A little rant …
Beyond the voice-from-the-grave quality to Pat Quinn’s latest pronouncements, beyond his explanations, there is the feeling this morning, at least in me, that this is no big deal. The message out of Quinn’s musings – that hockey is a business; that it has changed in the past 40 years since he arrived as a brawny defenceman best remembered for a hellacious body check/elbow (take your pick) on Bobby Orr; that the musings should go from generalities out of his mouth (that’s his story, anyway, and with his long links to the pro game, it’s not as if he doesn’t have history and experience beyond Toronto) to particulars among the chattering classes (as it always does, along with the end product to this mill --a roasted Richard Peddie on a bun) – come as no surprise.
|Meet the new dog. Same as the old dog.|
But of course it is there, right there (disclaimer alert) across the top of this blog's sponsoring sports page, and Quinn, anything but naïve, is nevertheless being just that if he really thinks his words would be taken any other way (if anyone has an audio link to the original interview, send it along. CKNW in Vancouver, which originally aired it, is a members-only site).
In the larger picture, though, it can only point to one thing. The new season is almost here, and for crying out loud, bring it on already. The familiar cast of villains are being lined up, with Peddie wearing the usual target as he fronts the anonymous MLSE puppetmasters, and “the media” and “the fans” assembling their designated spots in the gallery. Toronto’s favourite bloodsport is ready for another chapter, and all that’s required is the latest uniforms on the ice and the latest punching bag behind the bench.
Many people take all this for evidence that Toronto is a hockey town, which it isn’t. When Quinn came into the NHL, junior hockey was still thriving in Toronto. As a kid growing up here, Friday night in the Gardens end blues for a sellout of the Marlies vs. the Junior Canadiens, the Petes, the Generals and the rest was about as close to the big time as I could get, and it was plenty close enough – since, junior hockey has withered into insignificance here, along with college hockey (the U of T Blues were a pretty solid second choice on my list, way back then), and the ticket prices and dilution of the league and the game’s quality have turned most fans into watch-it-on-TV types. It is a Leafs town, as many amend the previous deisgnation. But that's not quite all -- what Toronto is mostly, I reckon, is a crappy sports town. With the smell of September in the air, anything Leafs immediately supplants the rest of the pro sports menu here, including an Argos team that looks suddenly like Grey Cup material, an intriguing Raptors collection with their centrepiece player playing in the world finals … and the (*sigh*) Jays, once again No. 3 but trying hard to carve out a little corner of this territory.
With little real news around, and training camp two weeks away this Friday, it’s like ravenous dogs jumping on a steak dinner. Even the most hair-brained, ill-conceived notions get an airing. And in a city starved for a winner, the customers are unwilling or unable to register their discontent in the only way they can – at the MLSE box office. Which was part of Quinn’s point, and the secret of the Leafs’ success. And so The Tradition Continues.
But look on the bright side. Eight months from now, they’ll be as gone as Pat Quinn.
(*- picture taken by PAM GM Creations, and included in this month's Dogs in Canada showcase section. Ta very much, PAM.)