It’s fitting the Leafs annual California-plus-Vegas road trip comes to an end on Halloween as the past week was like a hockey version of a horror movie, only no actual blood was sprayed on the ice. You can be forgiven for missing some of the gory details because of the many games at odd hours, but after winning at their pit-stop in Winnipeg, the Leafs then lost all four games out west. The latest was a 4-3 loss to the Ducks last night, who are literally last place in the whole NHL (even after you count last night’s win they’re still last). Here’s our full recap of the game:

Maple Leafs lose to a tenacious Ducks team in overtime.

These Leafs don’t appear to have any tricks, and they’re certainly not getting any treats from me. Sheldon Keefe even resorted to the line blender last night, among the last resorts of any coach who is out of ideas.

They salvaged only four points out the possible ten on the road trip, and have taken a thumping in the standings because of it. There’s lots of blame to spread around, though I wouldn’t throw much at poor Erik Källgren called up from the Marlies to play in net for this mess.

Execution has become the buzz word because of its total absence for long stretches from this group. The team is out of sorts from top to bottom and they have very little time to get it sorted. The Flyers are in town on Wednesday, and wouldn’t John Tortorella love the feather in his cap of his new team beating the Leafs? You can bet they will be ready. But will the Leafs be ready?

It’s Halloween

Rather than the usual news and links from around the league—nothing much happened yesterday—and since we all need a distraction from the Leafs right now, I’ll share a scary story: working at Pizza Pizza on Halloween.

It was back in 2003, and it was actually at the Pizza Pizza call centre in Hamilton. Believe it or not, you actually could order online all the way back then, but almost 99% of the orders were still phoned in to a call centre. Many people were oblivious to this, and believed they were always talking to their local store and would ask me to do special favours for them like throw in a few extra dipping sauces, or add extra extra cheese for them, to which I would say “sure!” and of course not do it because I wasn’t there.

It was a great place to work while I was attending McMaster, as the hours were generally off those at school. A typical shift for me would be 6 p.m. to close, which was either 1 or 2 a.m., depending on the day. It paid $10.50/hour, well above the $6.85 minimum wage of the period (you’ll never guess which party had been in power for ten years without increasing it at that point.)

The orders were input in code (large double pepperoni, mushroom, green peppers on half, green olives other half = L14.P.P.FM.GP/GO\) into a database, and I would have literally zero interaction with people actually in the store. The order would simply be spit out of a small printer there. This made the process really fast. A call would only last an average of two minutes. I would take almost 200 calls per night.

By this point in time, Pizza Pizza had expanded all across Southern Ontario with literally hundreds of locations and the call centre was huge. On a regular night there would be around 50-60 order takers working the phones. It would go up to 70-80 on a Saturday night. We took orders from all over Ontario, though there was a separate call centre specifically for Toronto (416/647 area code only), and one in Ottawa which took all French calls, and English calls from Kingston east to the Quebec border, almost inline with the Habs regional TV broadcast rights. We would get occasional 416 Toronto calls if their call centre had a hold queue that got too long relative to ours.

Then there were the special nights. New Year’s was obviously busy (and we got a 50% bonus to work it), except for the three minutes leading up to midnight, when the calls would simply stop, only for them to suddenly explode at 12:01. But overall, it was a busy but steady night, with orders well spread out.

Mother’s Day was also a big one; shout out to the moms who said “I’m not cooking tonight” and called for pizza. Christmas Eve also had a rush, most likely from families who had Christmas Dinner the next day and were overwhelmed with tasks to do the night before.

But then there was Halloween. It was all hands on deck. Every workstation with someone sitting in the chair and their headset on; over 100 on the phones at the peak. Any Halloween would be bad, but in 2003 Halloween was a Friday night, and I was told to prepare for the worst.

The calls came non-stop. As soon as you hung up, the “boop” would sound in your headset, meaning you had a new call assigned and had to answer it immediately.

The problems were evident quickly. At the beginning of the evening it was the many people calling in who were rare or first time orderers with very little knowledge of the menu. You would have to walk them through all of the options and then they would spend an eternity making a decision, only to then ask you to list all possible toppings, once again. Black vs. green olives apparently required a solid two minutes of thought, but they couldn't see there were 75 calls on hold waiting to speak to someone, only I could, and we weren’t supposed to tell anyone that information, however I could say “my personal favourite is...” even if it wasn’t my favourite, simply to get them to hurry up. That usually worked.

As the evening wore on, the calls got drunker. The worst were the people at house parties, but not their house. The calls would go something like this:

ME: Thank you for calling Pizza Pizza, may I start with your phone number, including area code please.
CALLER: Uh, just a second... “Hey Jim, what’s your phone number?”... OK it’s 416-555-3167
ME: Thank you, and may I confirm your address please.
CALLER: Uh, just a second... “Hey Jim, what’s your address?”... OK it’s 132 5th Street.
ME: OK great and what so you want to order?
CALLER: Uh, just a second... “Hey Jim, what do you want to order?”

People would also start making the taxi service requests which we did not do, like asking for the driver to pick up beer or cigarettes for them on the way, or asking for stuff that Pizza Pizza does not sell. “What do you mean you don’t have Crazy Bread?” “Sir, that’s Little Caesars, not Pizza Pizza.” “Oh, right. Do you know their phone number?”

After 1:00 a.m. you got the garbled call phone calls, which we were allowed to hang up on. Usually this would result in an angry call back 15 minutes later, though, even back then, all the calls were recorded and the call centre managers could access and play them back immediately and see that you did the correct thing.

It was a long night, but the pay was good. However, I only lasted there a year, which I was told was about the average. I wanted more time back in the evenings, and not having to stay up until 2:00 a.m. talking about pizza.

In any case, if you phone for pizza tonight—do people still do that? But if you do, remember the plight of the poor call centre worker.

How worried are you at this point about the Maple Leafs.

Meh. It’s 10 out of 82 games. October Leafs are a thing. I’ll wait until it’s November, when it matters.61
I was worried before this season started.56
I wasn’t worried, but after the past four games I sure am.68
Yellow alert! Some lineup and roster changes are badly needed. Time to make some trades.54
RED ALERT! Coaching and/or management changes are needed immediately!75