March 10th, 2015
Dear Toronto Maple Leafs,
This is not a letter from a fan. In fact, if I’m being honest, I always cheer against the Leafs. But the thing is, now I’m raising two little Leaf fans and I adore my Leaf-loving husband. The Leafs have entered my life, and they’re here to stay, or so it seems. And so I put pen to paper, or cursor to screen, and here we are.
I am a Canadian-girl and a hockey fan through and through. I was raised inside cold rural Alberta arenas with french fries, penny candy, and hot chocolate in styrofoam cups. I saw Gretzky and the 80’s Oilers when I was too young to know what that meant. As a nine-year-old, I remember watching Fleury’s Stanley Cup winner in my cousin’s basement. My family had season tickets for the Red Deer Rebels (yes, Phaneuf’s old stomping grounds) and we saw Hockey Night in Canada (or Hockey Night in Toronto?) every Saturday. I still have Rubbermaid bins full of alphabetical hockey cards from my childhood. Get it? I love this stuff. Okay, has my credibility been established?
So I’m writing to you as a hockey fan, as a mother of Leaf fans, as someone living in the middle of Leaf Nation. Something needs to change.
The Buds have grown on me through my twelve years as an Ontario resident. I even cheered from my couch and sported Leaf blue during their 2013 playoff run. This is not something that most Western Canadians would admit to. But it’s become increasingly obvious to me that the Toronto Maple Leafs will never be a winning team, and even as an ‘outsider,’ that gets frustrating.
So, here’s what you do:
- You slash ticket prices. I mean slash. Forbes magazine lists the average price of a Toronto Maple Leaf ticket to be $446; far and away the highest in the NHL. Yes, your bottom line will suffer, but you’re the richest franchise in the NHL, so you can afford a one-year experiment. Stay with me.
- You halt corporate sales. Let’s fill up the ACC with people who’ve paid for their seats and show up for the start of the game.
- You stop the media circus. Need I say more?
- You end up with a building of hockey fans who will cheer loudly and support their team from the stands instead of from their couches at home. People who start the wave and bring homemade posters and spill popcorn when they jump up to cheer for a goal. You bring passion.
And the players will play. And the players will want to play for a franchise as steeped in tradition and as full of history as the anointed Maple Leafs.
Guess what I did when I first moved to Toronto, at 22 years old, all alone and not knowing anyone? I took the subway down to Carleton and Church and walked beside the old Maple Leaf Gardens. It gave me goosebumps. I want my kids to have those goosebumps when they reminisce about their Canadian childhood hockey experience, rather than frustration over another missed playoff run or a team that didn’t try.
Let’s give it a year. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to ‘rebuilding.’