To the Leafs: apology not accepted…

11 04 2012

On Monday evening, the Toronto Maple Leafs posted a message to fans on their website, which reads as follows:

OPEN LETTER TO LEAFS FANS

Dear Leafs Fans:

On behalf of the ownership of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, we want to thank you for your unwavering passion and loyalty. Like every fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, we are disappointed with the results of this season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a public trust with the greatest fans in the world. We have fallen short of everyone’s expectations, and for that we are sorry. We take full responsibility for how this team performs on the ice, and we make no excuses. The way this year ended was unacceptable. Results are the only measure of success in sports and the results speak for themselves.

Ownership believes in the plan for the Maple Leafs. All of the resources at our disposal will be used to make sure that the entire organization is focused on making the Leafs a successful playoff team. We are 100% committed to ensuring we ice a team that competes with the NHL’s best. Passion, hard work and accountability will always be the hallmarks of our organization.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are privileged to have such passionate and loyal fans. We do not take that for granted. Our entire organization wants nothing more than to deliver a team that makes you proud.

Yours sincerely,

Lawrence M. Tanenbaum, O.C.
Chairman of the Board
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

[thanks to the Maple Leafs website]

The problem with the Leafs is not that they’re unable to get the personnel needed to make them competitive year after year. It is because, as long as the arena gets filled to the rafters game after game, regardless of how they are doing, the Leafs can field whatever team they wish, knowing that the seats will be filled every game night, and those who cannot make it to Toronto (or cannot afford the incredible cost of a ticket) will undoubtably turn the game on, either on TV or the radio. So the Leafs brass know that the money will be there, no matter who they put on the ice. And that’s a major problem.

In spite of claims by Mr Tanenbaum that they do not take the fans for granted, I don’t believe it for a second. For as long as I can remember, even going back to the days of Maple Leaf Gardens and Harold Ballard, it has been like that most years. Yes, there have been years in the past where the potential was there to break a Stanley Cup-less streak that is now at 45 years (the last time the Leafs hoisted the Cup was in 1967), but most years, the Leafs have merely been fortunate to get just a taste of the playoffs and not much more. And in the past few years, they haven’t even gotten that taste: they have not even made the playoffs since the NHL lockout that killed the 2004-05 season.

And yet, the fans still attend and watch the Leafs in droves. This has got to stop, so a message can be sent to the Leafs brass that what they have been putting on the ice is no longer acceptable. That means that fans should stop attending Leafs games at the Air Canada Centre. Put an end to this situation of selling out game after game.

But I know what many of you are thinking: many of the seats for Leafs games have been bought as season tickets by companies, who might give the tickets from time to time to their employees or such, and these companies don’t care what kind of team is on the ice. True, but hear me out, as there are other ways that regular fans keep track of the games.

Just under 19,000 fortunate souls get the opportunity to watch the Leafs at the ACC. But what about Leafs fans everywhere else, who live in other parts of Canada and the world, or who are unable to, or cannot afford to, make the trip to the ACC? How do we get our Leafs fix? By television or by radio.

Leafs games are televised in Ontario on Sportsnet or Leafs TV, and nationally on TSN or CBC. And all of the games are on the radio. The rights for these broadcasts are certainly not cheap, and have already been paid to the Leafs, usually in multi-year deals. Sponsors will attach themselves to these broadcasts, knowing that there will be folks tuning in to watch or listen, and therefore, will be exposed to the commercials that run. The networks, again knowing that the viewers/listeners are there, are able to set a pretty price for the privilege of running commercials during games.

But if Leafs fans stop watching or listening to the games, it can all fall apart. Fewer viewers or listeners means fewer eyeballs seeing, or ears hearing, the commercials and therefore, possibly, not purchasing as much in the sponsors’ goods and services as in the past. Therefore, the sponsors will have fewer dollars produced by those commercials. They will want to offset that by demanding a lower price for the ads they wish to run, and/or they will run fewer such ads per game. Either way, fewer dollars will go to the Leafs. Or even worse, the sponsor will stop supporting the Leafs completely. Bye-bye, sponsorship dollars.

So, if folks stay away from the Leafs games in whatever way possible, the Leafs bottom line could be hurt terribly, and that might kick the Leafs brass in the butt and tell them, “Hey, this is not good. The only way to get the fans back is to field a team that they’ll want to watch.”

So, Mr. Tanenbaum, no, I do not accept your apology. To me, the only way you and the Maple Leafs will be able to make us fans happy and keep following your games, is to get a team on the ice, that will be worth watching, either in person or on TV, or following your games on the radio. Any other action will be more of the same that we have dealt with in the past, and that we will deal with no longer.

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