Canadian Corner – July 19, 2011.

Toronto fans love affair with their struggling sports teams, the role Winnipeg fans could play in the Jets performance, Brendan Morrison on the status of his injured knee, questions about Sam Gagner, Peter Budaj gets his number with the Canadiens, and an update on speculation Craig MacTavish could join Canucks farm team as head coach.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons examines the love affair Toronto fans have with their struggling sports franchises, including the Maple Leafs:

“The Leafs haven’t made the playoffs in the salary cap era, which has only made for more riches for MLSE. Before the lockout, when the Leafs could spend whatever they wanted, they actually made the post-season. Now, they spend less and make more and what they are known for is having the highest ticket prices in hockey — third highest in all of North American professional sports behind the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots.

In regular season ticket revenue alone, the Leafs do more than $90 million in sales and play to 102% capacity. In their pricing category they are surrounded by the perennial competitive Cowboys, the near-dynastic Patriots and ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Simmons also pointed out the Leafs led the NHL in revenue last season despite finishing 22nd overall. He wondered if Toronto fans were the most loyal and financially supportive, or merely the biggest suckers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The knee jerk reaction would be “suckers!”, but I think it just has to do with the passion Toronto fans feel for their sports teams, especially the Maple Leafs. Toronto is a hockey town, always has been, always will be, and when the Leafs are playing well, there’s few hockey cities which can exceed the excitement of Toronto fans. 

WINNIPEG JETS.

WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen reports an NHL executive believes playing in a passionate hockey market could have a positive impact upon the Jets roster, which spent the past few years playing in an indifferent market in Atlanta.

“Playing in a passionate, fervent hockey market is going to provide them with a level of home-ice advantage they did not possess in Atlanta,” our analyst, requesting anonymity, told the Winnipeg Sun. “I don’t know that you’re going to measure it. I do think you can feel it.”

What they’ll feel is the noise level of a packed house of 15,000-plus, every night, compared to announced crowds of 13,000 and change, which were actually much smaller most nights, in Atlanta last season.

“If the players are going to be honest with you, they’ll at least acknowledge there are some nights when the engine’s not going, and a little bit of external support can only help,” the executive said. “And sometimes a little additional pressure can help. Different people get motivated in different ways. Both those things can help. Because they’re not going to be able to hide, that’s for sure.”

Friesen also points out the downside too, if the team isn’t playing well, but expects the Jets will enjoy a honeymoon period from Winnipeg fans this season, who’ll be happy to have the NHL back in their city.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No one’s doubting Jets fans will be loud and passionate. They’re also fortunate to be getting a team which could be on the cusp of becoming a playoff contender, which will no doubt make them even louder as the season progresses.

CALGARY FLAMES

CALGARY SUN: Randy Sportak reports newly-signed Flame Brendan Morrison, who suffered a season-ending knee injury, has been given clearance to skate but hasn’t done so yet, though he will be hitting the ice soon, where he’ll be able to fully test it against his other leg. Morrison claims he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery compared to his previous recovery from knee surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Morrison however is also a little older now (36) and it could take longer for him to fully return to top shape. The Flames are gambling he’ll reach that form when the new season opens in October.

EDMONTON OILERS.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples examines the career thus far of Oilers center Sam Gagner, noting questions about over Gagner’s development and performance.

“Can he become a more competent defensive player?

Can he more consistently move the puck up the ice, by winning his battles in his own zone and in the neutral zone?

Can he muster the fierceness and determination to hold his own behind the Oilers net?”

Staples points out Gagner is only 22, but believes this coming season, which could be Gagner’s fifth, is the time to make the move toward becoming a highly-productive NHL center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Because Gagner already has four NHL seasons under his belt, we forget how young he is, and that some players take longer than others to reach their full potential. I agree with Staples that this coming season could be a significant one in Gagner’s development, as it could be the indicator over the direction his career takes.

MONTREAL CANADIENS.

HOCKEY INSIDE/OUT (MONTREAL GAZETTE): Mike Boone reports new Canadiens backup goalie Peter Budaj has been given number 30, the same number worn by Habs greats Gump Worsley and Rogie Vachon, along with Tony Esposito (briefly), Phil Myre and Wayne Thomas, as well as non-goalies Turner Stevenson and Keith Acton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boone’s mention of Stevenson got me wondering where the former hulking Habs forward is today. He’s currently an assistant coach with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS.

VANCOUVER SUN: reports the Canucks and former NHL head coach Craig MacTavish have not reached an agreement which would see MacTavish become head coach of their AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves, but remains a strong candidate for the position.

 

13 Comments

  1. Thanks for your level-headed response to Steve Simmons article. I am a Leafs fan and I am tired of being called a ‘sucker’ or ‘sheep’ or similar. I cheer for the Leafs *because I live in Toronto* and happened to be on TV almost every day when I was growing up. When my team does poorly, am I supposed to pack up my loyalty and cheer for another team? Aren’t I then a bandwagon hopper? I know what to expect from my team – I’m not ‘planning the parade,’ I know the cup isn’t coming this season, but I can still enjoy watching my local team.

