Who doesn’t love a hockey controversy that has little to nothing to do with what’s going on while on the ice? Most people? Whatever, let’s make this into a big deal! The Leafs won a hockey game and then skated off the ice, which apparently is the worst thing ever. It’s been the talk of the city for the past day. It’s really stupid.
The Toronto Maple Leafs lost a bunch of hockey games by some bad scores. The fans started getting really angry about it. Then the Toronto Maple Leafs faced the Tampa Bay Lightning, at home. They won by a rather good scored. When the game ended, rather than skate to centre ice and raise their sticks, the team headed straight to the dressing room.
Despite a much-needed turn of events on the ice, this was now the hot button issue.
What’s The Reason?
The reason given by the players, for the most part? It was a pre-determined change in routine. After all, hockey players are arguably the most superstitious of all pro athletes, so it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that they felt that even clipping out something like the post-game salute was just enough weight off their minds to give them an edge. Once the game was over they could have obviously done it anyway, but then hey, maybe you’re cursing the thing that gave you the edge, right?
Is That the Actual Reason?
To be honest, I hope not. One, because I’m not big on superstitions. We all have routines, but generally that’s for simplification reasons, or natural reflex. I still try to avoid stepping on lines when I walk, but that’s only because I thought it was cool when Patrick Roy did it, not because I think I’m going to explode if my foot makes contact with a different colour of paint. Hopefully a group of several dozen individuals didn’t come to the mutual agreement than not raising their sticks to the fans will help them avoid having their hockey winning powers sucked out of them.
Besides, the other reason for the “snub” would be a response to the response they’ve gotten from the fanbase. If that’s the case, it’s bad Public Relations, but can you blame them?
Does It Matter If It’s The Actual Reason?
The tone of the Leafs fan-base, not to mention the mainstream media, is arguably at the most volatile that it’s ever been. Fans have been throwing their merchandise on the ice, an attention-seeking method of protest that puts them out of something they’ll probably re-buy and disrespects the entire history of the franchise. They’ve booed the team out of the building a couple of times this year, despite not being horribly out of the picture. While there hasn’t been the hot start of last season, the team looks a bit better than last year’s on the average.
The leadership of the roster has been questioned repeatedly. There are concerns about whether the team is trying or even cares about winning hockey games. We’re back to hearing that management doesn’t want to spend money on success.
The collective eyes have always looked for a excuse for the team’s failure that avoids the simpler, blunter, yet somehow less harsh reality. Questioning character and devotion, attaching “curses”, and lying to themselves about MLSE’s commitment is more comforting to them than accepting that the Leafs are, as the sum of their talent and their systematic execution of that talent, a bubble team, and that these demands to find the character and supernatural reasons for failure keeps the team tend to lead to moves that prevent growth.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs are a religion, a lot of people still believe the world is a flat, 6000 year old planet. We’re starting to veer off topic a bit, but the main point is that if the players have every right to be annoyed with the feelings they’re getting back from the city, and if they wanted a night where the game could be just for them, I’m okay with that.
It’s a Stupid Routine Anyway
Joffrey Lupul mentioned yesterday that he felt the salute was kind of fake and forced anyway. As you can see in the header picture, he doesn’t seem particularly enthusiastic; this coming from a player who is beloved by the fanbase. I tend to agree with him here.
A lot of people fail to remember that the “saluting after every game” tradition is a very new one in the National Hockey League. It’s actually only nine years old!
The New York Rangers were the first team to do it, and it was a public relations move from a team that was in a similar situation to the current Leafs. Despite spending about eighty bajillion dollars on players (remember the year they had Lindros, Messier, Holik, Bure, Leetch, Kovalev, Nedved, and Kasparitis?), the team had missed the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons. Ticket prices were the highest in any US market. Fans were getting fed up, and a season lost to a lockout didn’t help things.
So in 2005/06, the Rangers got into the habit of lifting their sticks to the crowd after every game. Suddenly, Rangers fans were happy again. Great move, right? I guess so, but I have to imagine the fact that the team went 44-26-12, lead by a 123 point scoring Jaromir Jagr and a wonderkid in net named Henrik Lundqvist was probably a bigger contributing factor to that.
That said, all the other teams thought it was neat, and now all the pro hockey teams do it. To me, it feels like a waste of everybody’s time – it’s an empty gesture if it’s something that you’re required to do. It’s cool at the end of the season, or if the team had a particularly awesome game and the fans were really into it. But it feels like the encore at the end of a concert – the special feeling has been sucked out of it.
I’d be okay with the Leafs ditching it entirely. Or replacing it with Leo Komarov doing this every game: