220px-Toronto_Maple_Leafs_Logo_1939_-_1967.svgI don’t really follow hockey. I never played it, never much understood it, don’t really care about it. I do have a Toronto Maple Leafs emblem on my license plate but that’s just because I could order that plate from the kiosk where a normal plate would require a trip to the Ministry of Transportation office.

But, being Canadian and living in Southern Ontario, just about everyone I know is somehow invested in the Toronto Maple Leafs, and I can’t escape the constant complaining and whining about how poorly they do, year after year, season after season, with seemingly no hope of ever winning the Stanley Cup.

The “hardcore” fans (rain or shine, win or lose) complain the most loudly.

They, however, are the biggest part of the problem.

You see, the Maple Leafs basically print money for themselves. With such a rabid fan-base, games are sold out long before they actually get played, merchandise flies off the shelf, and there is never a fear that they’ll lose a broadcasting deal. No matter how badly the players play, no matter how often they lose, no matter what idiotic decisions management makes regarding signings, contracts, salaries, or mascot changes, those rabid fans keep buying tickets and tuning in on TV.

Imagine that a car company enjoyed this kind of loyalty.

They could make crappy, unreliable cars that cost way too much and were terrible on gas. They could skimp on paint, upgrade the engines once every two decades, and completely ignore the needs of their customers. While competing brands would intelligently improve their product to draw people in, this company could ignore every complaint because people keep buying their damn cars! Why would they waste money on improving a product that everyone seems content to buy?

If you are a Leafs fan and you really, really want the franchise to improve, you have a choice to make. You can keep lying to yourself that being a steadfast fan will somehow inspire a bottom-line-driven management and an ever shifting group of freelance athletes with no loyalty to you, your city, or your precious team to some kind of magic season of greatness, or you can do something that actually inspires some kind of change.

Quit watching.

Quit buying.

Quit showing up to games.

No amount of complaining will break the inertia of a profitable franchise. Ceasing to make them profitable, however, just might move them to change.