Every year, ESPN rolls out their Ultimate Fan Rankings, which causes a lot of debate among fans across the country. This year, the worst team ranked was the Toronto Maple Leafs, and general manager Brian Burke wasn't too pleased with that.
“I don’t think ESPN knows a single thing about hockey. I think their hockey coverage stinks. I don’t think they know anything about Canada. I don’t think they know anything about hockey.”
Here's the problem with Burke's negative ranting towards ESPN: the rankings were crafted based on fan feedback towards the team with a multitude of surveys and polls. This wasn't just some sort of arbitrary ranking system that ESPN writers pulled out of thin air; this is what the fans think of the franchise! How else would the Boston Red Sox rank behind the Columbus Blue Jackets?
The Maple Leafs ranked in the bottom 20 for every category ESPN used, with their best ranking of 104 coming in the "stadium experience" category. The Leafs ranked last in both "bang for the buck" and "affordability" while ranking second to last in "players" and fourth to last in "fan relations." Those four categories combined for 78.2% of the rankings, with the bulk of Toronto's horrendous score coming from their poor ratings there.
Essentially, the crux of ESPN's argument is this: the Leafs stink, their prices are exorbitant, and the team has their head up their ass when it comes to taking care of the fans. It's also not like this low ranking is anything new. Toronto finished either second or third from the bottom in the rankings every year since 2008 before this year's last place finish. Perhaps ESPN knows just as much about hockey as Brian Burke does about running a successful NHL franchise.
[h/t: National Post]