Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fun with numbers
Or... why the Sens won't be 'Canada's Team'

Canada (population): 32.9 million
Ontario (population): 12.7 million
Greater Ottawa (population): 1.15 million
Percentage of Ontario that cheers for the Leafs: 90-95%
Percentage of Leafs fans that cheer for Sens: 0.1%
Percentage of country left over: 60-65%

And that doesn't even include all those nutty Leafs fans sprinkled throughout the land.

I've lived here in Toronto the past four years, and after getting to know the local hockey fan through the good (2004 playoffs), bad (the lockout) and ugly (everything else) of that time period, I will say this: They know what they like (Dougie!) and they know what they hate.

The Ottawa Senators.

The fact of the matter is that, through the Flames' and Oilers' ultimately unsuccessful runs in 2004 and 2006, many of Leafs Nation's hardcore fans had no problem getting on the 'Canada's Team' bandwagon (it was, after all, nice to cheer for a winner) and I had little trouble finding accompaniment to the local watering holes to watch the exploits of Iginla/Smyth and friends.

This year, that hardcore element has entered the witness protection program, hunkering down with their various prayer books and voodoo dolls and hoping like hell that what looks like might happen doesn't come to fruition.

The ratings certainly bear that out.

So, no, there will be no parades down Yonge Street should Ottawa win the Stanley Cup, not even by the small Senators-backing contingent in this city.

It'd be suicide.

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At 3:42 a.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger sager said...

It's just not that novel for a Canadian team to reach the final.

With Calgary in 2004, it was the first Cdn team in the final in a decade, so everyone it seemed got on board. Edmonton in 2006 was the first year after the lockout. Now it's the third time in a short span when this has happened.

At 9:03 a.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Indrew said...

Mass suicide in Toronto? This gets better and better.

At 9:19 a.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Rachael said...

I guess I can understand that, as there's no way that I'd cheer for the Leafs if they were in the final. I don't agree with sager though, I think any chance to bring the Cup back to Canada (besides the Leafs doing it, and maybe the Habs), would bring the country together, it won't be novel until 5 Canadian teams in a row win the Cup.

At 9:50 a.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Andrew said...

James, if take a look at indrew's comment, you'll see in what the form the Sens fans' "passion" manifests itself. Toronto's not in the playoffs, but that little fact doesn't matter to him or his buddies; they still hate Toronto first and foremost. I suspect it has something to do with all the girls who turned them down for prom moving to my city to be successes.

Senators fans, you're in the finals. That should be enough. To email every Leafs fan and gloat in our faces when you get there, as every one of my Sens fan friends did this weekend, demonstrates the vein of bitterness among the ranks of Ottawa's fan base. We know you won. We managed to pry our self-absorbed eyes away from the mirror long enough to watch a hockey game without the Leafs playing. Get over it, you sad little bureacrats.

Try hating the team that stands in the way of your parade. It ain't me, babe, it ain't me you're looking for.

At 10:13 a.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Indrew said...

Dear Andrew, I love your name.

You give yourself, your city, and your team waaaay too much credit. Having Toronto cringe at the sight of the Sens in the Finals is merely icing on the top of the cake. I could care less what Toronto or the rest of Canada thinks or if they decide to hop on the bandwagon.

I have to agree that some people are way to obsessed with Toronto. I still see people with Leafs sucks painted on their backs and I still hear Leafs suck chants randomly at the home games. I just shake my head. It is the minority though, from what I've seen and certainly not me.

Listening to comments like yours and articles like these, it's Toronto that can't get over the fact that their ugly step-sister has done something they haven't accomplished in 40 years.

At 10:40 a.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger McLea said...

So the Sens can't be Canada's team because people in Toronto won't cheer for them? When exactly did Toronto become synonymous with Canada?

Chalk this down as reason #876 to hate Toronto and everything it stands for. Shit, Mirtle has only lived there for a couple years and he already sounds like all the other smug, self-centred fucks that call Toronto home.

At 10:52 a.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't live in Toronto or Ottawa.
There are pockets of fans of other teams in this province as well.
James. Have you heard of the Red Wings or Montreal Canadiens?
Why are Leaf fans gettting their shorts in a knot?
Relax. Tonight Global News is airing a two-part feature on the trials and tribulations of Tie Domi on the 6 p.m. newscast.
Revel in that.

At 11:53 a.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous pete said...

I have a feeling you'll be sifting through a lot of partisan bullshit in this thread very soon, James, so I'll say my piece and move on while I can.

You want to cheer for Canada's Team? Go cheer for Team Canada. They could have used the support.

This whole "Canada's Team" malarkey is just that. If you want to jump on the bandwagon and cheer for a team that looks like they can take it all (I still like Anaheim, though) then good for you. It's fun. I've done it myself.

But don't pretend it's some sort of patriotic act. Being a fairweather sports fan is actually quite a lot of fun, because you get all the good times with none of the bad. I cheered for the Oilers last season with all my heart. Then Carolina won, I said "damn!" and picked myself up to go get another beer from the bar. The pain was over 15 seconds after it began.

But the pain of being a Leafs fan? That's eternal. I can't bring myself to cheer for the Sens not only because I'm tired of the small-minded bellyaching I've endured through for the past decade ("The Leafs are rough! We're a finnesse teram! They clutch and grab! Domi's a goon! They have to buy their players! We develop our own stiffs! We've been cursed! It's not fair our goalies suck at the worst possible time! Broadcasters giving more air time to a team with more fans is patently undemocratic! Bob Cole can't remember my name!") but also because they haven't suffered enough.

You don't truly enjoy the win until you've endured the losses first. It's the same reason I resent it when a team like Colorado wins a Cup within 14 seconds of coming to town. Or Tampa, or Carolina, or any other place that has no business winning a Stanley Cup. Anaheim, I suspect, is soon to join that list.

I'm sorry, Ottawa, but "we had a very good team for a decade but haven't won anything yet" doesn't cut it. On the Levels of Losing scale you're at about a 3.2 out of 10.

That, and because of the geographic proximity, Sens fans will never let me hear the end of it if they win. I can ignore an obnoxious prick of a Flames fan because he's in Lloydminster, and I'm here. We don't interact. But when my god damn barista has a Sens pin on his apron, that's a little harder to ignore. That's why I'm cheering against the Sens.


Oh, and McLea? You remain, a douche.

It's actually quite impressive -- you seem to piss EVERYONE off no matter where you emerge from your subterranean lair and expunge yourself onto the hockey Internets.

At 12:12 p.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This winter I was watching a CBC hockey game with a Leafs fan (we both live in Toronto) who did not know who won the Stanley Cup last year. This is probably a stereotype, but Leaf fans are too wrapped in being "oh us poor Leaf fans" to notice that's there is some great hockey being played right now - even if the teams are the ones you hate. Sharks, Ducks, Wings, Sens have all being enjoyable to watch.

At 12:32 p.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous conrad said...

Gotta say, as a Sens fan there's little I find to love or hate about the Leafs. They're just one of those teams that I don't particularly care about, like New Jersey, or Columbus. I don't enjoy the style of hockey they play, and I think their management is blinkered and panicky, but so do most Leaf fans I know.

The problem comes with having something I don't feel one way or the other about shoved in my face. If CBC had more specific regional broadcasts so I wouldn't have to watch the Leafs underperform on Sat night, and if 50% of the fans at Sens/Leafs games weren't people who made the commute from TO (having refused to pay $250 a ticket from a scalper), it'd be less grating.

How would you feel if you had to read, watch and hear, constantly, all the news about The Kings, or Phoenix, or the Islanders? Pretty cheesed.

Having said that, let's stop with the "all Toronto fans are like this" and "all Ottawa fans are like this." Both cities feature their fair share of jerks, and trash talk is a part of sport. Deal with it.

At 12:36 p.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous pete said...

Both cities feature their fair share of jerks

Amen to that.

At 12:43 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger Hossim said...

Andrew sums it up well, and I have a story to back up his position on the root of a Sens fan’s “passion”.

As a Leaf fan, I spent 2 years recently in Ottawa. One was incredibly enjoyable, I loved the tulips, the Market, and most of the locals were just a bunch of the nicest people ever.

And then the lockout ended. It was like the lights went on at the bar after a night of heavy drinking and all of a sudden, things don’t look so… disco-y.

One night last year late in the season, a friend and I were at a sports bar, with maybe two other fellow Leaf fans on a night that both the Leafs and Sens were playing, but not against each other.

The Leafs game was on one small tv, tucked away in the corner, no sound. The Sens game was on all screens, including some big projected ones, with sound.

Sens score against Atlanta, a polite golf clap from the patrons.

Islanders score against the Leafs? Mass whooping and hollering by the Sens fans.

At 1:05 p.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Indrew said...

And I'm sure there'll be plenty of Leaf fans cheering when/if the Sens get scored on in the finals. Who cares?

I've always loved the 'me against the world' mentality brought on by both fan bases.

The Sens fans complain that the CBC is against them, or that the 'Leaf-centric' media is always against them and calling us bandwagoners or the team choking dogs.

The Leaf fans complain whenever someone cheers against them because of the self-induced pain they've put themselves through for 40 or less years. That somehow, since they've dealt with failure for so long, that it makes them a better fan than anyone else.

At 1:25 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

What's wrong with a little old fashioned geographical rivalry?

Sens fans saying they don't care about the Leafs are full of it, and vice versa.

Hell, Indrew posts regularly on a Leafs vs. Sens blog. (sup?)

At 1:30 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

So the Sens can't be Canada's team because people in Toronto won't cheer for them? When exactly did Toronto become synonymous with Canada?

I don't know if I can make it any clearer than I did; the numbers are all there for you, laid out nicely at the top of the post. Close to 40 per cent of Canada is located in the Golden Horseshoe, and that's definitely not Senators fan territory.

At 1:40 p.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Conrad said...

And Sparty is better than that polar bear

At 1:45 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

What pete said especially that McLea part.

Carlton would devour Scaredycat.

All the talk about 'bringing the cup home' is stupid. The Cup lives in Toronto all year round. Much like the Ashes never leaving England that might explain the lack of urgency on MLSE's part.

