Thursday, September 13, 2012
Laughingstock Leafs laugh all the way to the bank
While it provides fresh fodder for the time-honored recreational pursuit of Toronto-bashing, a new ESPN survey ranking the Leafs as the worst sports franchise in North America doesn't stand up to real world scrutiny.
The fundamental flaw is in the survey's methodology. It's based on fan perception, which incorporates the mistaken assumption that what the fans think actually matters. Based on eight criteria including bang for the buck, fan relations, stadium experience, affordability, past championships and championship prospects, and quality of ownership, management and players, the Leafs are dead last among the 122 NHL, NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball teams. The Phoenix Coyotes, meanwhile, are ranked as the seventh best franchise despite being in a chronic state of financial turmoil and ownership uncertainty. So much for credibility.
What the survey doesn't take into account is that the Leafs are the NHL's biggest cash cow; that despite their unmatched run of competitive futility, their's is hockey's most lucrative brand with a franchise value well north of half a billion dollars. Success in professional sports in 2012 isn't measured on the scoreboard or in the standings. It's measured on the balance sheet. Championships are incidental to the bottom line. It's a credit to their organization's business acumen and marketing savvy that no matter how bad the Leafs are on the ice, their fans can't get enough of them, whether it's in ticket sales, media content or merchandise.
ESPN got it backwards. Far from being the worst modern franchise, the Leafs are the envy of the corporate sports business world as the template for making massive profits off a mediocre product.