  2. Hey Lyle, what do you think of Cogliano’s new contract with Anaheim??? I think he isn’t worth what they are paying him…

  3. Please stop reporting on what that idiot Simmons says. There is rarely if ever anything he writes has any value at all. Yes, Toronto has passionate fans. Perhaps he wants the fans to not support the team and with any luck, the team can have financial problems and the team can move, you know like Atlanta has and Phoenix will. I guess that’s a better solution than supporting a team even if that team is trying to be re-built. After all, wasn’t that ass one of the people that wanted them to tear down the team and do a full rebuild… its been almost three years since the rebuild and he’s complaining about what now? Patience I guess does not apply to him… nor does logic. If there is on writer who is not worth the weight of the ink he uses in his consistently poor articles.

    “Now, they spend less and make more and what they are known for is having the highest ticket prices in hockey” That statement is just not true and flat out lie. The Leafs spend up to the cap and beyond that (many articles to prove it) the Leafs have spent more on off cap counting departments such as player development, coaches, scouting and management. To suggest that they are not trying to ice a winning team is absurd and so is the idea that MLSE don’t care about winning or getting far in the playoffs because the tickets sales from that wont be more profit for them.

    I know Lyle that you write/report on credible sources and having something from Simmons is no different than Ek with the exception that one is acknowledged as a fraud and one hasn’t. The both are full of crap and rarely if even know anything that they are talking about.

  4. I’ve lived in both Montreal and Toronto for extended periods so I have seen both sides. What I see happen in TO is that tickets are SO hard to come by for the average joe that despite the prices, people, real hockey fans, will pay the price to go to the occasional game. Toronto is big enough that if all Leaf fans do that, the team sells out every night, especially since that vast majority of seats are corporate seats to begin with. I remember when Maple Leaf Gardens closed, every announcer on CBC talked about that one game a year Dad took them to a game. I’m not sure that happens as much anymore in Toronto due to most tickets being spoken for (I could be wrong on that).

    What I saw in Montreal when the team started to really struggle were some angry/frustrated fans who stayed home. There were several intervies in the late 90′s with fans who were saying, yes they were still fans but they would watch the game at home on TV and not spend the money to go see the games live. There were nights with announced sell out but there were empty seats and the scalpers were going hungry. I got third row centre ice Red ticket for $40 (face value $120) in those days (NY Islander jsut after the Bell Centre opened) because the scalper had a stack of tickets unsold. I think that is what people do not get about Toronto as I can not imagine that scenarion ever happening. Sure, support the team, cheer for them, but don’t spend hard earned money without getting a return. I think that is what people are commenting on when they talk about the Leafs and Toronto.

  5. Rob: He’s being way overpaid.

  6. Lyle; What reason do you think the ducks had for offering such a ridiculous contract to a player that has never achieved to the level that he should have? Its not like they were under the cap floor and had to offer retarded contracts so they could play this season. Second question, I see that on twitter that Tracy Lane, aka @TreenasOil is saying that the Oilers are in talks with Winnipeg for Bogosian, do you think there is any truth to it at all or is she just blowing smoke up our collective butts???

  7. Steve Simmons should understand the the difference between loyalty and being a sucker.

    After all, people in Toronto have been loyally buying that crap rag , not worthy enough to line a birdcage, redneck insulation he has been “contributing to” for many, many years……..

  8. Rob: If the remarks by Jets GM Cheveldayoff a couple of weeks ago are anything to go by, Bogosian isn’t being shopped, and Cheveldayoff sees him as a future star. Besides, I think the Oilers are pretty much done, and quite frankly, goaltending is more of a concern for them. Unless Bogosian’s agent is asking for the moon in contract talks or is demanding a trade, he’s not going anywhere. As for why the Ducks overpaid for Cogliano, your guess is as good as mine. Bob Murray better pray Cogliano will earn that salary over the next three years.

  9. A. Donnybrook: If you don’t like what Simmons reports, then don’t read it. He’s an accredited NHL reporter, and while at times I don’t agree with his opinion (such as his lambasting of Brian Burke for visiting the troops in Afghanistan on July 1st), that opinion nevertheless holds more credence than any anonymous blogger.

  10. Oooohhh!!! Lyle laying down the law! I like it! I think Simmonds is probably a die hard leaf fan who is reaching his breaking point supporting, and writing about, a struggling franchise. I was a Habs fan through the Petrov, Rucinsky first line days and let me tell you, I was pissed and there was a time when I wouldnt watch because I had something else to do that wouldn’t frustrate the hell out of me. Nowadays, I watch every game, in French, if I’m not working or have family business to take care of. It seems that the leafs would have attracted more talent if they made a coaching change but we all know that won’t happen so I guess that leafs fans just have to bide some time and be patient. Having a emptier arena might send a message to management, but TO’s too big for that to happen.

  11. Not “laying down the law”. More like a friendly suggestion.

  12. Lol. Gotcha Lyle ;)

  13. First the Burke in Afghanistan story and now this. I get the feeling Simmons is bored and trying to entertain himself by stirring the pot in Toronto. I can understand it, I’ve needled a few Leafs fans out of little more than sheer boredom myself. Obviously never to the same scale that Simmons can, though. I’m kind of jealous.

    Anyway, Simmons is probably wishing that training camp was about to start. He’s not the only one.