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The Center of the Hockey Universe, or the Ugly Baby?

June 11, 2014, 11:16 AM ET [109 Comments]
Colin Dambrauskas
Toronto Maple Leafs Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I am personally becoming sick of hearing that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the “biggest” thing in hockey.

The “center of the hockey universe”, as it were.

Today’s blog will remain short as I’d like to introduce the above topic for discussion purposes. The blog is not meant, by any means, to be taken as a form of Leafs bashing but rather a dissection of the notion that the team and organization is so grand.

In Toronto, you have a professional sports team who has not made the playoffs more than once in the past decade, and one that has made it beyond the second round of the playoffs but 3 times in the past 20 years.

I suppose the above would provide enough reason to believe that Toronto being the center of the hockey universe must be due to their large fan base and the dollars which the team brings in. I won’t even bother providing the financials and attendance records over the years in this respect, as we all know that the Leafs have very high ticket sales and sit atop the league on a pile of dough.

So why is it, I ask, that Toronto continues to be considered “the place all players want to play”? Is it due to team’s history and what they’ve accomplished in seasons past? Is it due to the resemblance of the Canadian Maple Leaf which wins over Canadians?

The reasons which come to mind certainly differ depending on the age of the fan, and it should stand to reason that a fan who was around during times of success would pass the stories down to their kids, same could be said for those who had the opportunity to (watch) the Leafs win their last cup…as rare as those fans are becoming.

At the end of the day, and I’m not sure if perhaps I am alone in this sentiment, but I have been getting a little sick of hearing how Toronto continues to be “the greatest place to play” in the NHL. Whether or not players who express these thoughts during interviews are doing so with $$$ on their mind isn’t something I can ascertain, however the number of interviewees who have proclaimed the same is quite high over the years.

Once again we consider the rumours toward Joe Thornton and the Toronto Maple Leafs. At this point, I’ve read a few times too many that players of his ilk would love to return “home” and play for the Leafs. A dream for any kid/player growing up, they say. To me, this is and has always been nothing but the media trying to place more weight behind their story than is likely there.

It seems as though any player who grew up anywhere remotely close to Toronto is said to be interested in “returning home”. While playing in Toronto clearly moves a guy like Thornton closer to “home” in St Thomas, I’m not sure that this plays a significant part in the decision making process of players possible looking for a new organization to join.

The fact of the matter is that higher end players want to join higher end teams, regardless of their geographic locations. Sure some argue that playing in a place like Los Angeles where the taxes are low and the sun always high is nice, but don't underestimate the bonuses and perks which many of the Canadian organizations can offer, including the fame in comparison to most/many American teams. Then again, fame is desired by some players, despised by others...so moot point.

What I’m getting at here is that while the Leafs organization has failed its fan-base over the years, it continues to be labeled as the “center of the hockey universe”…perhaps self-proclaimed?

Personally, I would rather the label be stripped of the organization. We continue to talk about a team who struggles year after year to ice a successful product; a team who cannot be considered a playoff contender, let alone one for the Stanley Cup.

The number of erroneous steps which this organization has taken over the years has been dumbfounding. Are they perhaps, and finally, starting to learn from their errors? This is left to be seen. However what we do know is that the only thing Toronto has done successfully is manage to sell out their rinks to fans and too many "suits", as they stand accused.

Is Toronto’s history strong enough to maintain such a label, or is it time that fans and the media do a better job at calling them out for what they are/have been?

Are we afraid to hurt someone’s feelings? Are the Leafs perhaps too closely related to that ugly baby which you can’t do anything but tell their parents how cute they are?

What are your thoughts?
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