No Leafs? So what

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

John Thomson's great grandfather owned Thomson Brothers, the company that built Maple Leaf Gardens.

His gold seats have been in the family since the late 1950s. For the past half-dozen years he has used the family tickets in his business, a trucking and logistics firm named Huron Services Group.

You can say he has an allegiance to the Leafs. You could also say he doesn't miss them.

"In the past, I was a Leafs fan first and a hockey fan second," he said. "I've re-adjusted my priorities."

In November, Thomson and his wife Tracy used money from one month's ticket refund to ditch Oakville for a week and head to Barbados.

Let's do the math.

Tack in the $1,300 fee for the Hot Stove Lounge, and Thomson's company spent $17,000 for Leafs tickets. Thomson went to some games with clients while the rest of the tickets were raffled off, handed out as bonuses or used as sales incentives.

So far the good people at Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment have refunded John Thomson about $9,000, and he is enjoying the idea of getting the other $8,000 back.

"I like to joke I don't want the Leafs to come back," Thomson said. "It would negatively impact my quality of my life."

Admit it. You don't miss them.

You thought you would, but you don't or if you do, not nearly as much as you thought you would.

The people who most miss the Maple Leafs are the people who depend on them for their livelihood. The rest of the sporting public has moved on.

This isn't to say the fans won't go back whenever hockey returns. It is impossible to overestimate the hold the Leafs have on the people of Toronto, Southern Ontario and beyond.

But gone is gone. It turns out there are other things to do in winter and if you don't believe me, ask John Thomson.

"With the money we saved on the tickets, we bought tickets for the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Oshawa Generals and the Toronto Rock," Thomson said.

The Bulldogs seats were about $3,000, the Rock $2000 and the OHL's Generals, about $1,800. That's $6,800. Throw in say $5,000 for the vacation, and he still has $5,200 left. That will buy some dandy trips.

"One of the great things about living in Toronto is you don't have to go too far to see hockey," Thomson said.

He loves the AHL.

"Changing the dimensions of the blue lines and the tag-up rule has really sped the game up," he said. "I'd say there are half the stoppages of the NHL game."

Thomson drove to London to watch the Knights play Owen Sound.

"The Knights scored in the last minute to tie the game and won in overtime," Thomson said.

"The arena was clean and new and jammed to the rafters."

He is thinking about going to some Mississauga Ice Dogs games. There's more hockey than he can possibly watch and he no longer faces the difficult job of rationing his Leafs tickets.

Now, John Thomson is no malcontent. He wouldn't have bought the Maple Leafs tickets if he didn't think they were good business. He plans on keeping them.

He doesn't take any side on the labour dispute. Like most of us, Thomson sees plenty to dislike with both side.

"In my business, if I spend more than I make, I'm in a lot of trouble. A little self-control on the owner's part sure would have been welcome. On the other hand, if you have a guy who's a couple credits short of his high school diploma saying that he played for $1.4 million last year and won't play for $1.1 million, that' s irritating, too."

He doesn't get worked up over people who no longer have the slightest impact in his life.

And so, to the players and owners, the cautionary tale of John Thomson, who discovered he liked hockey more when the big boys shut the door.

"It would be nice if the Leafs came back," said John Thomson, the voice of John Q. Public.

"But believe me, it won't bother me if they don't."


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