We had this discussion over at the BoO before the playoffs and the consensus was that the first teams people generally want out are the other Canadian teams because you have to hear about any success forever.

On that note...Ducks in 5 to keep my world from falling apart.

At 2:04 p.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knowing how much it's gonna kill Leafs fans to see Ottawa win it is reason enough to cheer for the Sens.

At 2:10 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Knowing how much it will kill Oilers fans to see Chris Pronger win the cup is reason enough to cheer for Anaheim.

Or knowing how much it will kill senators fans to see Hasek raise the cup if you need any more reason to cheer against Ottawa.

At 2:38 p.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Al said...

Pete nailed it. This "Canada's Team" stuff is media created malarky.

The only reason that Leaf fans could cheer for the Flames or Oilers during the last two cup finals is that they no reason not too. As a Canuck fan, there was no way I could throw my support behind either of those two teams so I cheered hard for both the Lightning and the Hurricanes, "Canada's Team" or not!

I'll be cheering for the Senators this year because I am a fan of theirs, not because they are the only Canadian team left playing

At 3:14 p.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous anshu said...

I think that this post is about Toronto - while the Sens are on their way to the Cup finals and the Leafs have been golfing for weeks - speaks volumes.

All this talk of "Canada's team" is merely an invention of the Toronto-based media to exert some relevance in a sporting event of which they have no part. It appears to originate from envy, more than anything else, and I guess its viewed as some sort of consolation prize for not making the playoffs yet again.

Using James' contrived definition, the Leafs are certainly "Canada's team", but I'll take a Senators Stanley Cup championship over such a dubious designation any day, and I'm pretty sure all other Sens fans feel the same way.

At 3:19 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Well, I work in the Toronto media, and I don't know any Maple Leafs fans in the industry. Most are either indifferent or transplants (like myself).

All I'm saying is that Ottawa won't generate the kind of widespread interest across the country that Calgary and Edmonton did. That's not necessarily a bad thing — in fact, I don't think it means anything to Senators fans.

It just is what it is.

(And, personally, I find the whole Toronto/Ottawa rivalry a little ridiculous.)

At 3:30 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

anshu seems to think that this Canada's team question doesn't arise EVERY year once there is only one Canadian team standing.

Each year it ends up demonstrating that the answer is always that there is no such thing as "Canada's Team" among true fans.

The Toronto/Ottawa rivalry is as ridiculous as the Edmonton/Calgary rivalry.

At 4:15 p.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous anshu said...

PPP, I understand your point, but this year the stories seem to be more about how Ottawa ISN'T Canada's team. I don't recall a similar sentiment with Calgary and Edmonton.

James, I understand your point but still partially disagree that the Senators won't generate some widespread interest across Canada. I just think it'll happen in smaller markets, and places where there isn't an existing team or loyal fan base. This year, the Sens are playing the kind of hockey that hockey fans in general can appreciate - hard work, playing as a team, etc. The Sens will come out of this with more fans, I suspect, than when they started and most of those fans will come from outside the Ottawa area.

But if you haven't noticed pro-Leaf media bias coming out of Toronto, I assume you never watch the CBC, TSN or SportsNet Ontario. I don't fault them, actually. If I was tasked with covering a team's every game, getting to know the players to do background stories on them, etc., I'm sure I'd develop an affinity for the team. The fact that many members of the hockey expert panels on all networks are former Leafs or have previous ties to the team only exaggerates this effect.

But to deny such bias exists seems particularly disingenuous to me.

At 4:19 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

Is it really a bias that the team with the most fans gets the most coverage?

Is RDS biased for showing the Habs all the time?

At 4:42 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

I agree that the Leafs get the most coverage but like Chemmy said they Leafs also have the largest fanbase by a mile.

As for the coverage being biased, it's like any town's coverage. Some guys love to tell you what's great about the Leafs but a lot (if not most) want to remind you just why the Leafs suck.

At 4:46 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

But to deny such bias exists seems particularly disingenuous to me.

I don't think anyone did this.

At 5:34 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger Kyle said...

I'm considering cheering for the Sens just to spite Leafs fans.

At 7:30 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

I don't notice any media bias favoring the Leafs.

At 9:25 p.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...


As a Leafs fan there's definitely a Leafs media bias, but it's a case of giving the people what they want. Leafs nation is very numerous.

At 12:42 a.m., May 23, 2007, Anonymous anshu said...

I don't think anyone did this.

Um, I asserted there's pro-Leaf bias from the Toronto-based media and you disagreed, saying you don't know any Leaf fans working in the Toronto media.

But regardless, its no different than in any city, for any sport. The local media roots for the local team. They are, after all, only human. There's no such thing as being completely unbiased or completely detached.

The only difference here is that the "local" Toronto media has national reach, since the CBC and TSN do most or all of their sports productions from Toronto. The whole country is exposed to their pro-Leaf bias, not just the GTA.

And that just feeds the beast, as it were. After decades of Leaf games every Saturday night, there are a lot of Leaf fans everywhere.

I wonder if the CBC was based in Calgary, and they showed Flames games instead of Leaf games on HNIC, how long would it take for the Flames to become "Canada's Team"?


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