A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘toronto maple leafs

[URBAN NOTE] Five Toronto links: Toronto Maple Leafs, 1904 fire, Sidewalk Labs, SmartTrack

  • Edward Keenan is quite right to note that the very high prices of Toronto Maple Leafs tickets would be easier to deal with if the games were better. The Toronto Star has it.
  • Toronto Guardian shares some archival photos of the great fire that destroyed large swathes of downtown in 1904, here.
  • Torontoist notes the surprising and perhaps worrying failure of its reporters to gain access to the City of Toronto’s agreement with Sidewalk Labs.
  • John Lorinc at Spacing notes how Sidewalk Labs hired fixer John Brodhead, apparently to handle problems with implementation and PR.
  • The question asked last week by Steve Munro, asking how SmartTrack will actually be paid for, remains very relevant today.

[URBAN NOTE] “Maple Leafs’ ticket sales continue to fall”

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports on one sign that might well be an indicator of Torontonians’ increasing disenchantment with the underperforming Toronto Maple Leafs. Is this the end of Leafs Nation?

On Monday, the team announced its lowest attendance figure — 18,366 — for a regular-season game in the 16-year history of the building. It lost 2-1 to Minnesota that night to see its record fall to 8-32-3 since mid-December.

All of that losing is finally taking a toll at the box office, although Toronto still sits seventh overall in NHL attendance this season and charges the highest ticket prices in the league.

Among the remaining home games on the schedule are two visits by Ottawa and another from Montreal in the April 11 regular-season finale, all of which should draw crowds above the ACC’s capacity of 18,819.

An extremely high percentage of Leafs tickets are held by season seat-holders and the waiting list to become one of those stretches back for years. That has traditionally made it tough for the average fan to get inside the building (to say nothing of the price).

However, with the team headed for its worst finish in more than two decades, fans have started to stay home. Strangely enough, the Leafs actually boast a winning record at the ACC — 19-16-1 compared with 8-25-5 on the road — but have been booed often there and saw sweaters thrown on the ice earlier this season.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 27, 2015 at 10:56 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On the Toronto Maple Leafs, social media, and performance anxiety

The Globe and Mail‘s James Mirtle writes about the latest social media controversy in Toronto, this one involving the Toronto Maple Leafs. Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are positioned by Mirtle as people undeserving of this criticism. This sort of thing, driven by frustration and anger, is probably inevitable given the way the team has been performing so badly this season.

Kessel and Phaneuf do not appear to have many allies in the media, after more than five years as Leafs. They are rarely defended and often take the blame when the team loses.

They’re lightning rods, more than most, and it helps that people want to read and hear about them.

Make no mistake, they’re fair game. In this mess of a season, everyone deserves criticism, and that obviously includes the highest paid and highest profile players.

But the reality here is that – as a frustrated Kessel blurted out on Tuesday in his rant defending his friend and captain – Dion Phaneuf didn’t build this team. He didn’t put himself – a good but flawed defenceman who had slid down Calgary’s depth chart when he was moved – into the No. 1 role, where he’s averaged an almost-NHL-leading 25 minutes a game in his time with the Leafs.

He has played as much as Zdeno Chara, and he’s not Zdeno Chara.

But in the context of how bad this team has been, Phaneuf has performed reasonably well. With Phaneuf on the ice, the Leafs have been outscored by only 13 goals at 5-on-5 in his entire tenure with the team (354 games).

Written by Randy McDonald

March 4, 2015 at 8:07 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto Maple Leafs season choked away in Game 7”

The Toronto Star‘s Damien Cox expresses the general mood in wondering how the Toronto Maple Leafs could have collapsed so badly in Game 7 of the playoffs against Boston. I’m still struck myself: one minute the Leafs were ahead by two goals, and the next it seems they were defeated.

I can only imagine that the effects of this on Maple Leafs fandom might be dire. Being beaten badly is one thing; being beaten as a result of a last-minute collapse is another.

