Hockey Headlines

Friday, 30 September 2016

I Saw Nothing

It's funny how some towns show their allegiances. Being from a hockey-mad city, I see logos, hats, and jerseys everywhere in the city regardless of where I go. Having spent the week in Toronto, it was a completely different story. The Centre of the Universe was playing host to the World Cup of Hockey Money and had the Maple Leafs opening training camp and preseason games, and yet the entire city is fixated on the Blue Jays. The Jays lead every newscast, they are talked about all over the city, and they dominated the sports radio chatter. The Big Smoke has the Leafs, but also plays host to the AHL Marlies, the OHL Steelheads, the CWHL Furies, and a pile of CIS teams. So where were all the hockey die-hards this past week?

I get that it's baseball playoff fever and the Jays are battling for their playoff lives. The series against the Yankees and Orioles were huge for the club this week, and the fans responded in a big way. In fact, the hottest ticket in town wasn't the World Cup final between Europe and Canada judging by the number of empty seats in the stands and tickets available online. No, the harder ticket to acquire was for the Blue Jays-Orioles series at Rogers Centre this week.

Perhaps I put too much faith in Rogers Sportsnet selling the World Cup to the city hosting the tournament. Perhaps the dream match-up of Canada and Europe just doesn't have the cachet as a Canada-USA or Canada-Russia final. In any case, the lack of Canada jerseys where I was located was pretty evident, but there weren't a lot of other hockey jerseys or logos being worn either.

Everywhere I went, the Blue Jays logo and jerseys were worn proudly. People talked Blue Jays. People were looking for Blue Jays gear. It wasn't an Auston Matthews or a Team Canada craze. Toronto is definitely in the baseball moment for this past week. So it begs the question: will the city turn out to see the Leafs play if they steamroll through another bottom-five season?

For a city that boasts about having the best fans in the world, it's hard to see that fact when no one wears their Maple Leafs logo proudly. Personally, I'd love to see more love for the CIS teams and the CWHL's Toronto Furies and Brampton Thunder, but that's just me. For a city that has seats available at the biggest tournament in their city's history featuring the world's best players, it's hard to imagine "the best fans in the world" leaving seats open for that tournament. Would it be fairer to say that Toronto fans are fair-weather fans?

Look, I'm not here to rip on the die-hard Leafs fans. I know you exist out there, and to hell with all these other teams. The same goes for the die-hards for the Marlies, Steelheads, Furies, Thunder, and all the CIS teams. I've harped on the World Cup of Hockey for the insane cost of the tickets as well, and the final few games of the tournament with the Blue Jays in town certainly was evidence that Toronto is pouring their support behind the Blue Jays in their playoff race. I understand the excitement of a playoff race, but it might be something the NHL looks at if there is to be another major September tournament in Toronto.

No one is blaming Toronto fans for not going to hockey games when there's an exciting baseball race happening, but it should be telling that there are limited ticket dollars available - even in a large market such as Toronto - and the NHL should look at other venues for any additional September events. The poor attendance figures in the World Cup final games should come as a bit of harsh reality for the NHL when it was trying to make this a marquee event.

Keep supporting your teams, Toronto fans. I am into the Blue Jays' battle for the wild card spot as well, and I would have gone to the Jays-Orioles game over the World Cup games as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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