The mood in Leaf Nation is ugly much like the performance of the hockey team. The waffle tossing incidents are likely the start of the first fan revolt in the long history of the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team. The reaction from management and the dressing room has not been good.
In incident #1, a guy named Jack tossed a waffle on the ice at the end of a lopped-sided loss to the Flyers on December 9th. He slipped out of the arena but the Toronto Sun somehow caught up with the fan who claimed to be a loyal Leaf supporter who just thought they needed a wakeup call. So perhaps breakfast food was appropriate. He and his wife had shelled out $203 per ticket to watch another awful game.
In incident #2, the Leafs were getting slammed by the Thrashers on December 20 when another fan named Joseph Robb stood up while play was underway and tossed a box of waffles on the ice. He took a bow as security escorted him from the building. They decide to make an example of this guy and have him charged by the police for mischief and has been banned from entering MLSE owned facilities. I should point out that Mr. Robb is not a subscriber and did not pay for his ticket.
Let’s face it the Leafs have been bad for a long time with no prospect of improvement in the immediate future. Most fans of losing teams at least can look forward to a hotshot prospects acquired through a draft to help the team. Leaf fans have even been deprived of any hope. A combination of prolonged futility, high prices and total lack of sensitivity to the fans has finally begun to induce a reaction from fans. In other sports markets it would have happened earlier and much more severe. Can you see Montreal Canadiens fans, New York Yankee fans or New England Patriot fans putting up with this crap? Leaf fans still fill up the ACC and buy the overpriced food, beer and souvenirs. A few brave souls have begun to boo mediocre effort and two guys have tossed a few Eggos. Big deal.
So what has been the reaction from MLSE? Well the players are mortified. Can you imagine these fans shelling out over $200 per game to watch them go through the motions and then have the nerve to protest? They should feel privileged to be allowed to walk into their shrine. Management is ready to crucify the rabble rousers. They are concerned about the safety of their players. Hockey is one of the most violent professional sports and in Toronto they are worried that someone might get hurt by a soggy waffle. Talk about over reacting.
I’m not suggesting that bad behaviour from fans is acceptable. However, the organization has to be a little more tolerant of their dissatisfied customers. The protests are going become more wide spread as the season progresses. Perhaps acknowledging their fan base might help a little. Banning fans who throw items on the ice may come back to bite the team. What happens if the next guy is a 4-seat season holder who has shelled out $300,000 over the past ten years? Are they going to tell him you are no longer welcome here? It’s time to start mending their relationship with their fan base not aggravating it. Show the fans as much love as they show you. Mr. Robb is prepared to apologize to the team, once they let him into the building again.
Suck it up Leafs!