The Maple Leafs, and their legions of fans, had dared to dream that this might become a unique spring, particularly after twice fighting off elimination to force Game 7 in their best-of-seven opening round playoff series against the favoured Boston Bruins on Monday night.

All signs were pointing to this series as a shiny new beginning, not a nightmarish end.

Instead, the end came with a stunning, mind-blowing 5-4 overtime loss on Monday night, with defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in the most painful, shocking and unforgettable way imaginable.

[. . .]

In a game totally abandoned by the officials to the nastiest desires of two of the NHL’s toughest teams, the visitors led 4-1 with less than 11 minutes left in the third period and seemed headed to the second round with a stunning upset victory.

No team in the modern tight-checking NHL blows a lead like that, right?

Well, the Leafs did in what will live on as one of the more infamous playoff defeats in team history, with Patrice Bergeron’s OT winner completing one of the most extraordinary Game 7 comebacks in NHL history.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “It’s ‘about time’ Toronto Maple Leafs fans had something to cheer for”

Metro Toronto‘s Jessica Smith has an interesting interview up with CBC hockey journalist Elliotte Friedman. Briefly, the Maple Leafs’ ongoing success may have saved the team’s morale and popularity.

Hockey Night in Canada host Elliotte Friedman is a man without a team — he’s an unbiased observer — but he does know a little about “fandemonium.”

“Your city is just a little bit more enjoyable when your hockey team is good. It’s about time Toronto fans had this,” he says at the CBC’s downtown Toronto office, a couple of hours before he’s scheduled go on air for the HNIC pre-game show and the Leafs-Bruins game.

He grew up a Blackhawks fan, not a Leafs fan, but in the late ’90s and early 2000s, when the Leafs were good, he was caught up in the excitement, he says.

“They needed this badly because I think they’re in danger of losing a generation of fans,” he says. “If you lose a generation they’ll become Sidney Crosby fans or something else.”

[. . .]

Friedman predicts Boston will take the series in six — because of the Bruins’ experience, depth and Zdeno Chara — but says just having the Leafs in the playoffs has changed things.

“If they lose this series, will they be disappointed? Yes. But they’ll look at this season and say, ‘We’re back.’”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Why Brian Burke Deserves Credit for Getting the Maple Leafs to the Playoffs”

I’ve blogged a fair bit over the years about the seemingly futile Toronto Maple Leafs. I posted in January a link to a Torontoist opinion piece by Corbin Smith arguing that Brian Burke shouldn’t have been fired as general manager. In a much more recent post, Smith argues Burke should be given credit for the team’s playoff success.

Many of us have felt it coming for a few weeks, but now it’s finally official. After a game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched their first playoff berth in nearly a decade.

It’s been a long, long time since this city has seen playoff hockey. Ours is the only team in the NHL not to have made it to the postseason since the 2004-2005 lockout.

Toronto fans have had a tough time these past several years. Single-player roster moves and staff or management changes were too often touted as silver bullets that would somehow lead the team to salvation. For instance, now-former general manager Brian Burke arrived in 2008 with much fanfare. The media considered him to be the saviour of the Maple Leafs (he was certainly, at any rate, being paid a saviour’s salary). Sure enough, Burke landed some big names in his first year as GM. It practically made us forget that he was inheriting arguably the worst NHL team in the league.

No reasonable person should have expected major success from the Maple Leafs in the first few years of Burke’s tenure. It takes time to build up an NHL team from worse-than-nothing to a perennial playoff contender. Even so, both fans and sports writers became increasingly impatient with the Leafs’ failures year after year. Then, before this year’s lockout ended, Burke was shown the door, leaving assistant GM Dave Nonis at the helm.

