A small sample of how the rest of us feel

I have two confessions to make:
1) I am (was?) a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.
2) I have never cared less about a team I once liked ever than I do with the Toronto Maple Leafs right now.

I have not watched the Toronto Maple Leafs play a game in over a month and why would I? The team is awful, there has been no semblance of effort on the ice and they’re going to miss the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season. I could get the same amount of catharsis from having my toenails ripped out or being strapped to a chair and having Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs do his worst. It’s a little sobering that I work here for a living and the team that I’m supposed to cheer for hasn’t made the playoffs since I was in the ninth grade.

Last week when the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk wrote a column titled “Brian Burke should apologize to Leaf fans” you better believe my response was “Hell yeah he should.”

Feschuk captures the scenery beautifully with his final 200 words and the outlook, for lack of a better term, is bleak.

This market, in other words, is truly captive. And Burke doesn’t appear in the mood to explain himself to the hostages.

Clearly, in a more genuine era, in a town where sports executives understood accountability, the man running the Leafs would proffer a more appropriate message to the fans. It would include descriptors like “unacceptable” and “embarrassing.” It would acknowledge the supporters’ hurt. It would suggest humility.

Burke’s tenure in Toronto, let’s be clear, could not be going worse. This season could not be more of an epic failure. The Leafs have no No. 1 goalie, no stud defenceman, no star centreman. They crashed miserably as a Wilson-coached run-and-gun team. They’re going to need a massive overhaul to even know if they can be halfway successful as a Carlyle-coached blood-and-guts unit. Wonderful Phil Kessel represents everything flawed with Burke’s methodology. The GM’s team is so far removed from being a Stanley Cup contender, it’s laughable.

And never mind the Cup — even playing in a parity-stricken league in which every other team seems to figure it out now and then, Burke can’t buy a post-season cup of coffee.

Clearly there’s a more appropriate message to the people who care about his hockey club. It starts with, “I’m sorry.” And it does not assume forgiveness, let alone employment until the Winter Classic.

Simply put, the mediocrity surrounding this franchise is baffling and it’s time that somebody own up to it. The “rebuild” has them back at ground zero, they’re on to their fourth coach since the lockout and there is absolutely ZERO reason to think it’ll change any time soon. Sure it’s a young team, but is this core of players going to be any better after playing together for five seasons? Their best player, Phil Kessel, has his best season ever and this team has never been worse to watch.

The odds of me ever truly caring about this team again have never been lower and I’m not trying to be dramatic.

What’s concerning though is the fact that I’m less attached to this team than the majority of real Leafs fans. Sure I care if they win or lose but the amount of emotional involvement tied to it is pretty lax. There are people out there (wrongly or rightly) who live and die with this team, who fly a blue and white flag above their homes and sleep in Leafs footie pajamas. It’s for those diehards that I truly want to hear that apology.

This isn’t the first time a MLSE franchise (surprise surprise) has been in this situation. After the 1998-99 season the Toronto Raptors, having been around for a whopping four seasons, finished off the best season in franchise history up to that point with a 23-27 record, four games out of a playoff spot in a lockout shortened season. After their season finale win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, then-22 year old rookie Vince Carter took a microphone, walked to center court and apologized to the fans for falling short and guaranteed a playoff spot in 2000, which they attained as promised.

Now, I don’t want to be too presumptuous here, but if a 22 year old kid can address a stadium full of fans and guarantee a milestone which hadn’t been achieved for that franchise to that point in time, I think that Brian Burke and/or Dion Phaneuf and/or Randy Carlyle and/or anyone of consequence on that team can take 10 damn seconds from their busy schedule and apologize to their fan base for one of the worst seasons in team history in an attempt to atone for how low a point this truly is for the Leafs.

As I get ready to publish this piece the Leafs are down 3-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes in what is truly a battle of futility. While Tank Nation persists in Leafs land, the team itself has become no more than comedy in skates. The unfortunate part is it’ll be the fans wearing the paper bags on their heads and not the organization which has assembled this caravan of mediocrity.

On April 5 the Toronto Maple Leafs wrap up their season against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Win or lose, someone better be there to walk up to the mic and answer the bell.

Comments (16)

  1. Well said my man,

    I love the leafs but that love isn’t unconditional. The Leafs brass need to think about the fact that there may be a generation of kids growing up without a positive leafs memory from their childhood. Ticket sales may not suffer this year, or even next, but eventually people will lose interest and other teams in toronto may replace them (NOT that MLSE cares since they own all the pro sports teams in TO, and rogers, a part owner owns the only one that MLSE doesn’t own.

