By Briane Nasimok
(TORONTO, ON) – As I sit here in the semi-lap of luxury on my VIA-1 train to Montreal, I have time to reflect on my latest escapades and finally meet my very soft Windsor Square deadline.
Full disclosure; I am a semi-loyal subscriber to many things that are offered to us mere humans from Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, the conglomerate that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, The Toronto Raptors, The Toronto Marlies, Toronto FC, and various parcels of lands and assorted men’s souls. I tell you this before I go into the 72 hours that I spent indulging in various sport offerings from the people who fill our lives with sports because I paid for the tickets that I used.
My involvement with MLSE includes being a subscriber to the Raptors and FC and my great grandchildren should now be nearing the top of the waiting list for Leaf tickets.
My youth was spent tuning into the boys in blue on Saturday nights even after I began attempting to date. In my day, dating etiquette meant that if you somehow came up with a pair of Leaf tickets for Saturday night then you could almost call any eligible girls, a grade or two younger than you, and ask them out. The odds were good you’d be accepted, especially if you had reds or blues.
For those aficionados of the game, this was before the institution of gold seats and then platinum ones, with the costs being about the same as actually buying the metals.
Most Saturdays of the winter of my Grade 13 year was spent outside Maple Leaf Gardens hoping to find someone who would sell their seats for “cost” or even less. And when the puck dropped at 8:00 pm, my best friend, Steve Stanton and I would rush over to our own personal scalper, Maxie, who would unload whatever he had left, at cost plus a few bucks.
Yes, I was a Leaf fan. So much so that when my girlfriend was not feeling well and strongly suggested we leave our end blue seats after the second period, causing me to miss a goal by The Chief, George Armstrong, my favourite player not named Brian, I knew this was the beginning of the end.
It also didn’t help that I had a crush on her younger sister.
In recent years, my Leaf outings have been very limited due to the fact that I really didn’t want to pay the price. My Uncle Sid’s company subscribes, and the tickets are mostly used as incentives for his clients to buy more shingles. But, he has given me the occasional pair, and I did hire the company once – do not employ relatives.
I have spent as much time at games in Montreal, as the heir apparent has familial ties to Les Habitants, and somehow I can get those tickets through friends and relatives. So when the “emergency contact” (I credit the very talented Glenn Morley for the use of the previous phrase as well as “heir apparent”) bought a pair of Leaf tickets at a silent auction and gave them to me, there was no way I couldn’t use them.
I took a “fan” who had never gone to a game and he was thrilled with the energy. This was, of course, during their 8-game losing streak, which seemed to eliminate them from playoff contention, against Tampa Bay, a team that features the very talented Steven Stamkos. Now, if there is one player you should try to prevent from scoring it is Stamkos, and the Leafs did their best, limiting him to just three goals.
Forty-six hours later I was back in the Air Canada Centre, sitting in my very own seats, for the Toronto Raptors Game. What a difference in energy, although much of it was encouraged by the in-house production team which cued Pavlov’s fans to chant defence and raise their energy level to follow the noise meter shown on the video screen.
Whereas the lower bowl here was filled with a wide array of shapes, sizes and colours, and a mixed financial heritage, the Leafs crowd was more well-healed and less eager to leave their sushi and return to their seats after an intermission.
My break between the next sporting action was a mere eighteen hours before I braved the near sub-zero temperatures to witness Toronto FC’s home opener.
I never was a fan of the genuine football as it was a sport I didn’t watch or play. But when Beckham came to town the first year of the league in Toronto, my MLSE account representative, who moved from basketball to soccer, got me to buy tickets. And I loved the game and atmosphere for the first few years.
Unfortunately the team never had success on the field, which might have been due to the fact that MLSE never had the right formula for good coaches, players, and paying proper salaries. Last year I gave up my tickets and my account rep, let’s call him Anton, was not happy. He had held me up as the model client and I had failed him.
So he brought me down to the second game when other Benedict Arnolds were congregated to meet the new team. It worked. I bought in again, at a cheaper price point. But the team was even worse and I opted out of my tickets this year.
Then the new sheriff in MLSE town (Tim Leiweke) came in and vowed to change things for all the teams. And the Raptors got better. And the FC spent money and hired stars and the Leafs; well, two out of three.
And so better late than never I renewed, for better seats, and joined the sold out frozen crowd, by Lake Ontario, to welcome back home the team. The energy that had been lacking for the last few years returned to the faithful and the team won a hard fought game.