By James Macfarlane
I was at Montreal’s Bell Centre on Saturday to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs play the hometown Habs. It was a spectacular game on all levels, a high-scoring frenzy in which it seemed like every goal was immediately countered by another from the opposition. Ultimately, the Leafers got the last laugh, winning 5-4 on a Mikhail Grabovski OT goal. Even though Toronto triumphed on the ice, Montreal crushed us in spirit. And no, I’m not talking about their players; in game six of the regular season, fans at the Bell Centre were louder than Leafs fans would be in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals.
In no way am I questioning Leafs Nation’s loyalty. We haven’t made the playoffs in seven years, haven’t won a cup in forty-four, and we still somehow manage to sell out every game. Rather, what we lack is spirit. One reason for this is the Platinum section. Having sat in this section before, I have firsthand experience of their decidedly apathetic “fans”. The ratio of suits to jerseys is disturbingly high and people always seem to be more interested in their Blackberries than the scoreboard. The opening face-offs of second and third periods are always nicely juxtaposed in front of a sea of barren platinum-coloured seats; the suits are all whooping it up in the Platinum Club, a secret upscale venue exclusive to lesser fans. Last time I sat Platinum, the couple one row in front of me spent the entire game necking. It’s during games like that that I look upwards to the nosebleed seats and yearn to cheer with the common folk.
The one thing about the ACC that I hate more than the Platinum section is the gimmicky-ness. Every stoppage in play is marred by some sort of useless trivia contest or a feeble attempt at a pump-up video. The Bell Centre had far fewer gimmicks and its fans were much louder. Amidst the mess of distractions at the ACC, it seems like the hockey is merely an afterthought.
If we Leafs fans ever want to be mentioned in the same sentence as Habs fans, our culture must radically change. So, to the devout Platinum Clubber, I challenge you to drop your expensive glass of Chardonnay, get your nose out of your phone, put a jersey on, crawl out of your cave, and actually make use of your $300 seat. To the ACC higher-ups: Please, get rid of the trivia contests. Get rid of the dumb computer-generated auto races. Get rid of the Kiss Cam. Get rid of the human bowling contests, hell, get rid of the Jumbotron. If my challenges are accepted, then Leafs Nation could become the most unstoppable fan base on Earth.