Monday, January 11, 2010


brian burke mlse greedy
When you don’t start work until noon you get to enjoy a leisurely morning. Sleeping in on Monday is great. It also gives me a chance to actually read the newspaper, rather than blaze through breakfast while casually skimming boxscores. So, with my excess time today I actually read some of the newspaper. Well, the sports section because proroguing parliament doesn’t hold my interest like a good Leafs talk does (total philistine here). Two articles caught my attention and both primarily concerned MLSE’s greed and its consequences.

In the comments section of both articles (because I read the newspaper online for this specific reason) there were copious amounts of fans complaining about the Leafs lack of success and how they shouldn’t pay to see a shitty product on the ice. The solution that many fans suggest is boycotting the team. They point to the perception that MLSE is only concerned with making money. I agree that MLSE is gluttonous in their quest for money, but I no longer think this is at the expense of the Leafs.

I would still be furious with MLSE if the Leafs continued to pay for veterans every off-season in a deluded attempt the make the playoffs (the Jason Blake special). That isn’t what’s happening anymore. This is a team focused on rebuilding. Rebuilding teams are bad. If they were supposed to win then they wouldn't be rebuilding. Fans who bemoan the Leafs losing ways should realize it isn’t going to quickly turnaround for the Leafs. Just because they spent money in the offseason and brought in Phil Kessel doesn’t mean they are instantly contenders. This is a team that is better than last year’s team, but not by much. A proper rebuilding takes a long time. The Blackhawks were a basement team for nearly an entire decade. I’m hoping the Leafs become contenders in less time, but I’m not convinced.

MLSE is also using their money more effectively now. Yes, the ticket and concession prices are ridiculous. I don’t agree with them, but MLSE is at least funneling a lot of that revenue back into the team. The company isn’t just filling up a room with a pile of money to swim in. The Leafs have spent a considerable amount of money on improving the scouting staff; they hired both Brian Burke and Ron Wilson, while not the best GM and coach in the league, certainly the best available at the time; they also spent close to $45 million on a new training facility that is the best in the league; the Leafs will always spend close to the cap. Thankfully there’s a salary cap in place ensuring they don’t try and give Bobby Holik $8 million. It’s comforting to know they don’t have to worry about losing their young stars (when they get some) for financial reasons.

While I’m still on the topic of ticket and concession prices I couldn’t believe the ignorance being displayed in the comments section. Nose bleed tickets are expensive, but nowhere near the $200 people claimed. You can see a game at the ACC for $50. Expensive, yes. Entirely outlandish? Possibly. Will I still go? Yes. Concession prices are pretty much equal to prices of other venues in the city. If you are buying dinner at a sporting event you will be gouged. It's a reality. Whether it's at the ACC or the Rogers Centre or even a movie theater. There are an abundance of restaurants surrounding the ACC that would happily serve you. Or you can spend your money at one of the many fast-food joints inside Union station for far cheaper than what they're selling inside the arena. And if you are that concerned with drinking at the game then maybe you should just pre-drink. You don’t have to spend $500 at a Leafs game.

The notion of boycotting the team annoys me. First, if the fans actually made a concentrated effort to boycott the team and it actually had an impact don’t you think MLSE would make every effort to secure an immediate winner at the expense of the team's long-term future. Don’t you think that would be their rationale? Win now to bring back the fans. Isn't that the exact opposite of what the fans want? Although, I think a more accurate assessment is that most "fans" want a winning team now because they don't want so support a losing team. In reality, the majority of people support a winner and aren't concerned with "their" team otherwise.

Also, Toronto sports fans are dumb no matter what they do. When close to 10,000 fans showed up to watch a bad Blue Jays team play a meaningless game against the Minnesota Twins in late September the fans are lambasted for being fair-weather. When the Leafs routinely sell out despite an awful product they are mindless sheep, too dumb to realize their own ignorance. I am happy Leafs fans are like this because there are far too many teams in the league who have been on the verge of bankruptcy. Oh, fans in Buffalo and Edmonton are truly the best fans in the game? Where were they when their teams were close to folding? You can add Ottawa to that list as well. Maybe if more fans were like Leafs fans the league would still have both Winnipeg and Quebec.

Additionally, thinking that a boycott will make MLSE realize they need to build a contender is ludicrous. A deep run in the playoffs will make a ton of money. A few years ago I recall hearing that the Leafs made $1 million profit per home game in the playoffs. I can’t exactly quote an accurate figure, but just know that it’s a lot. Plus, this doesn’t include the revenue generated from merchandise sales outside the arena. MLSE wants to win a Stanley Cup because they know the amount of fans purchasing Stanley Cup paraphernalia would be enormous. Personally, I would go on a post-Cup merchandise binge the likes of which has never been seen. 2013 Leafs Cup Champions Snuggie? Sure! It'll go perfectly with my Leafs championship underwear and beer coozie.

I don’t really take many things in my life seriously, but maybe sports are the one thing I take a little too seriously.

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