For the first time since 1964, the Toronto Maple Leafs have back-to-back titles to their name. Unfortunately, the pair of titles are probably the least desirable ones in all of professional sports.
For the second year in a row, ESPN’s Ultimate Standings have ranked the Toronto Maple Leafs as the worst franchise in all of North American professional sports. Yes, you read that right, the Leafs ranked below every single team in the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB. That includes the cash strapped Arizona Coyotes, the tanking Philadelphia 76ers, and the struggling Washington Redskins, who are constantly scrutinized for their name.
So how did the Leafs once again rank as the worst team in professional sports?
Well, for starters, the Leafs affordability and return on investment towards their fans has been horrendous.
“The hapless, entitled Leafs have owned last place in this ranking in three of the past four years,” writes ESPN’s Doug McIntyre. “No franchise in the four major sports leagues charges more for delivering less ($139 total cost per game for a club that has failed to qualify for the playoffs in nine of the past 10 seasons).”
McIntyre continued to hammer the Leafs for their affordability issues in the “what’s bad” section of their ranking:
“No matter how much the Maple Leafs improve on the ice, their obscene average ticket prices ($113.66, higher than every pro team except the New England Patriots, New York Giants and New York Knicks, and $30 more than the second-most expensive hockey ticket) will prevent them from ever being in the top third of our Ultimate Standings,” writes McIntyre.
“The dead-last finish in affordability, bang for the buck and fan relations — because why should management care when every game sells out, no matter what? — are functions of hockey’s mystical hold on Southern Ontario. Add in the rink-side soulless corporate set at Air Canada Centre, and it’s no wonder hordes of Leafs die-hards find it preferable (and often cheaper) to travel to Buffalo or Detroit to see their team play.”
None of what McIntyre wrote is untrue. Truthfully, it’s just a collection of common complaints the Leafs’ faithful have discussed amongst each other for years.
Over priced tickets, a corporate atmosphere at the ACC, years of heartbreak and losses, yea, that sounds like the Leafs.
Oct 9, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Sadly, the worst part about these rankings is that the Leafs have a legitimate shot at three-peating next year.
With ESPN using four key areas to determine these rankings, including surveying fans on what they get back for their overall investment of emotion, time and money, what their in-arena/stadium experience is, ranked performance of teams in terms of wins and losses, and a weighted score based on a national poll of what fans want from a sports experience, the Leafs will be hard-pressed to avoid finishing in last place.
With one of the best management teams in hockey now running the franchise, things can only go up from here. Although ticket prices will remain obscenely high, the on-ice product should slowly start to improve, which will help the Leafs Ultimate Standings rank.
For now, though, Leafs’ fans are going to have to take this one on the chin and remain patient with the rebuild, much like Babcock and Shanahan have preached.
What do you think about ESPN ranking the Leafs as the worst franchise in North American professional sports for the second consecutive year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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