Though Nonis is officially the GM as the Leafs head to the playoffs, there should be no doubt that this is the team Brian Burke built. The Leafs are winning on the backs of the players that Burke went after, all playing in a style Burke had championed since game one—a style characterized by, to use Burke’s thesaurus-abusing phrase, plenty of “pugnacity, testosterone, truculence, and belligerence.”

Written by Randy McDonald

April 24, 2013 at 7:06 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs…”

CBC Sports’ Steven Bull writes about the response to the surprising news that the Toronto Maple Leafs made it to the NHL playoffs. It has been a long time.

The last playoff game featuring the blue and white took place on May 4, 2004 at the Air Canada Centre and ended in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of the second round.

Ed Belfour was the starting goalie for the Leafs in that game. He played his last NHL game six years ago and is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

You won’t see a photo of Belfour making a save in Game 6 posted on Instagram, because it was still six years away from being invented. In fact, Instagram started as an iPhone app, and the first-generation iPhone was still three years away from introduction.

No one has ever tweeted about a Leafs playoff game. Twitter was still almost two years away from launch when the Leafs were eliminated by the Flyers.

The last Maple Leaf to score a playoff goal was Mats Sundin, who’s been retired long enough to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, which he was in November. He buried a third-period goal to tie Game 6 against the Flyers, with assists by Gary Roberts and Alexander Mogilny.

You wouldn’t have read about that goal on Facebook unless you were enrolled at Harvard, where the social network launched three months — to the day — earlier. Or maybe if you were one of the early adopters at Columbia, Yale or Stanford, where Facebook expanded two months earlier. And it was still called The Facebook back then.

Be-Leafers have been around longer than Beliebers. Justin Bieber may not have even been allowed to stay up to see the end of a hockey game on a school night. He was only 10 year old and just another kid in Stratford, Ont., not yet a mega pop star.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 22, 2013 at 7:38 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Will the Leafs Still Feel the Love Post-Lockout?”

Torontoist’s Chris Dart wonders if, post-lockup, the Toronto Maple Leafs will recover their lost audiences. (It would help the team’s cause if they actually did well this season.)

For Leafs fans, the NHL lockout was the latest in a series of indignities going back a generation. For some, the labour stoppage represented a breaking point, and while they may not be turning their backs on the Leafs completely, their passion for the team—and the sport as a whole—has cooled considerably.

According to Julian Sanchez, editor of popular Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets, his readers and contributors are showing their discontent with both the team and the league in a number of ways.

“It’s funny because it covers the spectrum of protests. Some will just watch on TV when they probably would have gone to a handful of games,” he says. “Others won’t purchase any merchandise when they would have normally picked up something Leafs related.”

He adds that Leafs fans are “like smokers that can’t quit.” Most fans, he thinks, will continue to follow the team in spite of themselves. But many of them won’t pay attention to the rest of the league.

“They are still Leafs fans, but the unnecessary lockout, the owners’ dissembling about the reasons, and the script that the lockout seemed to follow just served to make them less [enthusiastic about] the NHL as a whole,” he says. “So they’ll watch Leafs games…but they won’t be as invested in the rest of the league.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by fellow blogger Michael Forbes, who runs the Bitter Leaf Fan Page blog.

“I’m pretty well done with NHL hockey,” he says. “It used to be that on Thursday night I’d be happy to watch the doubleheader and watch Detroit play Nashville. Coming out of the lockout, that’s just not going to happen.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 18, 2013 at 4:56 am

[LINK] “NHL cancels games through Nov. 30”

CBC’s succinct description of the failure of negotiations between hockey players and the National Hockey League and the consequent inability to have a full 82-game schedule makes me wonder. I’ve blogged a fair bit about the dysfunctional relationship between Toronto Maple Leafs and Torontonians, characterized mainly by the team’s management holding the fan base in virtual contempt by counting on Torontonians’ reflexive loyalty to their city’s team to let the team makes as much money with as little effort as possible. Could the same be true for the NHL writ large?

