Thursday, May 4, 2023

Florida Panthers unfair to Toronto Maple Leafs and Canadian hockey fans

The Florida Panthers have decided not to sell tickets directly to Canadians for their playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  This is patently unfair and the NHL should not allow it.  It is mean-spirited and inhospitable.  What do Florida fans fear from Leaf fans in the arena?  Are they concerned that some fights would break out?  Do they worry that the cheers from Leaf fans would be louder than the cheers of Florida fans?  Whatever the reason, this is no way to treat supporters of the visiting team.

Where would the Florida tourist industry be without Canadians?  Indeed, where would the Florida economy be without the Canadian snowbirds who descend on the Sunshine State every year.  In a 2018 Canada-Florida Economic Impact Study, the Canada Trade Commissioner Service estimated that about 500,000 Canadians travel to Florida during the winter months, with some spending up to six months there.  Those snowbirds were estimated to contribute about $6.6 billion to the Florida economy.  That's not chump change and Florida's economy would suffer greatly without it.

Many Canadians visitors are ardent hockey fans.  They spend money to attend the home games of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers when the Leafs, Montreal Canadiens or any other Canadian-based team comes to town, especially in a playoff series.  That is why this action by the Florida Panthers is so disappointing and so downright chintzy.

It is certainly true that many Americans are also avid hockey fans, but Canadians have a passion for hockey that is unmatched.  I do not travel to Florida in the winter, but I will declare my bias.  I'm from Toronto and my 2023 Stanley Cup dream final would be a matchup between the Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers.  It's not that I wouldn't be interested if the Leafs played an American-based team.  It's just that a Cup series between Toronto and Edmonton would be sweeter than wine.  There's still a long way to and a Leafs-Oiler series is a long shot.  However, it's certainly within the realm of possibility.

The fact is that no Canadian-based team has won the Stanley Cup since 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens defeated Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings.  That's a drought of 30 years.  As every devoted Leaf fans knows, the Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967.  That's a drought of 56 years.  No fans are hungrier for Lord Stanley's jug than the long-suffering fans of the Blue and White.  

Those who love the Toroto Maple Leafs really love them.  How else could they have been so patient all these years?  Those who detest the Leafs really detest them.  There's not much in-between where the Leafs are concerned.  When U.S. President Joe Biden  addressed the Canadian House of Commons back in March, he poked fun at the Leafs, saying that he didn't like them because they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in January and his wife, Jill, is a Philly girl.  Biden received a standing ovation for those remarks.

I can guarantee one thing, though.  If the Leafs ever won the Stanley Cup, you would witness one of the biggest celebrations in the history of Toronto or anywhere else in the hockey world.  There would be more jubilation than in any other NHL city.  With the Leafs already down 2-0 in their series with the Florida Panthers, a parade in downtown Toronto seems increasingly unlikely.  Still, it's not over yet, and Leaf fans can dream, can't they?

- Joanne

EDITIORS UPDATE (May 19, 2023): The future of the Arizona Coyotes is in serious doubt.  On Mary 16th, residents of Tempe, Arizona voted down the organization's proposal to build a $2.1 billion entertainment district, including a new arena.