Reporter: Brent Carabott
I think I will always remember the 6 a.m. phone call from a friend on Sunday Jan. 6 telling me that it’s over…hockey is back, the Leafs are back. I was overcome with emotion despite my groggy state. Instantly all my bitterness over the lockout melted away, replaced with immeasurable excitement. But in the following weeks I was puzzled by some of the reactions and attitudes on display around campus, in sports bars, on talk radio and on Twitter.
Bitter fans are heard expressing their disdain for the return of the game they claimed to love and miss dearly. I have read thousands of tweets from hockey fans saying they will not be supporting the season this year, or that the players and owners don’t deserve their money after leaving them stranded in the cold for half a hockey season. It is to these so-called ‘fans’ that I say: they don’t need you.
If fans choosing to ignore the return of the greatest game on Earth think their choice will turn heads at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, they are soon to find they are largely in the minority. On the morning of Thursday Jan. 17 Toronto Maple Leafs tickets went on-sale to the public and in seconds tickets for every game were nearly sold out. I know because I had to settle for standing room seats to a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. It is safe to say MLSE knows their fans will return and they know they will get by even if some fans choose not to come back.
There is an unpopular opinion among Leaf fans that their organization does not care about them, or that they know they will make their dollar because people will pay even if they don’t respect the ownership. This weekend MLSE answered their critics by making a peace offering to the largest NHL fan base around.
A few hours after Leaf tickets came and went on Jan. 17 MLSE announced they would be giving away 1,000 tickets to the home opener against Buffalo on Jan. 21. This giveaway should do the job of silencing the haters and it shows that the Maple Leafs really do care about their fans.
The majority of fans have already come running back with excitement to see their team, and anyone who is going to let the lockout ruin hockey for them is only doing themselves a disservice. Don’t remain bitter about what happened. You are not going to make a difference to the bigwigs that run the Leafs.