For Leafs fans, the NHL lockout was the latest in a series of indignities going back a generation. For some, the labour stoppage represented a breaking point, and while they may not be turning their backs on the Leafs completely, their passion for the team—and the sport as a whole—has cooled considerably.
According to Julian Sanchez, editor of popular Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets, his readers and contributors are showing their discontent with both the team and the league in a number of ways.
“It’s funny because it covers the spectrum of protests. Some will just watch on TV when they probably would have gone to a handful of games,” he says. “Others won’t purchase any merchandise when they would have normally picked up something Leafs related.”
He adds that Leafs fans are “like smokers that can’t quit.” Most fans, he thinks, will continue to follow the team in spite of themselves. But many of them won’t pay attention to the rest of the league.
“They are still Leafs fans, but the unnecessary lockout, the owners’ dissembling about the reasons, and the script that the lockout seemed to follow just served to make them less [enthusiastic about] the NHL as a whole,” he says. “So they’ll watch Leafs games…but they won’t be as invested in the rest of the league.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by fellow blogger Michael Forbes, who runs the Bitter Leaf Fan Page blog.
“I’m pretty well done with NHL hockey,” he says. “It used to be that on Thursday night I’d be happy to watch the doubleheader and watch Detroit play Nashville. Coming out of the lockout, that’s just not going to happen.”