Tuesday, September 23, 2008
(Insert "got what they paid for" joke here)
Really, this is too easy. MLSE tries to give away tickets to an exhibition game (that is taking place two--TWO!--days after training camp started) and a good quarter of the people don't bother to show up.
You can almost hear the snickering in Moose Jaw from here. Leafs fans are so bad...
Richard Peddie claimed that the empty seats were because the free seats "devalued" the product. That people don't prioritize going to something they didn't pay for. He's probably partly right. A lot of folks likely grabbed free seats back in the summer with the idea that they would wait and see what was going on in their life on game day. If they didn't go, it wasn't as if they were out any coin.
But, you have to wonder. Are the empty seats not also an ever so slight example of how the mighty, mighty Leafs hold on T.O. is slipping just a little bit. It's mostly anecdotal evidence, but you don't get the feeling that the city is living and dying with this hockey club anymore. Sure, it's still the most popular team in the city, but it's not the default choice of the new generation, or of new Canadians living in Toronto.
You wouldn’t necessarily notice any change if you looked at media coverage of T.O's teams. The city's hockey writers and broadcasters still obsessed over every (non) move of Mats Sundin this summer and Leafs talk is still choice one, two and three on the Fan590 and AM640. It's just not clear if as many people care. Is it possible that the entirety of Leafs Nation wasn't desperately seeking the latest David Shoalts offering to read with their morning coffee? Perhaps the cafes on College weren't alive with debates over Nick Kypreos' latest "scoop."
Just last month Peddie was quoted as saying that internal research is showing that the amount of season ticket holders that consider themselves "diehard" fans has slipped to 51 per cent from about two-thirds. And, that's the season ticket holders.
Bay Street will ensure that the seats are full for every game for some time, but Bay Street can't make Cabbagetown (or Newmarket, or Oakville, or Markham, or Ajax, or...) care. An entire generation has grown up to only know the Leafs as losers. The Raptors are a 416 fixture now and even soccer has made inroads. MLSE has said that it needs to do more to ensure that the Leafs are still the Leafs in 20 years. Outreaches such as yesterday's free game are part of that effort. So, as much as he wants to spin it otherwise, Peddie has to be just a little bit worried about those 4,000 empty seats.