Opinion Column

Burning jerseys is an idea that should burn itself

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

I’m just going to come right out and say it: burning a jersey because you’re angry at a player or a team is the dumbest idea ever.

There was plenty of it going on over the weekend, following former New York Islanders Captain John Tavares signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs for a cool average of $11-million annually for the next seven years.

(As a Leafs fan, I’m still giddy. And nothing all the butthurt Oilers fans in the area who’ve been slinging insults all over Twitter about how McDavid’s better and blah-blah-blah can say will change that.)

Hey, I get losing sucks – I’m well acquainted with that feeling. It isn’t easy being a Leafs fan. I get that it sucks to watch players leave, whether it’s due to injury, through trade, or free agency. The latter sometimes seems to sting the most – a player can walk without the team that had them getting any assets in return.

Alas, regardless of the cult-like following some teams have, hockey is still a business. Fans can play armchair GM and coach all they want, have their thoughts on how a team should look, what management should do during free agency, but at the end of the day, each team makes their decisions for a reason. Each team tries to make their team the best they can. Sometimes their decisions and plans work, sometimes they don’t. That’s just how sports go.

I won’t deny Islander fans their anger. I won’t begrudge them getting upset over their team’s failure to keep Tavares, or gain some assets for him through trade. Matt Sundin was did something similar to the Leafs in 2008 – refusing to waive his no-trade clause, and then signing with the Vancouver Canucks. Curtis Joseph walked years before in pursuit of a Stanley Cup. This year, the Leafs lost James Van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, both of which could fetched something for the team.

Still, you don’t see me burning jerseys or smashing McFarlane figurines on the golf course, and you never will.

While some people wish the wave would die, I wish the trend of burning jerseys would instead. The former is innocent, positive, and light-hearted. The latter is just pure, ridiculous idiocy.

What, pray tell, does burning a jersey even accomplish other than adding pollutants to the air and wasting lighter fuel? Do you think it’s going to result in Tavares crying himself to sleep at night, while clutching a tub of rocky road icecream? Is it some sort of weird witchcraft ritual where burning the jersey will curse him for life and he’ll suck for the Leafs, or decide to renege on his contract and take his talents back to the Isle? Do you think it’s going to hit ‘em where it hurts?

To those who obviously are setting the cheap, poorly made knock-offs ablaze – man, you’re really showing those Chinese manufacturers who have long since taken your piddly $60 to the bank.

For those bold enough to actually destroy an officially licensed NHL jersey – again, the NHL, the team already has your money. Would they like you to wear their team’s jersey to the rink? Absolutely. Are they banking on everyone who has ever bought an Isles jersey attending a game? No. Ideally, would they prefer you to wear the name of a player that left their team rather than someone on their team? No. This is the perfect opportunity to sell you a shiny new jersey with Leo Komarov’s name on the back.

Only in your mind are you sending the team a message. Most people won’t notice or care you’re down a jersey. It’s 30 seconds of amusement for the gleeful Leafs fan. You’re not accomplishing anything – you’re just showing how little you understand hockey as a business.

Tavares had every right to do what he did, just as Sundin did a decade ago. They do what they feel is right for them, just as any of us do with our own professions. Don’t like it? Don’t wear their jerseys. Don’t buy team merchandise. Don’t buy tickets or give them ratings on game night. If you don’t want to look at the jersey, donate it, but don’t burn it.

Besides, I don’t think Tavares cares too much if Isles fans wear his name on their back. Afterall, there’s going to be a lot more Leafs fans wearing his name on theirs from now on. 

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