  2. Give me a break. The Leafs have never won a major award like the Norris, the Art Ross, the Presidents, etc. They’ve never broken 100 points in a season and they’ve never won their division. They’ve only played .500 hockey over the course of their history! Have they ever been a good team? Forget Grade 9! You’re not even close to how long some people have been watching them. What they do have is a monopoly on 20% of the Canadian population, forced to watch the Leafs. How do you explain Ballard in the HoF? Or Gilmour before Bure? Who cares if you stop watching? Do you have any idea what the waiting list is to get season’s tickets? Do you have any idea how difficult it ist to get a regularly priced ticket? You along with the rest of teh 20% were brain-washed to love the leafs. I’m sure you’re buying Leaf t-shirts, jerseeys and PJs for your kids too. They’ll love the Leafs too.
    The only purpose these articles and their comments provide is, AMUSEMENT!

    • You lost me at they’ve never broken 100 points. They have.

      I’d answer each of your questions but I don’t think that would help anyone.

      The issue at hand is whether or not Burke & Co. should apologize for fielding a team that consistently finishes among the bottom 10 in hockey.

      • Sorry, one bad stat.

        When anyone ever says they’re a Leafs fan, it should be followed up with Seinfeld’s immortal words, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”

        We still accept you as hockey fans. And Leaf hockey fans you will remain. It’s not a choice. You were the subject of some serious brain-washing and you probably perpetuate that behaviour with your own kids.

        Stop your complaining and just accept them and yourselves for who they and you, will always be.

        • Thomas, I’m pretty sure we’re not looking for your acceptance, or your advice. We really don’t give a flying f#$k what you think about us as Leafs fans.
          We’re voicing our opinions about OUR team and trying to get the Leafs brass to take responsibility for their inactions, not about how we wish were better understood by the Thomas-Ineedtosaysomethingeventhoughithasnothingtodowithme’s of the world.
          We love our Leafs. Yes, they suck. Yes, it’s embarrassing. But that’s part of being a fan. Maybe we won’t be fans forever like Chris says, but I can tell you one thing, it won’t be because YOU enlightened us to our situation.

          Go back to watching your Seinfeld reruns and leave us to contemplate our latest bungled season in Leaf-land.

  3. “I have not watched the Toronto Maple Leafs play a game in over a month” and yet here you are analyzing their play, lol. Same nonsense from so-called experts in this city. Maybe the experts should apologize to us fans for the BS we’ve been reading for years.

    • I mean from start to finish but hey, if you want to defend a team that’s won five games since February 6, be my guest.

    • yet somehow he is pretty much spot on anyway… quite telling of the team’s identity, isn’t it?

  4. Good, it’s official now. No playoffs yet again this year and even if they did play well enough to earn a playoff berth they would have folded in the first round anyway. Time to start paying attention to more important teams in this city. Jays2012!

  5. I have a friend who was a longtime Habs fan. After the Cammelleri trade, he told me that he was done cheering for that franchise. “Too many mis-handled situations from top to bottom” Exact words. I was- and continue to be- a Wings fan since the mid-eighties. We’ve had a few bandwagon jumpers over the last little while, but I gave him an invite based on his passion. But, you know what? Fuck you, Leafs fans. Cheer for Phoenix or the Islanders- they know how to lose. And you’ll have some new excuses to keep your passion alive. Do the research in the difference between a ticket prices in Toronto and Detroit. I’d pay Toronto prices to watch Detroit, but the reverse isn’t true. It’s really worth repeating- Fuck you, Leafs fans.

  6. Should’ve been “a ticket” or “ticket prices”. Bad grammar on my behalf. But, The Score- like the Leafs- don’t worry about small things like that. They’ll still pay you a decent wage.

  7. great article…for me its been since grade 7

  8. the leafs can not even lose right (enjoy that better draft pick Montreal)

  9. Wow, I am getting so sick and tired of every cocky NHL fan coming on websites and talk absolute garbage, not just about the Leafs, but their fans. I am a Leaf fan who has personally gotten fed up with every single bit of hate out their geared towards Leaf fans. You don’t think we know our team is bad, its an ugly truth we face every season. This fact gives no one the right, however, to talk shit and make fun. Worry about you’re own damn team and mind your own business!

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