I went down to the Leafs/Kings game at the Air Canada Centre last night with my Dad.
I’ll wait a moment or two while you make whatever derogatory, insulting and completely justified remarks about the woeful performance of the Blue and White.
(taps foot. scratches ear. coughs. looks at watch. scratches ear again. yawns. checks email. still scratching ear. you done yet? cracks knuckles…)
Well, that took some time but I’m glad we got it out of the way. Very inventive use of profanity by you, by the way; you have a special gift. Your mother must be so proud! To summarize, then: the Leafs’ recent performance ranks somewhere on the acceptability scale between “cannibalism” and “child pornography”; let us all agree that the Buds’ bed is now well and truly shat and – though it’s only late January – this has to be seen as another lost season.
I’ll have more to say about the reasons I think these things have happened and I hope to get into some discussion about the future too, but for now I want to give MLSE props where props are due. I can hear the yowls of protest from the talk radio haters now; what good could possibly be said about MLSE? Everybody (well, at least everybody who calls into talk radio shows) knows that MLSE is a soulless corporate behemoth, one that greedily hoards every spare cent for the Pension Plan, right? Everybody knows that the greed of ownership is the reason the Leafs always suck, right? And everybody knows that’ll never change because the suits don’t have any incentive to ice a competitive team when they’re making money hand over fist already, right?
Except that the truth is more complicated than that. As for basic economics and the impetus to compete, this myth has been compellingly debunked elsewhere by a commentator no less cynical than Sean at Down Goes Brown. Some pretty compelling arguments have been made that the notion of the perennial mediocrity of the Leafs is about as firmly grounded in fact as that of unicorn-riding leprachauns (read the piece by daoust at Pension Plan Puppets).
As for the heartless greed of MLSE, consider this: last night, MLSE and the Leafs arranged to collect funds from fans entering the building for relief of those affected by the recent earthquake in Haiti. Typical, right, MLSE reaching into your wallet for your dollars, all the while cackling maniacally on a giant stack of their own money, right? Except that the Leafs were matching every dollar collected threefold; that’s right, for every dollar collected from fans attending the game last night, MLSE is chipping in three bucks of their own for the emergency relief fund. Apparently, the Leafs did the same thing at a Marlies game on the 23rd and a Raptors game on the 24th. This doesn’t appear to me to be an attempt to grab some cheap publicity; I wasn’t able to find any reference online to how much the promotion raised, though I did find the newspaper stories and press release announcing MLSE’s intentions to do the fundraiser. None of the MLSE Twitter feeds make any reference to how much money was raised, according to a search I did earlier tonight. I’m going to try and contact MLSE tomorrow to see if they can confirm the results. I’d also like to find out whether that money is going to be funnelled through a charity to which the federal government’s matching program applies – which would effectively convert every dollar handed over by the fans into eight bucks in the hands of relief organizations in the quake zone.
Incidentally, I learned about the Leafs’ efforts in this regard from the big boss himself; when I entered the Air Canada Centre with my Dad for the game at around 6:20, Brian Burke himself was at the front door, schlepping a coffee can for donations. Say what you will about the way Burke is running the team; go ahead and criticize the way his rebuild plan for the hockey club is unfolding. Whatever you feel about either of those things, you’d have to agree that it takes some flat out balls for the General Manager of a Maple Leafs team that’s on its way to missing the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year to stand right there in the lobby, look the paying customers in the eye as they come through the turnstiles, and ask them to pitch in for an excellent charitable cause. When I spoke to him, he was careful to tell me that MLSE was kicking in the extra matching funds, and he seemed genuinely interested when I told him about the fundraising efforts that the crew at Pension Plan Puppets recently made.
The Leafs have rightly taken a lot of heat for their performance on the ice this year. Give them their due when it comes to community responsibility and good corporate citizenship.