouldn't be that surprising that I attended the fiasco that was the Leafs-Flyers game that night. Considering I live in BC, odds are fairly good that, should I be in Toronto on game night, you'll find me in the stands. However, plunking my butt in one of those expensive seats is not solving Toronto's biggest problem.
It struck me on Saturday, as I watched different individuals in the crowd, what "going to a hockey game" means. To me, it means a chance to be in the same place with the team I support, yelling, cheering, booing, and generally making an ass of myself. There was a father and his son, whom I met in Shopsy's before the game, overjoyed to be attending their first NHL game. There were the four drunk guys who sat in front of me, keeping the stewards busy by perching various items precariously on the railing in front of them. And, of course, there were all those empty gold seats below me. Paid for, that's certain, but with no one there. The others sitting in the golds? Well, I'm not quite certain why they even bothered coming, since most couldn't be bothered to leave the bar to watch the game. Acquiring tickets and attending games is a status symbol, a habit, a given.
You can bet your best fake Lanny MacDonald mustache that if the Canucks, Senators, or Canadiens were sporting the same record as the Leafs right now, there would be a helluva lot of empty seats in their arenas. Why? Their fans demand winning teams, and they make the organizations take notice when they keep their wallets in their pockets. They actually like watching good hockey.
It was impossible to get into any of the Leafs merchandise stores at the ACC that night; they were overflowing, and cash registers were ringing. Seats were sold out; there are waiting lists for tickets, waiting lists for season's tickets. It's a matter of prestige in Toronto to be able to procure and hold seats at the ACC, even if no one sits in them.
Toronto fans are stubborn and proud; through thick and thin, we stand by our team. Well, I'm one of those fans, and I'm tired of mediocrity. My solution? It doesn't involve firing anyone (though that might be a good place to start).
If you're a Toronto fan, you know the problem. MLSE makes money, no matter what the stat sheets say. Nothing short of divine intervention is going to turn this current roster into a Cup contender. So I propose this solution: Stay home.
That's right, stay home. Don't buy tickets, don't buy merchandise. Tell your friends to stay home. Don't take those tickets from the boss. If you don't like what the management is doing with your money, don't give them more. Exercise your right to control what your team does. If you get really ambitious, try setting up a website, sell some shares, and buy majority control (as football fans in the UK have done).
Honestly, I'd rather watch the Leafs lose in HDTV from my own couch, so I can curse to my heart's content.