An Examination Of The True Cost Of Hockey Fandom And Why Leafs Fans Deserve An Apology

Sports fandom has become cavalier and fickle. The reasons are many: teams move from town to town, causing a growing reluctance among many fans to get too attached to the home team; the internet has allowed fans to stay closely connected with teams from distant locales; people have become more transient in the age of globalization, moving to where the work is (which explains why there is someone from Boston wearing a Red Sox cap in any town with more than 30 people in North America); and teams like the Ottawa Senators have discovered that you can achieve middling success by filling your building with fans of other teams.

The exact meaning of fandom, of course, depends entirely on one’s perspective. Last fall’s Stanley Cup Final saw thousands of Vancouver Canucks supporters display their fandom by leaving 62 million angry comments at the Globe and Mail website and setting their city on fire. However, that is a pretty high threshold for fans of many other teams to meet. Most just toil along, year after year, dreaming of the day that their team has just one opportunity to get humiliated on and off the ice in a Stanley Cup Final.

While it might look like fun and games, being a sports fan in general, and a Toronto Maple Leafs fan in particular, can seem positively burdensome. You have to watch all those games, drink all that beer, talk to your friends at the bar and strangers on the internet about the game, and just plain old think about hockey when you should be working or looking for work or talking to your kids. And don’t get us started on the costs: we have to spend a lot of disposable income on luxury items such as jerseys and tickets, never mind the necessities such as cable bills, internet connections and copies of the Maple Street Press Leafs Annual.

And, to top it all off, when your team loses almost every game for nearly two months, no one from the team’s upper management delivers a handwritten letter of apology to your house. Met with this type of disrespect, is it any wonder that Leafs fans are starting to crack up?

Sure, it might sound absolutely insane for a struggling team to trade the only guy on the team who can score, but that is what we’re hearing from diehard Leafs fans like Damien Cox. Planting the seeds for fellow fans to chant for the GM’s firing, and then breathlessly talking about the barely audible chants the next morning, might seem petty and manipulative to the average person, but that’s just what card carrying members of Leafs nation such as Greg Brady and Jeff Blair have been reduced to.

Things have gotten so bad that even closet Leafs fans (you know, the self-hating ones that write books about the stupidity of their fellow Leafs fans) took to the pages of the Toronto Star on Tuesday, March 21, to demand that aforementioned apology.

Of course, Leafs Nation is a large and diverse group, so not everyone is demanding contrition from the team’s front office. Leafs fan Jonathan Kay (note: Kay claims to not cheer for the Leafs, but we know that the Leafs fans who decide what "Leafs fans want" and tell us what "Leafs fans are saying" all happen to work for major media outlets…walks like a duck and all that) is having none of it:

Over at the Toronto Sun on Tuesday, the front page was given over to a huge image of the Leafs’ goalie, head hung low with shame as if he had just been caught in some horrible act, along with the headline "Outshot, Outhit, Beat Up, Blown Out. What a JOKE." The absurd sense of self-entitlement exhibited by Leaf fans apparently spans the whole gamut of the populist political spectrum, from Star left to Sun right.

Now it might seem rich – pun most definitely intended – for a guy who became momentarily infamous a few months back for compiling a collection of "woe is me" stories from the 1% in Toronto Life (a story that is remarkably similar to this one you are reading now…go see for yourself!) to mock others for their "absurd sense of self-entitlement", but we all know by now that consistency isn’t really a strong point for Leafs fans. And hey, as Mr. Kay has inadvertently demonstrated, the only thing Canadians loathe more than the myopic self-obsession of rich Toronto yuppies is Leaf fans.

So, the range of views among Leafs fans is clearly quite broad, from those demanding an apology to those who would probably demand an apology if they actually followed the team. But so far we’ve only profiled a select few high-profile Leafs fans. What does the average Toronto fan look like? Here are five fans from across Leafs nation, each with a documented history of Leaf fandom. Let’s meet some of the folks who deserve an apology:

Triple P, aka The Game, aka King of Kings, aka Terra Ryzin – Co-Proprietor PPP Amalgamated Heavy Industries – Leafs Fan

The thing people don't understand is that when you're a sports fan, you don't always get to choose what teams you support. Sure, sometimes you live in a town like Ottawa and you can pick and choose from three teams depending on who is doing the best, but for most people there's a moment when you get trapped. My moment came when I was 9 years old and Nikolai Borchevsky tipped a shot in against the Red Wings to beat them in seven games. Sure, I've seen four trips to the semi-finals, plenty of wins, but no Cups. And when it comes down to it, that is all that matters. I guess the only brightside is that at least the Leafs have some history of success to draw upon no matter how dim the glow. I mean, imagine being a Canucks, Kings, or Blues fan? Droughts almost as long as ours and a void of nothing before their inception.

The worst part is how much it costs to be a fan:

Monthly expenses | Rent for my own apartment in my parents' basement with its own entrance: $0. Utilities: $0. Rogers for cable and Internet: $70 ("and the worst is that LeafsTV is $3 extra!"). Bell for cellphone: $70. ("because the blogging game doesn't sleep.") Gas for 2004 Silver Honda Civic: $100. Groceries: $50. ("I make up the difference by helping my mom cook.") Eating out: $100. ("You can't just watch games at home yelling at the TV by yourself. Sometimes you have to get together with other people to yell at a TV.") Lunches and coffees: $50. ("I wish that Starbucks wasn't so anal about buying a coffee to use their free WiFi.") Newspapers and magazines: $100. ("If I didn't read them how would I know when it was time to start chanting "Fire Burke"?") Hair salon: $8. ("here's where I save some dough.")

