Today the Toronto Maple Leaf organization put out a full page ad apologizing to its fans, saying that they are sorry for the failure of a season. The apology mentions that the fans deserve better than what they were fed this season, so next year they will pull out all the stops to get at least a couple more wins.
It’s a curiosity that the Leafs would be obliged to put out such an ad, when in the last 6 years that they haven’t made the playoffs, you would not have even heard a pip from MLSE because the executives were already on a yacht somewhere. It’s somewhat of an insult for all the fans that have spent their hard earned money to watch a dismal team year after year. It’s also why I’m lamenting the years that Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark almost took the Leafs to the Stanley Cup Finals, if not for the Great One himself sabotaging the Leafs’ destiny. The reality of the Leafs is that most of their customers are corporate and business customers who are not actually paying for the tickets themselves, it is rather a write off on company expenses. The real Leafs fans have too much to worry about, like keeping their houses from going into foreclosure, rather than earn enough to pay outrageous prices to watch a very mediocre team. The real fans can only show up to the game once in a while.
The fall of the Leafs is not Ron Wilson’s fault. It is the culture that has been instilled when responsibilities don’t go beyond the game of the night and tomorrow is assured of another sold out game. The players themselves have felt and accepted the lax attitude of Leafs management. Their paycheck is guaranteed, so why bother killing themselves to win a game that is trivial at the end of the day? The Leafs organization is like a superstar player who is entering the last years of his prime. Their desire to win has been dulled by the successes and lavish lifestyle they have attained. It’s pretty hard to get yourself worked up for the game when you all you can think about is the appointment you have with that sexy little Swedish masseuse after the game. So everyone knows that the desperate ones are the ones that are most driven to succeed. Look at all the examples out there… Lebron James grew up in the hood with no father, becomes a multi-millionaire by age 21. The world caters to him, sports writers gush over him, girls throw themselves at him. Yes man are all around to boost his ego. During his early years – when he had to prove himself, he single handedly took his Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals. Now the world hates him, especially when he threw it right back in their face as to how good he has it. What has James won or accomplished since then?
The Leafs as a team on the ice are not even one that is worthy of all the money that Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment makes. Here is a team that is a bunch of nobodies, headlined by Phil Kessel. The goalies would be playing on the bench on any other team. The players are all about offense but lack discipline and defensive ability. Ron Wilson probably realized that his players didn’t care and how can a coach win games when he directs from the bench and no one is listening?
The last half of the season was disastrous for their playoff hopes, at one stretch, they lost 14 of 16 games. By the last week, no one in Toronto was even remotely interested in the Leafs. This disinterest is borne of their anger at the Leafs organization for thinking that they can continue to put out a mediocre team year after year and expect to get top dollar from their fans who have been a mountain of support for decades. The Leaf fans are why other cities in Canada are envious that Toronto is the center of the hockey universe. They are also why the Leafs organization is the most profitable in all of the NHL. So what do they get in return for their unending loyalty? No discounts on next year’s tickets, no free game for fan appreciation night. No, not even a slice! But how about a letter of apology? Sorry. Suckers.