So, I Went to the Leafs Game Last Night

 (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)
(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Yesterday at approximately 4:30,  I was sitting in my office writing up another article about the Leafs.  For whatever reason, I checked Facebook while in the middle of writing my piece and saw that someone was offering up cheap tickets for the Leafs game.

Making an impulsive decision that is not at all in character with my usual self, I phoned up my friend Gerry, told him we could get cheap tickets and asked him if he was busy. He wasn’t. I called the number from the Ad, spoke with the guy and he sounded quasi-legit so we decided to risk it.

If you don’t get stuck in traffic, it’s still over an hour from where Gerry and I live to the ACC, and there always the chance of being murdered when meeting with a total stranger, but we decided to go for it anyway.  The Leafs may be out of the Playoffs, but there is always the chance of a bench-clearing brawl, and NHL hockey is NHL hockey.

Amazingly, we beat most of the traffic and arrived downtown with a half-hour to spare. I texted our ticket guy and he got right back to us, said to meet him in a certain location, which, even though we are from out-of-town, we found no problem.  He sold us our tickets and we got into our seats, drinks in hand, in time to watch the warm-up.

Former Blues Captain Eric Brewer was honored for playing in his 1000 game. The 300th player to do so,

An Aside About Going to Leafs Games

To be honest with you, this was the first time I have ever paid to go to a Leafs game.  Growing up, the company my Dad worked for was always able to give him a set or two each season, and so we were spoiled and got to watch a lot of games when we otherwise wouldn’t have.

Just looking at my ticket album, I realized that Gerry and I also went to see the Coyotes and Leafs play in one of the first games ever played at the ACC (Leafs lost) and then in 2008 we also went to see the Leafs play the Panthers (Panthers won 8-0).  So last night was our third game in 15 years and, of course, the Leafs lost.

The actual last time I went to a Leafs game was in 2010 with my brother Eric when the Leafs played the Canadiens and won in a shootout. Of course they were eliminated from the Playoffs at that time, or we never would have gotten our hands on tickets for a Leafs/Habs Saturday Night.  However, since my Dad’s company no longer gets tickets (or exists) and I have, until recently, spent the interim living in something close to poverty,  I was unable to go to any games over the last five years.

The Leafs may not be any good, but it was still a treat to watch guys like Parise. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)
The Leafs may not be any good, but it was still a treat to watch guys like Parise. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

Wild 2 Leafs 1

All this to say that even though last night’s game featured zero playoff implications and took place in a building that had all the atmosphere of a senior’s bingo game, I still enjoyed myself and felt lucky to be able to go.

The game, actually, turned out to be the first non-sellout for the Leafs in 13 years and the lowest ever attendance at the Air Canada Centre. Despite this, I don’t care what anyone says, going to a Leafs game is a great experience.

If you’re not from here, or haven’t ever tried to attend a game, tickets for the Leafs are generally impossible to get. They sell out every game, and if you want to buy after-market tickets, they cost a fortune.  I remember that when I attended Owen Nolan’s first game (Section 103, which are great tickets) Gerry and some other friends also came and tried to buy some scalper tickets, but didn’t end up doing so because they wanted $500 for standing-room-only.  So, knowing that, it was pretty crazy to be able to buy tickets for less than face value, even if the season has passed its best before date.

It’s unheard of.

So, we got our section 324 tickets, which have a $70 face value, for $40 each.  Section 324 is behind the Leafs net up in the rafters, and we were as far away as it is possible to get, as there was no row of seats behind us.  These might sound like bad seats, but they were great. I have never seen the game from so high up before, and it’s actually really cool to get full-ice view of the action – although there was barely any of that.

So how was the game?

Oh, man. Brutal – but we still had fun.

The crowd still goes nuts whenever Mats is on the scoreboard (Mike Lynaugh Photography)
The crowd still goes nuts whenever Mats is on the scoreboard (Mike Lynaugh Photography)

The guy sitting in front of us – a guy who earned our immediate respect with his sweet Mogilny jersey – said that in his life he had never been to a worse sporting event, crowd-wise, and I have to agree with him.  The arena was dead. About five minutes into the first period, there was a penalty on Morgan Rielly and I yelled something stupid at the ref.  Not only did I completely shock everyone in the arena by raising my voice beyond a whisper, but I was in the nose-bleeds and I think the ref might actually have heard me.  No way should a guy in the farthest seats be able to communicate with the ref, but there ya go – that’s Toronto for you.

The crowd was truly pathetic and it’s no wonder the team seemed listless. At one point the most gentle, sad and pathetic cry of “Go Leafs Go” was started up…..but it was quickly drowned out by a chant in favor of the Wild.  I hate to re-use the same word twice in one paragraph, but PATHETIC is the only word that works.

Now, I don’t expect people to be all pumped up about a last place team, but you took the time to come down to the rink, so for Sundin’s sake, please loosen up a little.  I mean, jeez, an NHL game is still something to enjoy, even if your team stinks (which they most certainly do).

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s not just about winning and losing:

I have to say, when I came into the arena and it went dark and the Leafs logo’s were floating on the ice, I felt something. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a nerd, but there’s a tradition and a love for the team that supersedes the losing and the incompetence and even the fact that Bell/Rogers own the damn team – not to mention how nice it is to be in a room with 18,000 people and know that all of them have gone through a metal detector! When else can you be so sure that no one around you is packing heat?  Amen, brother.

So I don’t know….maybe it sounds silly, but I like feeling like I belong to club, even if it’s the world’s lamest one.  I rushed down there, I spent money I really couldn’t afford to spend, and I had an amazing time.  I even enjoyed the ceremony where Eric Brewer received a silver stick for skating in 1000 games – it was touching.

I don’t care if the Leafs lost, I don’t care if the Leafs don’t make the Playoffs for another five years and I don’t care if I’m nothing more than a stupid rube – I loved going down there and watching the game and I would go anytime it was possible to do so.

But if I have one tip for the team, it’s this: Stop being so greedy, it’s sickening.  Price gouging should be illegal and while I know beer is expensive at hockey games, it really shouldn’t even be legal to charge me $12 for a can of beer that sells at the store for $2.  That is amoral and it’s disgusting and Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment should be ashamed.

Other than that one complaint though? What a great time.  The Leafs lost, the game itself was super boring and only a fight and a sort-of-spirited last minute attempt to tie the game by the Leafs were anything to really enjoy from a hockey perspective.

I think it does say something though that you can enjoy yourself while paying too much money and being price-gouged while watching a bad team lose 2-1, on a Monday,  in a meaningless and  boring game. I don’t know what it says – possibly that I’m a sucker? – but it says something.  I guess it’s not always about results, the experience itself is really great.  And, when they showed Mats Sundin on the scoreboard in the third, the place really did go nuts – and it was probably the closest thing I’ll ever have to a religious experience.  (Oh yeah, besides the birth of my kids, ummm obviously).

All in all, I give the experience of a night out at the game a 5/5 and say I hope that I can go back more often in the future. Maybe even catch a game where my favorite player isn’t suspended.