“The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA that contemplated a fair division of revenues and was responsive to Player concerns regarding the value of their contracts, we had hoped to be able to forge a long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement that would have preserved an 82-game regular season for our fans. Unfortunately, that did not occur.

“We acknowledge and accept that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining and, though we are profoundly disappointed that a new agreement has not been attained to this point, we remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the players and the clubs — one that will be good for the game and our fans.”

Friday’s announcement could result in 326 regular-season games — or 26.5 per cent of the season — missed should the entire month of November be lost.

[. . .]

Last week, the NHL made a 50-50 proposal to the players on all hockey-related revenues, giving the National Hockey League Players’ Association an Oct. 25 deadline to accept the deal and save the entire regular season.

Two days later, the union sent the owners three counterproposals, which were quickly rejected by the league.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman maintained a deal needed to be in place by a league-mandated Oct. 25 deadline, allowing for a week of training camp which would’ve been followed by a full 82-game schedule commencing on Nov. 2.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 26, 2012 at 6:51 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “The Saga Of The Maple Leafs’ Futility”

I live in Leafs Nation. That’s not only the name of the official and heavily promoted Toronto Maple Leafs‘ fan club; that’s the name Toronto has gotten by proxy.

Leafs Nation

Toronto has traditionally been devoted to the Toronto Maple Leafs. No matter that they haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, or been in the playoffs since I moved to Toronto back in 2004, or are really any good. They’re the Leafs Nation team, and obeisance is due them.

(That sort of attitude upsets me. You’ve noticed I’m not a hockey fan?)

Obeisance was due, at least; faced with being shut out of the playoffs, early last month the team management made the surprising move of apologizing to the fans for their failure. Over at Torontoist, Jamie Bradburn has an extended two-part essay (1, 2) examining the sad downwards trajectory of the team. For the first two decades of the team’s relative failure, its faults could be blamed on one man.

Until his death in April 1990, many of the franchise’s faults could be blamed on one man: Harold Edwin Ballard. From the time he entered the Leafs’ ownership as part of a triumvirate with John Bassett and Stafford Smythe in 1961, Ballard seemed driven less by a love of the game and more by greed and a near-pathological need for attention. The same year the Leafs won their last cup, that greed appeared to drive the decision to sell their top farm teams in Rochester, NY and Victoria, BC for just under $1 million. The move robbed the Leafs of 45 players, many of NHL calibre. The combination of the sale, the expansion draft to stock six new teams in 1967, changes to player development rules that denied the team the use of the junior Marlboros as a feeder team, and aging stars thinned the Leafs’ depth pool, which led to a last place finish during the 1969/70 season.

But after Ballard died, things never got better. The most recent iteration of hopes for a revival has been dimmed.

On paper, the tandem of general manager Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson appeared to be a swell idea. Burke blew into town full of bluster, speaking of truculence and then demonstrating his intentions by challenging other GMs to fights in barns. And yet, the product he put on the ice in 2009, his first full season, finished dead last in the conference. The acquisitions of defenseman Dion Phaneuf and forward Phil Kessel have proven to be worthwhile, but one wonders if the cost may have been too steep. Signs of incremental improvement in 2011 did not carry over to this past season, leading to a mob mentality that forced Burke’s hand in dismissing Wilson.

And now, here we are, not a taste of the playoffs since 2004, wondering once again how to right the ship. Ask any fan in the city and they will have a detailed plan for success—sturdier defense, a veteran goalie, speedy Europeans, or bruising fighters that will teach opponents a lesson. Toronto is teeming with folks that are, above all else, tired of losing. They are demanding not the apologies that they have been given, but only an immediate honest-to-goodness winner. If that seems unreasonable or irrational, such is the nature of these things. Fair or unfair, rabid fan-bases don’t much care how you do it, just that it gets done.

Can there actually be significant change? Will the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup in my lifetime, or at least make it to the playoffs? Stay tuned.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 4, 2012 at 12:06 am