The Elaborate Leafs Season Tickets

TORONTO (July 3) — Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, under the ownership triumvirate of Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Larry Tanenbaum, has never been accused of parsimony. As it relates to the hockey department, there are grave concerns over having spent money imprudently. But, the company is sleek, sophisticated and not the least–bit frugal. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than with the arrangement and delivery of season tickets to home games of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Though having been involved, one way or another, with the hockey club for more than 50 years — including 17 as a beat–reporter for The FAN–590, Canada’s first all–sports radio station — I had no idea how elaborately the Maple Leafs package their season admissions.

Until, that is, Jeremy Mehew, a colleague of mine at Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel, brought me the remnants of the ticket–bundle from the pandemic–shortened season of 2019–20. Quite frankly, I was blown away.

It bore no resemblance to the manner in which season tickets were disseminated when my father purchased a pair in the south–mezzanine Blues at Maple Leaf Gardens for the 1975–76 National Hockey League schedule. Now, 46 years is a long time… and technology has come a long way. But, I chuckle when recalling how a manila envelope, sporting the Gardens’ logo, would arrive, each September, at our home in the north part of the city. Inside, were two bundles of 43 tickets (three pre–season and 40 regular–season games); each held together, tautly, by rubber bands. Also enclosed were a pair of flattened, white boxes with the hockey club logo and the words “THESE ARE YOUR LEAFS SEASON TICKETS.” Once assembled, each box (with a little window that exposed the color–bar and seat location) perfectly contained the 43 tickets (as below), all measuring 4 x 1.75 inches.

That was it. No welcome letter. And, no pre–printed playoff ducats… just in case.

        

Fast–forward nearly half–a–century and everything has become bigger, brighter and more decorative.

In 2019–20, Maple Leafs season tickets arrived in a blue box (as above) measuring 12 x 7 inches. Once opened (as below), the box sported an aerial photo of the Toronto skyline and the insert of a flag carrier that precedes each home game. Flipping open the first cardboard page exposed the entire Leafs home schedule, with dates and visiting team logos. This package, and the four accompanying season tickets in Sec. 119 of the Platinum seats (closest to ice level at Scotiabank Arena) belonged to one of the nicest people I dealt with during my 23–year radio career. David Cynamon is a well–known Toronto business executive. He and Howard Sokolowski co–owned the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League between 2003 and 2010. In their second year (2004), the Argos won the Grey Cup by defeating the B.C. Lions. It was an historic triumph as Mike (Pinball) Clemons — the most–beloved figure in franchise history — became the first black coach to win the CFL championship.

With the Leafs and the NHL on pause due to labor unrest (the entire 2004–05 season would be forfeited), I had the privilege of covering the 2004 Grey Cup in Ottawa for The FAN–590. David and Howard were terrific owners who diligently sought to build a stadium for the Argos — at York University or the University of Toronto. Neither came to fruition and the club continued to play games at SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) until moving to BMO Field, on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, in 2016. Or, six years after Cynamon and Sokolowski had sold the club to David Braley (the Argos, today, are owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment).

I continue to have a roundabout connection to David Cynamon, whose wife, Stacey, is the daughter of Nancy Pencer. Nancy is the partner of Michael Benjamin, who owns the chapel for which I work. My colleague Jeremy Mehew’s mother is Nancy’s personal assistant (did you get all that?). As such, emerges this photo–blog.

Like I mentioned, the season tickets are quite an elaborate presentation:




TICKETS FOR ALL 40 LEAFS HOME GAMES WERE CONTAINED IN THE BOOKLET, ABOVE. INCLUDED, WERE ADMISSIONS (BELOW) TO THE HOME OPENER (OCT. 2, 2019) AGAINST THE OTTAWA SENATORS. TORONTO WON THE GAME, 5–3, LED BY TWO GOALS FROM AUSTON MATTHEWS. OTHERS WERE SCORED BY FREDERIK GAUTHIER, TREVOR MOORE AND ROOKIE ILYA MIKHEYEV (HIS FIRST IN THE NHL). BRADY TKACHUK, SCOTT SABORIN AND BOBBY RYAN REPLIED FOR THE SENATORS. FREDERIK ANDERSEN MADE 23 SAVES FOR THE WIN IN NET; CRAIG ANDERSON TOOK THE LOSS.


 
TICKETS FOR EARLY SEASON GAMES AGAINST THE DEFENDING AND EVENTUAL STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS. ST. LOUIS HANDED THE LEAFS THEIR FIRST LOSS OF THE 2019–20 SEASON (3–2 ON OCT. 7), ROUGHLY FOUR MONTHS AFTER EDGING THE BOSTON BRUINS IN SEVEN GAMES TO WIN THEIR FIRST NHL TITLE. TAMPA BAY CAME TO TOWN THREE NIGHTS LATER (OCT. 10) AND LAID A 7–3 WHIPPING ON THE MAPLE LEAFS — FORESHADOWING THE SUMMERTIME STANLEY CUP THE LIGHTNING WOULD WIN, BY DEFEATING DALLAS, IN THE MIDST OF THE COVID–19 PANDEMIC.


WHEN THE LEAFS AND LIGHTNING FACED OFF AT SCOTIABANK ARENA ON MAR. 10, 2020, NO ONE REALIZED IT WOULD BE THE FINAL GAME OF THE REGULAR SEASON FOR BOTH TEAMS. TORONTO DEFEATED TAMPA BAY, 2–1. TWO DAYS LATER (ON MAR. 12), FOLLOWING THE LEAD OF THE NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION, THE NHL SUSPENDED PLAY IN DEFERENCE TO COVID–19.


UNUSED TICKETS FOR THE GAME AGAINST NASHVILLE THAT WAS SCHEDULED FOR MAR. 12, BUT CANCELED IN EARLY AFTERNOON ONCE THE NHL ANNOUNCED ITS DECISION TO SUSPEND PLAY.


UNLIKE THE YEARS WHEN WE HAD SEASON TICKETS AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS, FULL PLAYOFF ADMISSIONS ARE INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE TODAY — THE MAXIMUM FOUR GAMES FOR EACH OF THE FOUR STANLEY CUP ROUNDS. THE 2020 CUP TOURNAMENT FELL TO THE PANDEMIC AND THE TICKETS, BELOW, WERE UNUSED. WHEN THE LEAFS ULTIMATELY MET COLUMBUS IN THE QUALIFYING ROUND (BEGINNING AUG. 9), FANS WERE NOT PERMITTED TO ATTEND. AND, YES, IT DOES SEEM RATHER NOVEL TO SEE “STANLEY CUP FINAL” PRINTED ON LEAFS TICKETS. DOESN’T IT?

          

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

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