When is it okay to have your most loyal customers arrested?

Whether you’re a hockey fan or not, you have to admit that the Toronto Maple Leafs brand is addictively interesting.  In fact, I can’t think of a single company whose financial success has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of its product.

Ranked by Forbes Magazine as the National Hockey League’s most valuable franchise, we should be able to point to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization as a bastion of best practices, innovation and vision.  Instead, we see an organization that has fired at least two V.P.s, two assistant coaches and a head coach in the last six months and is paying at least three players millions of dollars in severance as they play for other teams.  Yet, despite its consistent underperformance as a team, the Leafs manage to pack their arena for every single game and draw Canada’s largest NHL television audience.  Is it mass hypnosis?  Is it a cult?

The latest intriguing bit of brand-building from the Leafs organization is a crack-down on Leaf fans who throw their jerseys onto the ice at the Air Canada Centre.  Not only are the jersey throwers ejected from the game they’re watching, but they’re also banned from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment venues for a specified period and issued a police summons.  So, to sum up, a Toronto Maple Leafs customer spends probably between one and two hundred dollars for a ticket, between one hundred and one hundred and seventy dollars for a Maple Leafs jersey and in a fit of frustration because the team is playing indifferently, throws said jersey onto the ice.

I guess my question to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization is, ‘why would you want to punish a loyal customer who is willing to give you about three hundred dollars and is already cruelly disappointed by the quality of your product?  Hasn’t he suffered enough?  Why would you not take the fan quietly aside and tell him how much you appreciate his continued patronage and abjectly apologize for the performance and attitude of his beloved team?  Why would you not give him his jersey back with the, wink wink, promise that you’ll try to do better in the future and give him a $12 beer on the house?

Someday, the curse on the Leafs will lift and the team will win a Stanley Cup.  Either that, or the blue magic spell will wear off and Leafs customers will stop caring and spend their money somewhere else.  I know which scenario I’m betting on.

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