Leafs Suck

Randy Charles Morin, J.J. Guerrero, Jackson Murphy, and Joe Frazier all summarized the Vancouver Canucks' 4-3 over the Toronto Maple Leafs I was able to attend (thanks Jeffery)! My coupled friends M and S attended, she wearing a Maple Leafs' jersey, he wearing a Canucks jersey, though in seats far away from mine. They weren't the only people who came to the game together but as opposing fans: a guy from Newfoundland cheering for the Leafs came with his son, who was cheering for the Canucks.

Some observations and interpretations follow. It looked as if the star players, at least from the Canucks side, were doggin' it. Specifically, Todd Bertuzzi and Marcus Naslund looked as if they were going through the motions, the latter taking a shot on goal from the latter with zero chance of going or even rebounding, but with no apparent decision to consider alternatives, like passing it off. Every time the players (not just the stars) made a change, they coasted to the bench, making me wonder whether the rules for too many men on the ice should be enforced more stingently.

Tom Benjamin compares the speed of the players at the World Junior Championships to NHL players: “We were flipping back and forth to the Canuck game. The difference in the pace was very stark and not flattering to the NHL at all. How could Juniors be so much faster than NHL players?” In the comments, Darren blames the 82-game schedule, but I'm not so sure. Every now and then I would catch a 'classic' NHL game—you know, the ones where there are no logos on the ice surface?—and I think it has more to do with the size of the players with respect to the size of the rink; rule and enforcement differences between leagues; and more controversially perhaps, that the current batch of NHLers are coddled. They have million-dollar contracts, flawless ice surfaces, long "media breaks" during games, access to world-class equipment and coaching/training personnel and maybe even the celebrity status of sports players that require them to not only perform on the ice but also fulfil contracts to their sponsors. Those things might actually work towards the favour of a higher-speed game, but the only people that are really exciting anymore are the rookies and the odd player like Trevor Linden who seemed to give 100% on each shift. A lot of the truly talented players have the ability to get away with not giving it all when they score every night, but if we're paying full price for something, shouldn't we get full effort?

Watching a hockey game live is so much better than watching it on TV. The thrill of cheering a goal with thousands of others alone is usually worth the price of admission, but also booing the ref and chanting "Leafs Suck" in unison when thousands of fans of the opposing team in question are in the audience adds to the effect. I don't care much for the fact that everything has an advertisement on it—including the Zamboni's, which look almost as if they are NASCAR cars. Also the long breaks between play to cut to commercial for radio and TV are too long, but at least watching the kids clear the ice of snow—and the players looking at the girls' asses—eases the boredom. They're almost like the crew during a play that set the props correctly in between scenes. The metaphor breaks down because plays, unless they are improv, have a pre-determined outcome.

It turns out that the Leafs do indeed suck. They would have sucked less with Lindros in the lineup, but so too would the Canucks if they had Jovanovski in the lineup. The part that truly sucks is that the Leafs play in Vancouver the next time won't be for 3 years, or so goes the rumour. Do the geniuses at the NHL know how many Leafs fans there are in every Canadian city? There were, as I mentioned, thousands of Leafs fans at GM Place on January 10th. This is true, I hear, of Calgary and other Canadian cities with an NHL franchise. I know revenues from TV are often more important than what the league gets from fans in the stadium, but all you have to do to guarantee a sold out game in Canada is schedule the Maple Leafs to play. Becuase you'll get a least as many fans of the Leafs to come jeer the home team.