After seeing yet another blue and white jersey thrown onto the ice, this time in Vancouver; and hearing a Boston Bruins fan refer to loyal Toronto fans as ‘Sheep Nation’, I’ve decided that I am tired of seeing Leafs get bullied unnecessarily, not only by opposing fans, but by some of their own heartless, fairweather, so-called supporters. Evidently, Phil Kessel felt the same way, scoring a spiteful goal shortly after seeing his #81 jersey float to the ice surface at Rogers Arena last week.
Any athlete who has competed or even participated in any sport, team or individual existing in this world, will undoubtedly tell you that no matter how much money you make, or which team you represent, losing is absolutely no fun. There is no true athlete, who would purposely sacrifice victory for any reason. Even if you believe the Leafs are currently tanking, when playing for a draft pick, the team is ultimately playing for future success! Adding insult to injury is simply unnecessary in this case. Those fans who believe that a hefty paycheque eases the pain of an athlete seeing supporters boycott his efforts so flagrantly, has never walked a mile in the same man’s shoes.
As for the Toronto fans in Ottawa and Vancouver, who have recently displayed their displeasure with the team via the sacrifice of a $300 jersey, you’re a little late to the protest. First of all, the Leafs’ organization has already announced that it is now in ‘rebuild’ mode, so your defence is futile and idiotic at this point. If you were a real fan, with at least a tablespoon of integrity, you would grin and bear it, showing patience during a rebuilding phase that has been required for many, many years.
Secondly, I would bet money on the fact that those very “fans” who have thrown their jerseys on the ice this season, will be first in line for a sweater bearing the #97, should the Leafs by some miracle manage to draft the coveted Canadian, Connor McDavid.
Being a sports fan can be an incredibly difficult thing. The ups and downs that every team has gone through in their existence is mirrored in the way their fan base feels, riding the same emotional roller-coaster. Showing faith, loyalty, and integrity during times of failure and turmoil, can paint a fan base in a much more complimentary light, than harsh displays of disregard, disrespect, and flagrant insults.
The best way for a fan base to get what it really wants out of its team, is with good ol’ fashioned silent protest! For all of the opposing hockey fans out there who continue to make fun of Leafs Nation for buying tickets this season, there is something you clearly do not understand about the vastness and popularity of this team. It is not as if fans are going to the box office at the Air Canada Centre to buy tickets for these games. Every single ticket, to every single game has been sold out for many, many months, long before the wheels began to fall off.
The fact is, that ‘Leafs Nation’ has tolerated a mediocre team for the past forty-eight years; and with the lowest attendance ever recorded at the ACC on Monday night, the mob is beginning to grow angry. As blasphemous as this sounds, it’s about time that the fan base in Toronto began acting like the intolerant, productive mob that exists in Montreal. When the Habs failed to post wins, their fans protested by booing and most impactfully, not purchasing tickets or attending games. Their reward for their almost silent protest? Ten Stanley Cup victories since the Leafs secured their last in 1967.
Select Leafs fans have represented their fan base by not only publicly embarrassing their players and their team, but also themselves, by not portraying what a real sports fan is supposed to be made of. The low-attendance tactic has been implemented in Toronto, and low and behold, it worked! Tickets to Monday’s game against Minnesota, could be purchased for just $15! With any hope for Leafs Nation, success is to follow, just like it did in Montreal. The only difference between the two fans bases is, that some Leafs fans have publicly sacrificed their integrity in an attempt to institute this change.
Where would teams like the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Buffalo Bills, or even the Chicago Blackhawks be if their fans simply abandoned them due to a lack of recent tangible success? Transplanted likely. Everyone knows that the Leafs will never, ever be moved out of Toronto. It is unquestionably the most successful, wide-spread, revenue-producing, and expensive franchise in hockey. Despite that, not them, nor any other team deserves to be disrespected by their fans the way Toronto has been by the very blood running through its veins.
It’s bad enough that the rest of the league’s fans are poking fun at Leafs Nation for the being the hockey ‘Mecca’ of the universe, despite bearing the cross of the longest Stanley Cup drought in the history of the NHL; But some have made it seem that the loyalty of Leafs Nation, the word of their fans, carried no weight. Bullies succeed in making themselves feel superior, by attempting to make others feel inferior about themselves. Being bullied by other teams’ fans for having a losing team does not constitute further bullying by their own supporters. It calls for action and standing up for what you believe in, which if you really are a true fan, should be your team.
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Cover Photo by: Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS