Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Club Loyalty

Does it Exist? Um, No

If you scroll down TSN's UFA signings tracker, you'll notice the ton of transactions that occurred yesterday.That pace will not be kept, but there is potential for other large moves; after all, Mats Sundin hasn't made a decision.

Conversely, the Leafs have made a few, signing unknown defenceman Jeff Finger, forward Nicholas Hagman, and goaltender Curtis Joseph. Money well spent? The season still has to be played but I'd expect Finger to be a horrific waste at $3.5 million/season, Hagman to be a disappointment at $3 million/season, and Cujo to do enough this season for everyone to forget he's being paid $700,000 to mostly sit on the bench. Damien Cox does a good job reviewing these likely horrible deals in his column today.

Looking at all of those transactions, I wonder if club loyalty still exists: of course it doesn't. Sundin has been offered $20 million to play two seasons in Vancouver. The Leafs also made an offer, probably nowhere near that figure (though they agreed to pay Jeff Finger $3.5 million/season, I remind you): will Sundin back his earlier talk of his desire to retire in Toronto? For his sake, I hope not.

Money - no real surprise - rules where a player plays. There are other reasons. Sometimes teams don't want a player to stick around. But if players are expected to move, why should fans stick to cheering for a single team their entire life? It's easy to call new fans to a club (especially after a championship season) a bandwagon jumper. I'm particularly disgusted when people begin to cheer for the last Canadian team in the playoffs for the sole reason that "their Canada's team." Who cares? There are many Canadians on other teams.

For my entire hockey-watching life I've cheered for the Leafs despite not having many reasons to; sure, they had good years but what have they done lately? Through all the horrible boardroom decisions, I've stuck by the Leafs and while players are not expected to show loyalty to a club, I can't imagine switching sides any time soon.

But that's hockey. Regarding football, er, soccer, I decided that my support for Chelsea was a bit misplaced having only come about because a favourite striker joined the club. The striker has faded, and the club and its boardroom antics pushed me away from them. I've chosen a different side to support, this time FC Barcelona. I guess it's easier to do this when you are thousands of kilometres away. Maybe if I left Southern Ontario I could consider caring about another hockey team.


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