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The Perils of Being in a Hockey Hotbed

Posted By Ben Fisher On Feb 11 2010 @ 10:04 pm In Toronto Maple Leafs | No Comments

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, sometimes it's not easy being blue and white.

I've titled my Leafs blog “In the Fishbowl” to refer to the constant scrutiny the team faces from media and fans, alike. Toronto is a hockey hotbed, and the Leafs are an institution. What MLSE has previously called “the passion that unites us all” reverberates both within and outside of the city.
But is this really a good thing for the team?

Consider that every NHL team has at least one player who resides in or just outside of the Greater Toronto Area. That means these are teams that feature players who could be playing in front of family and friends and/or playing against the team for whom they grew up rooting (or rooting against).

These players will ‘get up' for games against the Leafs (especially those played in Toronto) in a way that those who wear the Maple Leaf may not on a nightly basis. When, for instance, Anaheim Ducks forward and Peterborough native Corey Perry makes his rare appearance at the ACC every few years, you have to figure that the game means more to him than just one of 41 at home for Lee Stempniak.

The Leafs are hardly alone in this sense. MSG probably doesn't have the same aura to New York Knicks and Rangers players as it does to those who visit less frequently, nor do shrines such as Fenway Park or Wrigley Field.

Not that I'm comparing the Air Canada Centre to these meccas, but the feeling of playing in front of a packed house against the storied Maple Leafs in Toronto has to be altogether different from a January tilt with the Florida Panthers in the three-quarters-empty BankAtlantic Center.

Coming Up:
Look for my first “Random Thoughts” blog, a regular feature I'll be doing this season following Leafs games, to be up on the site on Saturday following the Buds' Friday night tilt in St. Louis against Alex Steen, Carlo Colaiacovo and friends.

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