Why don’t the Habs stink?

Maclean’s is going for the big popularity grab with a front-page story on why the Toronto Maple Leafs are such a piss-poor hockey team. It focuses mainly on the fact that the organization makes lots of money whether the team wins or not, and there’s not as much pressure to succeed. It blames apparently systemic internal management problems, as well as the complacency of the Leafs audience, which pays the largest ticket prices in the NHL year after disappointing year.

To me, this brings up a simple question: Why don’t the Montreal Canadiens have the same problem? The Bell Centre hasn’t had an unpaid-for regular-season seat in years, including all 82 games last year — a year we finished one point below the Leafs and out of the playoffs. It’s not like the Habs aren’t also scamming fans out of money by focusing on the past instead of the present.

One clue is briefly touched on in the article, so passing a mention that it’s enclosed in parentheses: The media.

For all the references to the city’s rabid media corps, the team is, in fact, treated with kid gloves and feted at any sign of improvement.

This would seem to contrast with the Montreal media’s treatment of the Canadiens. Anything short of the Stanley Cup is unacceptable (though no serious journalist put the team anywhere near the top of the standings they’re sitting in now — most didn’t even have them making the playoffs). We’ll berate you if you don’t speak our language, and we’ll even bug you while you’re recovering in a hospital bed. Oh, and make sure you repeat your answer to our questions 16 different times so everyone gets it. It’s gotten so bad, head coach Guy Carbonneau had to step in this week and ask the media to calm down.
So I ask you, dear readers (and bloggers, including the ones I totally dissed yesterday): What makes the Habs better than the Leafs in the long-term?

  1. The media are more demanding of the Canadiens than the Leafs
  2. The fans are more demanding of the Canadiens than the Leafs (even if both teams sell out all their games)
  3. The Leafs have institutional problems that are not inherent in their being a monopoly
  4. George Gillett/Bob Gainey are leading with their hearts, not their wallets, and are flying in the face of economic theory because they’re hockey fans
  5. Nothing. Montreal’s success this season is a fluke caused by a lack on injuries and dumb luck
  6. Nothing. The Leafs are just having a bad year and will come back to win it all in 2009!
  7. Luck / quantum theory / God hates the Leafs
  8. This other super-brilliant theory I just came up with

Something to think about as the Habs totally kick the Leafs’ ass tonight at the Bell Centre. (I’m working in sports tonight, so if you think of an awesome headline to mark the triumphant win, let me know and I’ll arrange to get it rejected by a senior editor.)

3 thoughts on “Why don’t the Habs stink?

  1. Montrealiste

    You build a team through draft picks (Plek, Price, Komi, Higgi, Lapierre, GUI!, Kotstis’s) not with money (Blake, Rayyyyyycroft). That is why the Habs don’t suck.

    And about that “kids glove treatment”, I remember a Gazette article about the new rates for the tickets. It was a solid diss if you ask me.

    And half the journalist at La Presse are old Nordiques fans.

    So Maclean’s, when you write an article about the rest of the country, i propose you GTFO of Toronto.

  2. HabsFan29

    I vote management. George Gillett has been the perfect owner, hands off and not interfering. Bob Gainey knows what he’s doing. Leafs ownership and managment, also hampered by MLSE managments, is a disaster.

  3. Josh

    Part of it is also that the ticket prices in Montreal (while still high) do not compare to the stratospheric rates they charge at the ACC. Lucky for them they have all those head offices in TO willing to lay out ridiculous dough for mediocre hockey. This is one of the reasons that when the Habs, Senators or Sabres host the Leafs, it feels like half the crowd is wearing blue and white: the trip to those places plus the ticket is cheaper (and easier to get) than the same ticket would be at a Leaf home game.

    One other thing about the difference in the hockey media/culture between the two cities: there is a chance that someone along the lines of a Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos (an English Canadian superstar) will one day play for the Maple Leafs. On the other hand, it’s going to be a long time before you see the next great francophone star playing for the Habs – the media here is just too invasive and demanding if you’re local. There’s a reason that guys like Daniel Briere, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Simon Gagne consistently choose not to play in what is effectively their hometown.


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