With over 100 years of history, the Toronto Maple Leafs have accumulated quite the fanbase along the way. The only thing that compares is the volume of voices that cheer against them.
Well, a lot of us love them that is. There are many that prefer to hate Toronto. It’s not just that they aren’t fans of the team, but they make it known that they also just flat out don’t like the people cheering for them either.
Seems a bit harsh. It is just a game after all, right?
I guess when you back a franchise that has the type of history, attention, and volume of fans that the Toronto Maple Leafs do, you’re bound to run into some opposition. There are 30 other teams in the league, so I guess it makes sense that some people cheer for the wrong ones.
Here’s my take on a few of the reasons that Toronto’s fanbase is so widely despised these days.
History Plays a Role
For perspective, it wasn’t until the 1942-43 season that the original six we know them as today was formed, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Rangers.
Toronto already had an organization for 25 years before that point in the league’s history. That’s a lot of time to generate interest, while other cities were still trying to figure out if they were going to play.
Early Maple Leafs teams earned undeniable success for the franchise. This organization’s top five most successful campaigns, based on points percentage, all came before the 1961-62 season.
By that point, they had also won nine of their 13 championships.
|1960-61||Toronto Maple Leafs*||70||39||19||12||90||.643||2nd of 6||Lost NHL Semi-Finals|
|1950-51||Toronto Maple Leafs*||70||41||16||13||95||.679||2nd of 6||Won Stanley Cup Final|
|1947-48||Toronto Maple Leafs*||60||32||15||13||77||.642||1st of 6||Won Stanley Cup Final|
|1940-41||Toronto Maple Leafs*||48||28||14||6||62||.646||2nd of 7||Lost NHL Semi-Finals|
|1934-35||Toronto Maple Leafs*||48||30||14||4||64||.667||1st of 5||Lost Stanley Cup Final|
Winning is attractive and that early success drew in more support. As that fanbase continued to cheer on their Maple Leafs, the next generation was born into being told who their favourite team was going to be.
Well Travelled Fans
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been known to have a packed arena for every home game. Although it isn’t revered as the loudest rink around, there’s still something to be said for it constantly being a full house.
Since 1999-2000, when Scotiabank Arena saw its first full season hosting the Maple Leafs, Toronto has consistently attracted over 19,000 fans every game.
In 2019-20, they were third in the league for average attendance behind only the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks. And the Maple Leafs were actually second-highest, with regards to percent capacity within their building.
|Team||Arena Name||Capacity||GP||Total||Avg.||% Capacity|
|Chicago Blackhawks||United Center||20,500||34||729,000||21,441||104.6|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Scotiabank Arena||18,819||34||656,261||19,302||102.6|
|Montreal Canadiens||Bell Centre||21,273||37||780,155||21,085||99.1|
As much as the team expects support when they play at home, they’re no strangers to seeing a sea of blue when they’re on the road too.
Whether you’re watching a game against the cross-border Buffalo Sabres or the cross-continent Florida Panthers, Toronto fans show up everywhere. You expect to see other jerseys at any given rink, but not as many as the Maple Leafs often tend to.
Whether these are fans that were born into the blue and white, grew up around the city but now live elsewhere, or they just found themselves pulled towards the team naturally, we’d be annoyed if this happened in our rink too.
Jealous National Neighbours
As the appointed centre of the hockey universe, national media covering this sport with distribution across Canada tends to fixate on this franchise.
If you’re watching a recap or highlight show, they don’t make it a secret that their lead story will often involve the Toronto Maple Leafs. And, at times, it’s a story isn’t as objectively newsworthy as one involving other Canadian markets within the league.
It’s not unforeseen that you’ll hear more about Mitch Marner using a different type of stick during an optional skate, than you would about a highly scouted prospect making their debut for the Vancouver Canucks.
And, speaking of the Canucks, they seem to be especially sour towards this team (and its fans by association) because of the imbalance of attention favouring the eastern side of the country.
Broadcast lineups are structured to ensure that the Toronto Maple Leafs fanbase has uninterrupted access to watch their team. This isn’t a theory, it’s a fact.
Sometimes that means teams like Vancouver are playing at a different time on a Saturday or they end up getting slotted into the Sunday. When’s the last time you recall Toronto playing a 4:00 PM game on a weekend?
|2019-10-19||1:00 PM||@||New Jersey Devils|
|2019-10-20||1:00 PM||@||New York Rangers|
|2019-11-10||4:00 PM||New Jersey Devils|
|2019-11-23||12:30 PM||@||Washington Capitals|
|2019-12-07||4:00 PM||Buffalo Sabres|
|2020-01-11||1:00 PM||@||Buffalo Sabres|
|2020-01-12||4:00 PM||@||Minnesota Wild|
|2020-02-01||1:00 PM||@||New York Islanders|
|2020-02-02||2:00 PM||@||Carolina Hurricanes|
|2020-02-16||5:00 PM||Anaheim Ducks|
Vancouver is a major hub within Canada and we all know that. But their hockey market just doesn’t compare to Toronto’s. Unfortunately, I think it’s just them that don’t realize that.
Opinions Without Apologies
Canadians are usually known to be polite, but when you put one of our national sports into the mix our manners go to the wayside.
Every fan has a justifiable bias towards their team, but Torontonians seem to take it to the next level. They now have the longest active Stanley Cup drought, but ask any Maple Leafs fan about it and watch how quickly they mention Auston Matthews.
This fanbase has so much success to refer to from the franchise’s past, with endless storylines to draw on from their present, that opinions flow more freely than the $20 beers at their arena.
The reality is that the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise alone means that they’ll have fans for life.
I’ll always be a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. I also pride myself on being an objective observer of the sport, too. That said, I’m of the segment of supporters that would like some new material to brag about sooner rather than later.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs can finally win their first Stanley Cup since 1967 within the near future, just imagine seeing this whole cycle swallow up even more of the hockey world’s attention while stealing away potential on the fence fans of any other franchise.