Selling Raptors won't help Leafs

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Al, my good friend, you make me laugh.

You're not the first angry hockey guy to argue the Raptors are dragging down the Maple Leafs.

Your premise, however, that the folks at MLSEL would voluntarily cut the cost of hockey tickets if they sold the Raptors is, well, almost too funny for words.

Al, buddy, pal ... have you seen what they charge for Leafs tickets these days? Or, for that matter, a hot dog at the Air Canada Centre? These are people who care about putting money back in the pockets of hockey fans?

I digress.

From his bunker somewhere in beautiful New Brunswick, our esteemed hockey columnist Al Strachan argues that by selling the Raptors, MLSEL would be doing Leafs fans a big favour. His argument is that the Raptors are losing money and that drags down the Leafs.

Wrong.

Al, you know this.

The teams operate as two separate businesses and the selling of the Raptors would not affect the financial viability of the Leafs in any way. As it is private operation, MLSEL does not release specifics on how much, if any, money the Raps lose. But consider this -- the NBA signed a $4.6 billion US TV deal in 2002, worth approximately $765 million annually. The Raps receive a lot more money from TV than the Leafs ever will. What does each NHL team receive from that OLN package? A box of Sudafed and $37? Or has it reached the point where the NHL has to pay TV to televise their games?

Another reason Al believes it's a good idea to get rid of the Raptors is that the ice is poor because they have to put in the floor for at least 41 basketball games a year at the ACC.

True, I suppose.

But Al, what do you tell the hundreds of workers at the ACC: "Sorry gang, in the name of better ice, we're getting rid of the Raptors, so count on working 41 fewer nights a year. But hey, Darcy Tucker's happy."

Al says the ACC usually is half-empty for Raps games. I guess that means the ACC holds 35,000 people. The Raptors averaged 17,057 fans last season, which is pretty good for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in four seasons.

The Raps have cracked the top 10 in NBA attendance in eight of 11 seasons.

As for giving back radio time to hockey fans? Al, I assure you, the Leafs are well represented on the airwaves in this city.

Didn't you catch those updates on Nik Antropov's tennis game? Wasn't that fantastic?

And Leafs Lunch. I mean, wow. Not only did we get to rehash the Hal Gill signing a million times, we get hourly reports from the Bill Watters holiday compound in fabulous Orillia.

"Looks like Wilber's barbecuing chicken breasts this afternoon. Nice goin' Bill."

No one's arguing the Leafs don't outsell the Raptors.

But so what?

Every city has its most popular team. In Toronto, it's the Leafs. The Raptors, however, have a very loyal fan base. And unlike Leafs fans, they don't sip martinis and nibble on sushi all night and clap when the scoreboard tells them to.

However, Al is right about some of the ridiculous signings the Raptors' braintrust have pulled off over the years. But a dopey general manager is no excuse to sell a franchise.

I hate to break this to you Al, but the 1960s are over. The next time you're back in Toronto, take a look around.

This ain't the Toronto I grew up in. (I was going to say the Toronto you grew up in, but you're a Windsor boy).

Many -- I would say most -- new Canadians relate to basketball more than hockey. You may not like it, but there it is.

Al, this rebuttal comes from a guy who loves hockey, a guy who lost his front teeth, broke two shoulders and suffered numerous other ailments playing the game we love.

But it's time to take give your hockey helmet a shake.


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