It’s the kind of message that rang hollow the past seven seasons, with the Toronto Maple Leafs out of the postseason again and again and the fan base becoming increasingly agitated.
But on Tuesday afternoon, with the Leafs three days removed from clinching a long-awaited playoff berth, GM Dave Nonis e-mailed season-ticket holders and members of the “last minute club” with a small note of thanks for their “continued loyalty and support.”
“Leafs fans are the most passionate and dedicated in all of hockey,” Nonis wrote. “Your presence at Air Canada Centre and in our opponent's rinks does not go unnoticed. You are valued members of our team.”
The message was sent a day after it was publicized that Leafs tickets for the first round will be 75 per cent more expensive than those during the regular season.
The limited tickets that aren’t snapped up by season-ticket holders will begin to go on sale on Thursday.
Down in Tampa preparing to face the Lightning on Wednesday night in their third last game of the season, Leafs players spoke about how they were glad they could finally give the fan base playoff hockey to cheer about after so many years out of the mix.
“I’ve been here for some games where I’ve felt their frustration,” Nazem Kadri said. “I felt their pain. They waited a long time and so have we. It’s not like we enjoyed losing, and it’s not like we enjoyed finishing our season in April.”
“I feel for the fans and season-ticket holders and things like that,” Joffrey Lupul said. “It feels good to be part of the group that got the playoffs back and we’ll go from there. I expect the city to really be behind us right now. They’ve been waiting.”
The full text of Nonis’s note to Leafs fans is below:
Dear Mr. Xxxxxxx,
On behalf of the entire Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club, I would like to extend a sincere thank you for your continued loyalty and support.
Leafs fans are the most passionate and dedicated in all of hockey. Your presence at Air Canada Centre and in our opponent's rinks does not go unnoticed. You are valued members of our team.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the most exciting time of year, a time when fortunes turn quickly, when heroes emerge, when the narrowest margin of error can make the difference between advancing or going home.
Randy Carlyle and his staff have done an outstanding job in preparing this young group of players for future success. Bigger challenges and larger opportunities await our team.
I look forward to joining you in cheering on our Leafs during the playoff journey.
Go Leafs Go!
Senior Vice-President and General Manager
Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club