Season-ticket holders aren't deserting Leafs

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

All that public ranting about greedy players and blood-sucking owners has not created a stampede of Maple Leafs' subscribers turning in their tickets.

A call to the Air Canada Centre this week revealed that none of the 6,300 accounts, representing about 18,000 season's tickets, has been closed since the National Hockey League lockout began Sept. 16. Subscribers have been getting monthly refunds from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.

Ken Simmons, a retiree from Brantford, is sick of the lockout and upset he might be stuck with a 30-game schedule as an excuse for exorbitant playoff prices. But he won't give up his end greens, which he procured in 1972 at the Gardens after a 15-year wait, the same day Paul Henderson scored in Game 8 against the Soviets.

"Hockey has been my whole life," said Simmons, whose son Jeff played minor hockey with Wayne Gretzky. "My tickets were $19 each in 1990 and now they're up to $86. My pension has not gone up 450% to keep pace. But if I gave them back, they'd just go to corporations. There are so few of us (individual subscribers) now that I wouldn't want to see that drop any more."

Moe Cooper, a Toronto orthodontist, once held season's tickets for the Blue Jays, Argonauts, Raptors and Leafs at once. He let the first three accounts lapse.

"The Leafs are the Leafs," said Cooper, who has two end reds at the ACC and been a subscriber for 35 years. "I might go to one or two games a year, but they're still the No. 1 sport in town. I can give them to my family or sell them."

Realistically, there was no fear at MLSEL headquarters that the roof would fall in this dark winter, unlike the reconstruction job many American teams face to lure back fans.

"Both ourselves and league did research at the start of the year that the fans would come back," said Tom Anselmi, MLSEL's senior vice-president of business. "But we have to come out of the gate strong when it's over, with re-launch activities, tailgate parties and things like that."


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