Fresh from a road trip with the KY Princess to the purported “Centre of the Universe” (Toronto), I am pleased to wish all of the loyal Cold Hard Rant/Illegal Curve readers, a Shana Tovah, (grab your Hebrew-English dictionary) and welcome y’all (Kentucky influence) to another year of Cold Hard Rants. Hopefully the NHL will keep my interest piqued and provide me with much material to write about without my intense apathy regarding the NHL kicking in.
Speaking of apathy, while in Toronto, the KY princess and I were fortunate enough to attend the Toronto Maple Leafs-Tampa Bay Lightning “battle” on New Year’s Day. Face value of each ticket was a mere 182.00 dollars. For that amount of money, an attendee, hockey fan or not, might have expected something closely resembling entertainment, and event, or a game that the participants gave a damn about. Unfortunately, given the current state of the NHL (watered down, far too many games, real fans priced out by corporate stiffs) that was not something available at the game. However, if your definition of a good night out is plodding hockey, poor skating, and clutching and grabbing like two hormonal fifteen year olds playing seven minutes in heaven then this was the game for you. Fortunately, our tickets were graciously given to us and as a result the quality time we spent together made the evening worthwhile. (The story about how we almost came home with a 6 year old is one best told at another day and time.)
Contrast this evening with the one we had on Sunday afternoon, watching the Toronto Raptors do battle with King James and his Cleveland Cavaliers. Same arena, but completely different experience. A crowd that had a buzz going through it, and was (somewhat) bristling with energy. Players who seemingly gave a damn (although LeBron only started to care after being trash talked by Chris Bosh’s girlfriend.) Overall, from top to bottom, an experience and event, two words that were woefully missing from the Leafs game I attended. There is no reason why I, a white Canadian (race does matter when comparing basketball and hockey, the two most racially polarizing of the big 4 sports) who grew up playing and watching hockey, should have enjoyed the Raps game more than the Leafs game, yet there I was on Sunday, screaming, and cheering, and generally enjoying myself.
Looking back at both events, while they are still fresh in my mind, it is obvious the Leafs and the NHL should mimic some of the tactics employed by the Raptors. For some reason, the NHL has been slow to recognize that the game is only part of the reason for going to a sporting event. Many people go for the pomp, the entertainment, and the hoopla surrounding the event. The game is secondary. If people are entertained, then the quality of the game will be of less importance to the attendees. Given the lousy quality of the product the NHL puts on the ice, they should be focusing on off-ice, in arena entertainment. However, and not especially surprising when you think of the NHL and Leafs brain-trust, the fact they have neglected this aspect should not come as much of a surprise.
For Illegal Curve, I am Andrew M.