Dear Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment,
It’s that time of year again. As autumn leaves fall on damp sidewalks and the evening breeze grows chill, so the seasonal torrent revenue will flow anew.
It’s hockey season!
Or should I say, hokey season. Because the never-ending Leafs nostalgia you keep subjecting fans to during games is getting a bit rich. No sooner has the ref’s whistle blown, it seems, than there is yet another video montage celebrating great Leafs of yester-century. At last Friday’s pre-season sleeper against the Sabres (they won), Johnny Bower got more ice time than Dion Phaneuf.
Don’t get me wrong – I like Dave Keon and the boys as much as the next fan. I, too, pine for a simpler time, when a star centre got paid $15 for an entire season and thought nothing of playing the third period with a compound fracture.
The problem is that so much of the footage you’re showing feels like ancient history. It is ancient history. Fans don’t sit there revelling the glories of times gone by. They are struck by uncomfortable realizations about the present, like the fact that it’s been nearly 50 years since the Leafs won the cup. Or that the last time the Leafs even made the playoffs, there was no such thing as Twitter, and the iPhone was just a twinkle in Apple’s eye.
That doesn’t feel very glorious.
You’re wondering, What are we supposed to do? The answer? Irony.
Instead of a video of the Top 10 greatest Leafs moments, how about a video of the 10 worst?
There’s the newspaper headline from November 8, 1989, announcing the Courtnall-Kordic trade. Or the clip of Sergio Momesso’s harmless blue-line slapper that somehow found Allan Bester’s five-hole and killed the playoff drive of ’88. Let us all collectively relive the nail-biter of a playoff series against the Flyers in 2003 that culminated in that out-of-nowhere 6-1 savaging.
Turn yesterday’s tears of anguish into today’s tears of hilarity.
Or take the subject of money. It’s omnipresent at the ACC – a can of beer cost $9.50, tickets run over $200, and players’ salaries are into the millions. But in true Upper Canadian fashion, fans endure it but dare not speak of it.
I say, let’s celebrate it. Instead of announcing paid attendance, tell us the night’s gross revenue. Have Andy Frost belt out “Two million, four-hundred-and-fifty-eight thousand dollars!” to thundering applause.
During the intermission, get random fans to venture wild guesses about the franchise’s astounding profitability over the years. Does Debbie from Cambridge have any clue how much Harold Ballard sucked out of the team in 1986? Can Joe from Richmond Hill guess how much those condos brought in?
When play resumes, play a new game called “Find the Rich A-hole.” Zoom in on a pair of unoccupied rink-side seats. Who do they belong to? Cheer if you think it’s the investment bankers drinking zinfandel in the Platinum Club. Now cheer if you think it’s the bond traders at The Brass Rail who are too drunk to realize the game is half over.
You’re sitting on top of a mountain of comic gold.
Don’t for a second worry about shattering the fragile hopes of loyal fans or sullying the Blue and White’s proud name. That hasn’t been possible since, oh, the early nineties. We’re well into the era of meta-fandom. We know our hard-earned dollars are feeding an insatiable corporate appetite. We know it will still take years of good draft picks to pay off the talent deficit of the JFJ years. We’ll still come back for more.
It’s hard enough being a Leafs fan, MLSE. The least you can do is make us laugh.