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Why can’t the Leafs do something really special for fans? Here’s an idea...

I know before I even finish the next few paragraphs, many will stop reading and say, “that’s ridiculous—no organization would ever do that”.  But let me try to explain my thought, and see if anyone out there sees value in it.

We all know that the Maple Leafs, as part of MLSE, are one of the most profitable—and wealthiest—professional sports franchises in the world.  Now, if they had made the playoffs even once in the past seven seasons, imagine how much more money they would have made in profits—even one playoff series, just a couple of games.  But they didn’t, yet they have somehow survived.  They haven’t exactly gone under financially, eh?

And let me state that the Leafs do some great things in the community.  They are very involved in youth sports, various philanthropic and charitable ventures and that is a wonderful thing.  I would expect them, as business leaders who benefit from the public attention and adulation they receive, to do what they do, but they should still be applauded for at least contributing as they do.

But there is one more thing I would love to see them undertake, and it is this:  I think a lot of us would like to see a livelier ACC.  There are obviously some great fans there, but it’s a shame that, too often, the building is so quiet.  That is largely because the seats closest to the ice carry the highest prices and are out of the reach of most everyday Leaf fans.  Some (many?) of those who occupy those platinum seats often leave them empty, or are there mostly for business reasons- not because they are rabid Leaf fans.

So while this would cost MLSE financially, would it not be great for them to make a Maple Leaf game, once a year,  open to the real general public—not season's-ticket holders, not corporate accounts, not scalpers and not just those who can afford the absurdly high ticket prices.

What if, for one night, once a year in say, Christmas time—real fans, families, under-privileged kids who normally could never afford to get to a game—had a legitimate opportunity to get into a Leaf game for either a “flashback” price, or (in the case of those kids who could not normally attend) for free. 

What a gesture that would be.

I'm not sure if I'm talking about an open lottery or something along those lines.  But there has to be a way to give real fans a chance to get to a Leaf game once a year and fill the building with noise and legitimate excitement, not a building filled with people who don't really appreciate the opportunity.

How much would this cost the Leafs—a night where they would not charge what they charge the rest of the year?  The building, 20,000 strong, would be filled with kids and loud, excited, boisterous fans of all ages and backgrounds who would truly appreciate the opportunity to see their favorite hockey team—in person.

And can you imagine the noise?

Oh, the Leafs could still sell their programs, make money on concessions and benefit from merchandise sales as they always do, so it wouldn’t be a total “loss”.

But wow, what a memory for kids and other fans who would have their special night at the ACC, and got to watch the Leafs in NHL action.

Next season, you do it all over again, and different people get the same opportunity.

I know players like Curtis Joseph have purchased tickets and brought kids to the game in the past, and those are marvelous gestures.  And as I said, the Leafs do plenty of things in the community.

But this would be something extra special, truly “generous”. Not coming from the players (though they could contribute if they wanted) but from ownership’s hearts—and deep pockets.

I know it will never happen, but it could, you know.  The Leafs, as an organization (can we say Teachers Pension Plan?) would have to want to do this, be really willing to do this.

It would make the Leaf even more special than they already are.


  1. I've suggested the exact same thing previously. The goodwill alone that MLSE would generate would be through the roof, and they would be helping create a whole new generation of fans, something Gillette did very, very well in Montreal under his tenure. I can see organizations that help/work with disadvantaged kids submitting their recommendations, like CFS, Boys and Girls Clubs, YFC, etc. What a spectacular night at the ACC that would be.

  2. KidK...Thanks....For sure it's likely not a novel idea on my part, but it could do so much good, and help create a whole new generation of Leaf fans for years to come.....

  3. Michael, I couldn't agree with you more. Back in the day games were affordable for almost everyone. Now a single game costs more than a season ticket cost in the 60's. It would be wonderful if your idea came to fruition but I don't hold out much hope. I have always felt that a number of seats could be set aside each game for use by youth hockey organizations. It would be a wonderful public relations gesture.

  4. PeteCam...Thanks for taking the time to write. The Leafs no doubt do offer a few tickets that are set aside for this purpose but the idea of a one-game "give-away" just has a lot of appeal for me. They could surely "afford" it and it would mean so much to so many people who otherwise may never have the opportunity to see the Leafs play an NHL game in person.

    And I agree whole-heartedly about the price of tickets now. When I was a university student in the early and mid 1970s, I could afford $4 to sit in the old "greys". That's just not possible now.

  5. I think it is a great idea that would bring the Leafs enormous goodwill. If they were unable or unwilling to do this for the whole "house", perhaps they could get the platinum seat holders to give up their seats for one game and fill them by lottery with ordinary fans? The seat donors and Leafs could both be recognized for their good deed.
    By the way, I believe I paid $2 for standing room tickets at Maple Leaf Gardens when I was at U of T in the late 50's early 60's. Had to get there early and run up the escalators to get a good spot to stand since I am somewhat "vertically challenged" as they say nowadays!

  6. Great comment (and a wonderful memory of $2 standing room!)...Thanks Ed.

    My recollection (later than your years at U of T, mine were more early and mid '70s) was that you did indeed have to get there early and battle for a prime standing room spot- and then you couldn't leave. I seem to recall the only real place you could stand was way back behind the goals (was that behind the end zone reds/golds?)...and you were a ways from the action, especially at the other end!

  7. One thing that might help a plan like this would be to give a tax deduction to those who give up their tickets.

  8. hey mike, i think you're describing something very special. i think the problem would be orchestrating and executing such an event in a organized/civilized/'fair' way.

    i would recommend AGAINST free tickets.

    'free' is a weird thing. as a dentist i notice a tangible difference in appreciation and understanding between patients who are paying for some or all of their dental treatment, versus those on governemnt insurance who pay nothing. those getting free treatment regularly miss appointments, are critical about investing time to get the work done, and often completely neglect care for their treated-teeth. those paying some or all their money out of pocket are on-time for appointments, want to be active participants understanding the treatment proposed/rendered, and take better heed of post-treatment/hygeiene-care instructions.

    when something is free, it is difficult to assign value to the freebie, and the person accepting the freebie may not really respect/appreciate what they're receiving (which can have negative consequences experienced by the giver, the receiver, or both).

    i would suggest instead to propose tickets for your one Christmas-game be discounted, as a gift to the fans, for 95% off. in exchange, the leafs encourage the fans attending to bring non-perishable food for charity. this would be an incredible steal for any fan of the leafs, and by paying for their ticket (even the incredibly discounted price), i think the fans would react with courtesy and true appreciation for this opportunity.

    now, figuring out how to disperse these tickets, so that scalpers don't buy them all and then charge regular prices outside of the ACC... that's a different story.

    i'm with you though mike... this really would be a wonderful show of appreciation by the leafs and their organization, to their fans.

  9. Alex...thanks for a thoughtful post. I readily acknowledge that the execution of this kind of special event would be a challenge, for sure. But I sense it could certainly happen.

    And I also see the wisdom of even a minimal charge for tickets. It can be true that "freebies" may not always be the best way to make this kind of well-intentioned effort work successfully.

    Scalpers is always a concern, though if it was known that, on that one night, a police presence would be in evidence, it might dissuade scalpers from trying to 'dea'l that night...

  10. I used to line up for standing room in the late 50's. We would arrive around 5:00 pm for an 8:00 pm game in order to get a prime spot. I believe they let us in at 6:30. You could stand behind the end blues, the greens and the grays. The end blues were the prime location. I remember standing room costing $1.50.