49-33-3-5: this is the all-time regular season record for the Ottawa Senators when facing the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s a .598 winning percentage. Add to this one conference championship and one President’s Trophy win post 2000-’01 compared to Toronto’s zero and zero. Post 2000-01, the Senators have also tallied 3 division championships and appeared in the playoffs eight times (and clinched their ninth post-season trip earlier this week) – making the Stanley Cup finals once. The Leafs, during the same period of time, landed no division championships and have made the playoffs only four times – never appearing in the finals.
So, statistically, Ottawa has a better team. Yet, the majority of Ontario hockey fans are still bleeding blue and white. The Ottawa Senators have seen far more success in recent years than their Ontario rivals yet these successes fail to resonate with the province’s population. Anyone who has spoken to a Leafs’ fan knows changing loyalties has never been an option.
But could this season prove to be the final straw for, at least, a handful of Maple Leafs’ fans? The “Fire Wilson,” demanding the ouster of the team’s coach, and “Let’s go, Blue Jays” chants within the Air Canada Centre over the last month sure make it seem that way.
Post-expansion (and I’m talking about the original-six expansion), the Toronto Maple Leafs are the only original-six team to not make the Cup finals. In the post-lockout era (2004-’05), the Leafs and the Florida Panthers are the only teams not to make the playoffs (Florida currently sits in third in the Eastern conference).
The Leafs started this season in first place and now sit in the second-last spot in the Eastern conference. They fired their head coach and kept losing. On Feb. 6, the Leafs were in sixth place in the East. Since Feb. 7, the Leafs’ record is 5-16-3. They are twenty-eighth in the league in goals against and twenty-ninth in penalty killing.
To boot, the average cost of a ticket to a Maple Leafs’ home game at the ACC is the highest, not only in Canada, but within the entire league with an average of US$114 per ticket according to the most recent franchise valuations by Forbes. The organization also played with the idea of increasing ticket prices for next season – raising the average ticket cost to $123. The Ottawa Senators have the lowest ticket prices of all Canadian teams – a $56 average per ticket.
So, Ontario Leafs’ fans – what the H-E-double hockey sticks?
I understand the loyalties involved in professional sport. I’ve taken heat for years cheering for non-Leafs teams. But, isn’t Phaneuf enough (pun intended)? How can fans continuously pay ridiculous prices to watch ridiculous hockey? I’m a fan of good hockey, and missing the playoffs seven years in a row is not good hockey.
The Leafs’ nation is in need of a revolution. They are so blatantly taken advantage of by owner Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, who happily take fans’ money while giving them nothing in return. I can’t blame them, though. If the Toronto population is willing to pay an arm and a leg for tickets, then why not charge accordingly?
Ontario hockey fans need to start looking at the other NHL option in their province. They need to realize that nothing is going to change if they just sit back and allow themselves to be abused in this fashion by the powers that be at MLSE. They’re disrespected by their own organization. They’ve been going down with the ship long enough and it’s time to grab a hold of a life raft. After this, I can’t even sympathize anymore. I jumped ship to Ottawa when Darcy Tucker rolled into town a dozen years ago, and I haven’t looked back since.
You have options. It’s still Ontario. It’s still Canada. It’s still hockey.