A few nights ago, I was watching a Rangers game on MSG network with a few expat Canadian friends who are now living in New York. We had a pretty diverse assortment of hometowns: Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. As is generally the case in anything, the greatest representation was from Toronto –which I’d refer to as “the center of the universe” except that a name like that is all the more comical when you’re writing from the perspective of New York.
Anyway, after a while, the Montrealer spoke up and claimed that if Toronto fans had any self-respect, they would have long ago dropped their allegiance to the Leafs and start following a team that is committed to winning and pleasing its fans rather than making money and pleasing a faceless corporate board of directors. This angered the Torontonians (or maybe they were already angry since they have to watch Jeff Finger every night), who banded together to argue that Leaf fans are the best fans in the league, far better than those of any other city. These were there reasons:
1. Leaf fans support their team through thick and thin.
2. “Everyone knows Toronto has the best hockey fans in the world.”
3. “The Leafs are the most liked team in the league, even by people in other cities. That’s why wherever you go to a Leafs road game, there are lots of Leaf jerseys in the stands.”
I thought all of these arguments had their flaws, most notably the third one. Yes, there are lots of Leaf fans in the stands when Toronto plays Florida in Miami over Christmas, but this isn’t because Flordians like the Leafs: it’s because Toronto is a big city and there’s lots of Torontonians retired in Del Boca Vista. The Leafs are not loveable losers like the Chicago Cubs, or a gloried and revered franchise like the Green Bay Packers. They are a team that has sucked for most of the last 40 years, all the while spending more than most of their rivals. As a result, their fan base does not extend beyond those who follow the team solely on account of the accident of where they happened to be born. And unlike Packer and Cubs fans who brave the cold, Leaf fans oftentimes seem unable to brave leaving the confines of their platinum lounge to go to their seats before the first 10 minutes of each period has elapsed!
I could go on and on, but the real purpose of this piece is to engage you, the reader, and solicit your feedback on the following questions:
Who has the best fan base in the NHL? and
What NHL arena has the most exciting atmosphere for watching hockey?
I look forward to your responses.
Until then, I’m Joey Swithmick