Annual expenses | Clothing: $200. ("I try to get my yearly jersey on sale. Sorry, I mean sweater. Have to clear that up or some old fart will lose his shit".") Furniture and furnishings, mostly from The Brick and HomeSense: $50. ("Basically I just had to get beer and pizza for my buddies that helped get my stuff from my room upstairs to my apartment downstairs.") Vacations: $0. ("That's when I house-sit and have other Leafs fans over to commiserate.")

Fob Rord – Wouldn’t tell us his occupation, claims to be someone important – Leafs Fan

It used to be that I could go to a Leafs game, pound a few brews, and release some tension. But now, the Leafs are so fucking bad that all you can hear at the games is the non-stop booing. With all that racket, how the hell are the women sitting in front of me supposed to hear me telling them to move to Iran? Now these commie bastards filling the platinums at the ACC will never know that they are commie bastards. Between their support for the Pride Parade, the You Can Play campaign, and just being awful on the ice, the Leafs are making life pretty hard for bullies these days. Damn right they owe me an apology. Good thing I have lingerie football season to look forward to.

Mattew Ford - Bitter Leaf Fan - Leafs fan

"You're talking about the Vatican if you're catholic, you're talking the centre of the hockey universe," -BRIAN BURKE

Now, I don't want to get into the various transgression of the Catholic Church but I think we can all agree the Leafs sins are far greater than anything the Vatican might or might not have done.

I don't think there's much in this world that can compare to: 45 years since their last Cup; no Calder, Ross, Hart, or Vezina winners in 50 years; huge viewership numbers that force the CBC to broadcast Leafs games across the country (keeping the poor people of Okotoks from seeing a late season Senators - Habs match-up); a string of goalies (14 of them!) that should only be on the ice during tv timeouts to shovel the snow build-up; no playoffs seven straight seasons and letting players like Skinner, Tavares and Stamkos play for other teams.

And if there's one thing the Vatican is known for, it's apologies (30 years too late for the Beatles if you ask me). So if the Pope can do right, so can Brian Burke and MLSE.

"Jason" – A guy in our office who doesn't watch hockey – Leafs Fan

Haha boy the Leafs sure are bad. I was talking to Mike at the water cooler the other day, guy says he's watched every Leafs game for like thirty years. What a maniac. Team's never won anything, who's got the time? I go sometimes, but only when I get the company seats.I mean, I cheer hard for whoever's left in the playoffs from Canada because it's our duty to support the boys and all that, maybe if the Leafs made them since 1967 they'd be worth cheering for you know?

Kid Kawartha – Freelance Illuminati Hunter – Leafs Fan

44 years and some odd months ago, I distinctly remember a sustained, joyful period of loud cheering and celebration. I was in my very own 2nd trimester and totally unaware, but believe me, it made an impression. That event was the Leafs' last Stanley Cup victory, and it marked me for life as a dyed-in-the-womb Be-leafer.

Since then, my life has been filled with nothing but countless nights around a TV or at a bar, drinking cold beer, eating delicious wings, insulting my brothers' knowledge of the team and generally having a roaring good time. It's been downright unbearable.

I mean, I've invested at least $100 of my hard earned cash over the years in 2 Leafs ballcaps and a sweat-shop jersey, and I think it's about time those bastards at MLSE buy me a new championship- I don't give a crap about asides like "cap constrained" or "50 SPCs per team" or JFJ leaving Brian Burke with a roster a second-tier Euro coach would laugh at- us fans have rights, too.

Here's the thing- I'm on the verge of becoming the Toronto version of a Sens fan and believing all the horseshit the local media shoves down my throat about the team- this is a goddamned emergency!

Dick RiPietro – Inmate # 92666741 – Islanders Fan ?!?!?!?!

I am not a Leafs fan, I have never been a Leafs fan, and I will probably never be a Leafs fan...but I live in Leafs country (editor’s note: Canada). If anyone deserves an apology from these half-wits, it’s me. I have hated the Leafs since I got into hockey in or around 1982. Of course the best team in the world at that point was the mighty New York Islanders, and being the great bandwagon jumper that I was at the age of 7, I leaped on and held tight for the next 30 years.

So why do I deserve an apology? Let’s just say that the last 10-15 years haven’t been good for the Isles, and Leafs fans haven’t let me forget it. But, worse than that, is having to listen to the likes of Godd Till, Kim Jorn, Kid Kawartha bitch and moan about how bad they have it. At least the Leafs were in contention for a playoff spot for a while. Do you have any idea what it is like to be out of it by the end of October....Every Year! Talk to me when Reimer is your GM and Gustavsson has 13 years left on his contract!!

And to top it all off, as the season is coming to an end and it is obvious that neither the Isles or Leafs are making the playoffs, we have a game that the Isles clearly dominate for our first win against Toronto this year. This would be my time to shine, but no...all the Leaf fans have suddenly become hardcore Blue Jays fans and that 10-7 split squad win over Houston is the most important thing in the world.

In short, I guess I want an apology for doing something different than the usual mediocre, just missing the playoffs routine that Toronto has become accustomed to. Just because you can’t be as good as Vancouver or St. Louis, don’t think that you will ever be as bad as the Isles...Lottery picks and draft day are our Stanley Cup.