Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Perception vs Reality: Platinum Seats

*This post is coming a week late but the motivation just isn't there when you lose a game to the Sens by a score of 5-0.

A couple of months ago, on an early summer's day, the Leafs announced that they were giving out chances to win tickets to the Coke Zero Fans First game. I was working downtown and knew they were at Much Music so I took the early GO train and made an attempt to line up for whatever they would be doing. The line wasn't too long but the planners were adamant on starting at 8:30 am sharp. With a half hour to go, the humidex close to 40C and Sens_Sucks a few feet away from me, I couldn't wait for the line to start moving.

The hockey gods must have heard my silent prayers because ten minutes later and one of the Coke dudes started handing out complimentary tickets.


SEATS RIGHT UP AGAINST THE GLASS! This will probably be the only time I will ever be able to catch a game in the first row without selling a kidney. I've dreamt of this many times but never thought it would happen. Now the only thing standing between me and the game is father time.

As I got to the ACC, I looked around for the entrance to the platinums but couldn't find one. Turns out that there's some secret entrance behind the stairs to the upper levels. While walking down those steps and into the dimly lit corridor, I felt like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. This is what it's like to be a gangster (or a wealthy businessman). I put down my beer, took my seat and waited for our heroes to take the ice.

Enter Sandman starts booming from the speakers, Andy Frost's voice greets the crowd, the gates open and Gustavsson is leading the way. Oh shit, it's about to begin! Let's see if a game in the platinums are all it's cracked up to be.

Perception: I'm so close as you can get, without being in the same booth as Pierre McGuire. I will literally be able to smell the players' blood and sweat!

Reality: Despite it being a free "Fans' first" game, the lady beside me made sure I got an authentic experience by ordering sushi so all I smelled was raw fish and wasabi.

Perception: I'm right up against the glass! I can't get any closer to the action. The view must be impeccable.

Reality: WTF, ref?! Get the fuck out of the way! My seats were right by the blue line and I was blocked out of the play any time the puck was in the zone for an extended period of time.

Perception: So we have periods one and three in the Leafs end. That's okay, our D should be much improved this year. Dion's leadership will provide direction and I'm sure Komisarek and Beauchemin will be way better than they were last year. I can't wait to see that up close.

Reality: Komisarek and Beauchemin didn't play, I saw Nick Foligno blow by Dion Phaneuf and I got real close to the Leafs defence...when they were sitting in the box serving a penalty.

Perception: At least I will get to see the Leafs' offence up close in the second period. I can't wait to see how Versteeg will fit into the picture. He will provide some much needed secondary scoring. Also, KADRI!!!1

Reality: 0-6 on the powerplay in the second period including two 5 on 3's!

Perception: With TIFF finishing up, I'm sure I'll catch some celebrities in the platinums too!

Reality: I had to squint my eyes to see a group of Raptors players across the ice from me...I only found out their names from Demar DeRozan's tweet...and then I had to use google to see who on the Raptors was named "Joey"...

Perception: It's a preseason game, I don't give a damn if we win but I can't wait until we score a goal so I can bang on that glass!

Reality: We get shut out 5-0 and the loudest ovation that night came when Wendel Clark made an appearance.

I don't know if I can say that sitting against the glass have met my expectations. Platinum seats are great as an experience but they definitely aren't the best seats in the house. When the puck was in my zone, the linesman stood right in front of me, and when the puck was in the other end, I had to crank my neck until it cramped just to get a glimpse of the action. If wealthy Bay street brokers want to pay ridiculous amounts of money to sit so close, then good on them. I definitely wouldn't recommend these seats to the hardcore fans. I think I'll stick to the upper bowl where I can see the whole rink. Perhaps if the Leafs put up more of an effort and won, I might have changed my mind about the seats. I doubt it though, I've always been a glass is half empty kind of guy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

7 Things Leafs Fans Will Watch For

Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is Hungry,
H to the L-F, I used to write blogs about fake refs...

I was going to head to the gym today but decided to dust off the ol' blogspot instead. It's been a long while since I've written anything on here and even a longer while since I've written anything worth reading. Hopefully that will change. The more content part. No guarantees about it being worth reading.

With the hockey season about to start, I figured it would be a great time to get things rolling again. While majority of the team we saw in April is still here, there has been a few key moves in the offseason. In case you weren't paying attention to hockey during the summer, here is a guide with seven things Leafs fans will be keeping an eye on during the new 2010-11 season.

