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Status And Privilege Continue To Dictate ACC Crowds

The atmosphere at the ACC is one of privilege and status. As long as it stays that way, the games will be expensive and the true fans of the team will continue to be shut out.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

When I think about going to a sporting event in Toronto, I start tallying the cost as soon as I leave my front door. Transportation, parking, lunch or dinner, drinks, the ticket cost, transportation home. Things add up quickly, that's a given. Attending live sporting events will always be pricey in Toronto.

Last week I went down to Windsor, Ontario for two days after getting my hands on some pretty amazing seats for the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Joe Louis Arena was on the bucket list and I scratched that one off for less than what it would cost to see the Maple Leafs play in my hometown of Toronto.

Same old story right? It wasn't just the cost that made me jump at the opportunity to see the Maple Leafs in the sixth row at Joe Louis, it was the atmosphere inside the arena I knew would be better than anything I've experienced at the Air Canada Centre. When you attend a game in Toronto you sit amongst season ticket holders and fans who bought tickets off season ticket holders. If you're lucky enough to be in the lower bowl you sit with people who like the status of being at the Leafs game. The suit and ties like to say "I was at the game last night" because that statement comes with the assumption of wealth.

The Maple Leafs have the highest resale ticket value of all teams in the NHL at $373.50 according to The Hockey News and TiqIQ. The next highest was the Vancouver Canucks at $282.58. The Detroit Red Wings who are a popular choice for Maple Leafs fans sat at just over $100 while the much closer Buffalo Sabres were $130.28 resale value.

Joffrey Lupul said the atmosphere in Detroit and Buffalo is better than the home crowd at the ACC. He probably faced a few questions from the PR department after that one, but he told the truth. He wasn't trying to piss anyone off with a factual statement. The crowd at the ACC always sucks.

James Reimer won the Maple Leafs their game against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday in the shootout. As he celebrated the win, behind him were a row of men in Maple Leafs jerseys and hats sitting with blank faces. No cheering, no clapping, still sitting in their front-row seats. What the franchise has successfully done is take the fans out of the game and cater to those who can afford luxuries in one of the country's most expensive cities to live in.

I get how business works. I get making people pay the maximum amount to get the largest return. I get making people pay $15 for a beer if they're willing. I'm not naive to how money dictates policy and greed. What I don't understand is how the franchise thinks having suits who stay in the lounges 7 minutes into a period leaving their platinum seats empty is a good look.  I don't understand how the players enjoy playing in front of a crowd that only gets up to cheer if there's a fight, a fourth goal, or a guaranteed win.

When I watch the games at home, there is no sense of excitement in the building, there is no reaction to close chances, good defensive plays, line rushes that look like they're going to be something. It's a steady hum which you can attribute to chatting, it's a silence that makes the people who paid more than they should have to attend just one game feel as if they should be quiet and reserved. It breeds a culture that grows up knowing going to a game means you stay quiet until a goal is scored, but not the first or second or third, you can stand and applaud when the game is over.

On Tuesday night Nazem Kadri's toe drag picked the top-right corner of the net and was a great play carried through from centre ice. Only then did the lower bowl stand and applaud the effort that helped the Maple Leafs close out the Anaheim Ducks 6-2. The first three which happened to be from three different lines didn't mean much to the crowd. The saves Jonathan Bernier was narrowly making, they didn't mean much either. The atmosphere is a joke on most nights, to be honest.

One would think the ACC might be a little rowdy these days with a 19-9-3 record and on a six-game winning streak. That's not how the suits conduct themselves, though.