It's no secret that as hockey buildings go, the Air Canada Centre is a piss poor arena.
The venue itself is in great shape. It's clean, well maintained, has lots of bathroom's, and has well placed signage making it easy to locate your seat. It's still pretty new, so all of this is to be expected. My only gripe with the venue itself is the lack of ATM's. I want to drink, so please let me get my money quickly.
The problem with the Air Canada Centre isn't with the building itself, it's with the fans who can afford to attend the games. Now, this whole post is a little "hypocriticalist" of me as I have benefited from company owned tix on a few occasions myself, but I don't care. I have sat in those seats time and time again and cheered my ass off,
only to be given dirty looks by douche bag suits who are more interested in wooing some client than cheering on our beloved Leafs.
I've heard the argument that those people are paying to put the team on the ice, but the reality is that MLSE has been putting crap on the ice season after season. In recent history, the goal of this team has been more focused on turning a profit, and less on winning the Cup. For fans who actually care about the team, this is a sad fact. For a large portion of the fans who frequently attend games and sit in the lower bowl of the ACC, it really makes no difference how the team does on the ice.
For many years now, attending a Toronto Maple Leafs game has been as much about status as it is about hockey. There are thousands of Leafs fans who have never missed a game on TV, but can't afford to attend one in person because of the high ticket prices. This is a shame. Not just because it's unfortunate, but also because it hurts the team on the ice. When "fans" are chatting and not watching the game, that means they aren't cheering. Any professional athlete will tell you that the crowd can play a role in the outcome of the game, for better or for worse.
This is not simply a Leafs problem either. The historic football club Manchester United has been suffering from the same problem for years. Then Captain Roy Keane once famously remarked that United's home supporters didn't understand the game, and were too busy eating prawn sandwiches to be concerned with what was happening on the pitch. Replace the prawn sandwiches with salmon rolls, and you've got the ACC.
The good news is, there's an upside. As anyone who has had any recent contact with a Toronto media outlet will tell you, the Leafs are currently rebuilding. True Leafs fans everywhere have been preparing themselves for the tough season that we have just begun. As the win over Detroit proved, we can expect to have some bright spots throughout the season, although no one is under any misconceptions on the quality of this team.
We all know that there are 70 odd tough games left. Let's hope that the suits lose interest during the rebuilding phase and the true fan base can re-establish itself and get the ACC rocking (for at least a few seasons). The Raptors fans have proven that the building has the potential to be very loud (or incredibly quiet if you were Josh Boone two seasons ago in the playoffs).
If not, maybe the ACC will stop serving salmon rolls.