#1 Tomas Kaberle

The big Leafs news...or non-news during the offseason was who we would be getting in return for our favourite Czech, Tomas Kaberle. As I'm sure we all know, Tomas is staying in TO for at least one more year, assuming that he doesn't waive his NTC. Kaberle flew out of the gates last year, scoring 35 points in his first 41 games. Unfortunately, he couldn't keep up his hot start and only notched 14 points in his last 41 games. He still finished with a very respectable 49 points, good for 8th in points by defencemen in the league, but also had a dismal -16 to accompany it.

Tomas have stated a number of times that he wants to remain a Leaf for life but with all the drama he has been through over the past year, I wouldn't blame him if he left. While is future is cloudy in Toronto, there is one thing that is certain. Whether he plays well or puts up horrendous numbers; whether he waives his NTC or stands pat; whether he re-signs or flees in the summer, people will be watching, people will be judging.

#2 Sensationalized Headlines

Oh look! The puck hasn't even dropped yet and it has already begun. But wait, you say. This is merely a play on words signalling the emergence of Kadri's two-way play!

You're giving them too much credit. This is the Toronto media after all.

#3 New Additions

The most notable additions Burke brought in during the summer are Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong and Clarke MacArthur.

Versteeg is a welcome addition as he should take some pressure off Phil Kessel by providing some much needed secondary scoring. It also never hurts to bring in a Stanley Cup winner. We'll see if he can shine when he's not overshadowed by Toews and Kane.

At $3M a season, Colby Armstrong will have to put up some career numbers to justify his salary. While I don't see him doing that, I do see him winning the fans over with some hard-nosed hockey. I'm hoping we get a Darcy Tucker like effort from Colby, minus the crazy.

We might be overpaying for Armstrong but MacArthur comes at a steal at $1.1M. Since it's a one year deal, MacArthur will definitely be looking to put up some numbers for a pay raise. Given he get put into the right situation, he should be able to pot a career high in goals.

#4 Sophomore Slumps

The dreaded sophomore slump. Many have fallen victim to it but few can explain why.

Can Bozak continue to shine and turn Kessel into a 40 goal guy? Can Gunnarson continue his steady play which saw him with a team leading +8? Can Gustavsson continue where he left off, winning 7 out of 10 while posting a .915 save percentage? With three sophomores looking to play pivotal roles on next year's team, Leafs fans everywhere are hoping that they don't get hit by this phenomenon.

#5 Second Year Leafs

We move from second year NHLers to second year Leafs. With only a handful of players remaining from the JFJ era, most or our team are first or second year Leafs. While many are depth players, there are a few we will be watching to see if they can carry the team on their shoulders. Can Phaneuf handle the pressure that comes with being the first Leafs captain since Mats? Will Komisarek and Beauchemin find their game in a Leafs uniform and prove that last year was simply a bad fluke season? Can Sjostrom bolster the PK and lead us out of our 30th place ranking? Can Kessel keep lighting the lamp? I'm hoping the answer is yes to all of those questions.

#6 Rookies

With a 29th place finish last year, the returning vet's places in the line ups are all but secured. Kadri, D'Amigo, Rynnas and Stefanovich might be four rookies for Leafs fans and veteran players low on the depth chart to keep an eye on this year.

We all know about Kadri. He's the Leafs blue chip, our second saviour. Will he play his way on to the big club or will he start with the Marlies? The Leafs doesn't want to rush his development but they want to see if he has what it takes to play at the top level too. No matter what league he plays in, Leafs fans will definitely have an eye on him this season.

Jerry D'Amigo's most famous goal to date was one that crushed another team with a Maple Leaf on their chest. If he can provide that kind of clutch play for our Leafs, all will be forgiven.

With Giguere coming off the books after this season, the Leafs will need somebody to step into his spot. The goalie prospect most are hyped about right now is the 6'5 Jussi Rynnas. He will almost certainly start off with the Marlies but could be the next in line to join the big club. Much like Gustavsson last year, Rynnas will have to get accustomed to the North American game. While that may lead to a rough start, he is still somebody Leafs fans will want to pay close attention to.

Mikhail Stefanovich is a bit of a question mark. Many thought he might make some noise with the team last year but a poor preseason put an end to those ideas. He had a mediocre season in the Q last year and as a result, he's flying a bit under the radar. Hopefully he can find that scorer's touch which helped him net 49 goals in the Q two years ago.


I hate to say it, but whether we like it or not, many Leafs fans will have an eye on...