Lately there has been much in the media about Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie’s offer to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes National Hockey League (NHL) franchise. On the surface, his stable $212 million offer is the best for the credit holders of that beleaguered NHL franchise, especially when compared to the other ‘smoke and mirrors’ offers which have come in at around $140-150 million.
According to Forbes magazine article ‘The Business of Hockey’ (10/29/08), the Phoenix franchise is valued at $142 million, lowest (#30) of all NHL franchises.
Its move to Hamilton or elsewhere in Southern Ontario would be a win for local fans in this hockey-crazy region, while providing a win to the Phoenix franchise credit holders.
Unfortunately, this story does not appear to be moving towards its natural happy ending. The local NHL hockey monopoly, the Toronto Maple Leafs (TML), (#1 wealthiest NHL franchise according to Forbes valued at $448 million), owned by Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment Ltd. (MLSEL) is totally opposed to sharing this hockey market with any other Canadian NHL team. When Buffalo joined the NHL for the 1970-71 season, the population of Ontario was 7.7 million people, and Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMS) population was 2.6 million. Today the population of Southern Ontario is well over 12 million and the population of the CMS has increased to beyond 5.1 million (2006). Obviously, this area can easily support another NHL franchise. As the highest valued and most profitable NHL franchise in the world’s largest hockey market with a loyal fan base, the Toronto Maple Leafs should not be frightened by any new marketplace upstart.
However, ESPN’s July 2009 survey of the 122 professional sports franchises of North America showed that the Toronto Maple Leafs were rated #122, dead last of all franchises for fan ‘affordability’, and rated #121 in terms of ‘least responsive to fan feedback’, while being rated the worst overall NHL franchise.
Having had this Southern Ontario marketplace to themselves for far too long has allowed the TML to demand top $ and undisputed fan loyalty for an inferior product, and has created a compliant fan and mass media following who appear to be suffering a severe collective case of the Stockholm syndrome. The MLSEL, like all bullies, appears frightened and unwilling to allow their captive hostages any freedom to sample a NHL product of a different flavour.
What is truly surprising is the question of why have all mainstream Toronto media outlets kept this 2009 ESPN sports franchise ratings of the Toronto Maple Leafs 'under wraps'? Is it because media personnel are well looked after by MLSEL and could be denied access to the favours they receive should they go public with this information? Looking at these facts, one would believe that there must be either; bribery; conspiracy; intimidation; collective cowardice; and/or incompetence prevalent in Toronto’s mainstream media for MLSEL to be treated so gently.
If the fans and media ever want to be cured of their collective Stockholm syndrome affliction, they need to face their bully or hostage taker, and recognize how severely they have been manipulated and traumatized. One way to do this would be for fans to boycott all Toronto Maple Leaf games, merchandise and Leafs TV until there is a second NHL team in Southern Ontario. This would undoubtedly initially create serious angst for TML fans, but the pride they would feel in shaking free of their bully would be enormous.
In addition, fans boycotting Maple Leaf games and products would put pressure on MLSEL to alter its gouging behaviour and to accept a second NHL team in Southern Ontario. Accepting Jim Balsillie’s team would be a win for the Toronto Maple Leafs because honest, local competition would only help make the Toronto Maple Leafs a stronger team. Then that competitively challenged Maple Leaf team could possibly even win the Stanley Cup, before some upstart team from Southern Ontario or Stockholm, bringing joy to TML fans.
Win … win … win …win (7)