Dearest Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment,
About that apology you gave on Monday, we're sorry too. We're sorry the special teams nose-dived, and defence stopped defending, the forwards stopped scoring and that the whole team not only derailed but tumbled end-over-end into a bottomless septic lagoon of haplessness some time between Feb. 6 and 11.
We're sorry that the team representing the most hockey-mad city in the world has failed to rebuild, failed to make the playoffs for the seventh year running, and failed to win a Stanley Cup in nearly half a century. We're sorry that people in Vancouver and Montreal and Calgary, who ordinarily suffer from a hilarious but also pathetic inferiority complex when it comes to Toronto, legitimately laugh at us for being Leafs fans. And we're sorry that there seems to be some fundamental psychological flaw with this city when it comes to sports, some potent brew of masochism, group delusion, over-confidence and low self esteem mixed with Stockholm Syndrome that keeps us tuning into games, selling out the ACC and making MLSE the most profitable hockey club owner in the world.
But most of all, we're sorry that all you said was we're sorry. Saying sorry – we're sorry to tell you – is easy. So here's an idea. Don't tell Leafs fans you're sorry, show them. As much as the team needs a ground-up rebuild, so do the fans.
We fans would really appreciate the following:
High dollar, multi-year contracts
If Grabovski is worth $5-million a season – and no one is saying he isn't – then what about, oh, 50 grand a season over seven seasons for Steve, who works at the Weston Bakery near Leslieville, has a Maple Leafs tattoo on his right bicep, named his first born – a girl – "Dougie," and ritually inserts pins into his voodoo doll of Kerry Fraser, the ref who didn't call the Gretzky high stick on Gilmour in the 1993 Campbell Conference finals. Chances are Steve has a Bell or Rogers cell phone, so you'll make it all back in roaming charges.
Free agent acquisitions
The NHL's free agent market isn't the only one that goes crazy in the summer. So does the free agent market for drywallers, painters, mechanics, accountants – you name it. Spare a thought, then, for Jeff, a graphic designer from North York who maxed out his home-equity line of credit on March 29 buying that 65-inch Panasonic VT-series plasma TV, which he used that same night to watch the Leafs get smoked 7-1 by the Flyers. Jeff should have spent the money on his garage, and he could really use a big-name cladding specialist with speed and good hands (and a ladder) to help him get it re-sided. So how about spending large on an elite special-teams corps of handymen, IT consultants, money-lenders, life coaches and beer-drinkin' buddies to help out fans when they're a man down. Just because the Leafs blew the regular season doesn't mean fans can't win in the off-season.
The Leafs aren't the only ones getting out-muscled in the neutral zone. So are fans like Dave, a copy writer who lives in an Entertainment District condo. Dave was in line at Starbucks yesterday when a middle-aged woman carrying a Louis Vuitton bag butted in front of him. Would that have happened if Jay Rosehill had Dave's back? The answer is no, because with a bruiser like Rosehill jawing at uppity decaf-cappuccino types, everyone follows the code. Unfortunately, not every Leafs fan can afford it.
At the end of the day, being a hockey fan is just like being a player: It all comes down to money. You may not be able to buy your way to the Stanley Cup, but a few million spread among the Leafs faithful would be a heck of a way to say I'm sorry. Just think of it as nation building.