Dumping Raps frees up cash for Leafs

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

The Maple Leafs never tire of telling us about the reverence with which they regard their fans.

They insist their priority is to win a championship "for our fans" and they take pride -- as they should -- in the work that their players do for the community.

As Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum said last year, "We are the No. 1 franchise in the NHL. As far as I'm concerned, we will always continue to be the No. 1 franchise in the NHL."

If that is the case, it is the fans who deserve the credit. Without the fans, the Leafs would be nothing more than the Florida Panthers, a team with a nattily attired coach playing in a mostly empty building.

It is the Leafs fans who pay the freight. They're the ones who buy the sweaters and all the other regalia. They're the ones who purchase the subscriptions to Leafs-TV. They're the ones who shell out the exorbitant prices to see their heroes in the flesh.

So isn't it about time the Leafs did something to reward those fans? And wouldn't that be doubly true if MLSEL were to make a profit in the process?

The answer is simple.

Dump that money-losing aggregation known as the Toronto Raptors.

For starters, the Leafs could lower their ticket prices by about 10% because they would no longer have to cover the Raptors' annual losses.

Furthermore, the United States is full of self-centred idiots with money. It is a virtual certainty that someone with deep pockets and a lust for media attention would buy the team and move it to his home town.

That would put at least another $200 million into the MLSE coffers, enough to satisfy the corporation's lust for profit yet keep Leafs' tickets at a reasonable price for years to come.

And think how happy hockey fans would be. Everyone who whined during the National Hockey League lockout that no one should earn a million dollars a year for playing a sport can wave goodbye to the people who truly are overpaid.

Curiously enough, while hockey fans were complaining about million-dollar players, the Raptors were coughing up $12 million a year for Jalen Rose. And no one spoke out.

The Raptors spend more on defunct coaches and acquisitions who never played a minute than the Leafs have ever paid a player in their history.

And to make it worse, none of that money stays in Canada. Most hockey players live in Canada and pay taxes here. The basketball players get out of the country as fast as they can and pay American taxes.

On the hockey side, the ice in the Air Canada Centre, notorious throughout the league, could be improved because it wouldn't have to be covered at least 41 times a year to convert the building to a basketball facility.

(The use of "at least" in the above paragraph refers only to the addition of pre-season games to the schedule. It would be wrong to interpret it as an inference that the Raptors will ever make the playoffs.)

And think of the radio air time that could be returned to hockey fans.

Instead of listening to a bunch of American hosts drone on about things like small forwards (apparently anyone under eight feet), zone presses and other esoteria, we could listen to hockey talk like the rest of the country.

Once you're outside the Toronto environs, no one cares about basketball.

In fact, other than radio hosts, there aren't that many people in Toronto who care. The building is usually half-empty, even though tickets are so easily acquired they are given away with pizza.

The people of Vancouver had the good sense to ignore their team to the point that it went somewhere else.

If the people of Toronto were to follow that course of action, they'd be doing a favour to Leafs fans, hockey fans and even Canadian taxpayers.

It's a slam dunk, so to speak.


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