Tag Archives: jason blake

Real Leafs Fans Have to Go on The Road. And They Make Plenty of Noise.

TAMPA — Tuesday night in Tampa, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in a shootout at the St. Pete Times Forum, in what was — in a small way — Air Canada Centre South.

Although the players didn’t agree.


“The fans here were much louder, cheering for us, than they are at home,” said Leafs defenceman Ian White. “This was one of the best crowds I ever played in front of.”


Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said pretty much the same thing.


“That was a great crowd,” Wilson said. “A lot louder than we have back in Toronto.”


There were almost 19,000 people inside the St. Pete Times Forum (the deal on Tuesday was four beers or sodas, four hot dogs and four tickets for $54), and well over half of them were cheering very, very loudly for the Leafs.


In fact, the crowd in Tampa was so pro-Leafs, they even cheered O Canada. Loudly. This was Leaf Nation on the road and it was an impressive sight.


The Lightning had a complete sellout for a game between two teams that were already out of the playoffs. Obviously, the Lightning – a team that has struggled to sell tickets this season – would absolutely love it if Ontario had spring break from October until April and their only opponent was the Leafs.


Of course, it also demonstrated that real Leafs fans can’t buy affordable tickets in Toronto, but they can get cheap seats on the road. The Toronto fans in Tampa on Tuesday were young, loud and proud and they were treated to a great hockey game (who would have believed that?). The Leafs bounced back from a 3-0 deficit to win. Jason Blake was terrific, Curtis Joseph was a hero in the shootout and John Mitchell scored the winner.


One can’t begin to imagine how great the crowds in Toronto would be if the real fans could afford platinum season tickets.


Burke takes over. Leaf Nation Rejoices. But, ahh, what about the players?

OK, Leaf Nation, I get it. Brian Burke is the answer to your prayers. He can’t play, but boy he can manage and that’s all you need, right?

He’s experienced and tough and no-nonsense and my gawd, the Toronto media seems to love him and heaven knows, if the Toronto media loves him, he must be near-perfect. Because, well, as everyone in Canada knows, if the always-right, never-wrong Toronto media loves you, you have to be good.


Burke, who was allowed to leave the Anaheim Ducks because, well, because he wasn’t doing anything there, was unveiled to the precious Toronto media yesterday and was immediately proclaimed to be “The Saviour.”


Make that Saviour No. 9 or 10, but yes, the man who turned the Vancouver Canucks from Stanley Cup contender to average hockey team (remember Dave Nonis traded for Roberto Luongo) and won a Stanley Cup with somebody else’s team in Anaheim (remember Bryan Murray and Al Coates built the Ducks’ Stanley Cup winner), is now the man who will give Toronto its first Stanley Cup since 1967.


There is something definitely wrong with this picture. 


Burke is the new president and general manager of the Leafs, a team that is, well, downright lousy. It was a burgeoning contender before John Ferguson Jr. was fired, but when Junior was let go and Cliff Fletcher took over as interim GM, he quickly made it one of the worst teams ever assembled. In fact, two of its best young players are now with the St. Louis Blues.


In fact, this team is so bad, that at $18 million over five years, Brian Burke is the fifth highest paid Leaf, behind Jason Blake, Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina and Vesa Toskala.


Huh? If you were a struggling team in the NHL today, is there any one of those players you’d try to acquire in a trade? Not likely.


“This is like a dream come true for me,” Burke said at his news conference. “Coming to Toronto is like coming to the Vatican (ed. note: are you freakin’ kidding me?) if you’re a Catholic, it’s one of the most prestigious jobs on the planet. It’s a dream job, the crown jewel of the NHL. The Leafs are a brand known world wide (so are the Winnipeg Jets, still), so it is a dream come true.


“This is an opportunity of a lifetime to work for a team in a world-class city with passionate fans, solid ownership and a rich history,” Burke continued. “I can’t wait to get started.” 


Good, get started. It will be at least another 40 years before Toronto wins a Cup. And Brian Burke, who is little more than a bully, will take a lousy team and make it, at best, mediocre.


And the truly gifted Toronto media will scratch its collective pointed head and wonder what the heck happened.


After they lose confidence in him, gang up on the guy and run him out of town.