For better or worst, Jake Gardiner is one of the Toronto Maple Leafs top defensemen any which way you might look to cut it. Yes, Mr. Gardiner has an issue with coughing up the puck, just look back to Monday night or last year’s game seven against the rivalled Boston Bruins. That being said, Gardiner is a consistent offensive threat that Mike Babcock and co. can count on to generate offence from the point and carry the puck into the offensive zone effectively. Turnovers are a part of the game, and in a general sense, so are frustrated fans. That leads us to the topic of this article: should Leafs fans boo Gardiner? Let’s examine!
Examining The “Booing” of Maple Leafs Jake Gardiner
If we know anything about Toronto, we know that there is a constant media circus surrounding its professional teams, more so the Maple Leafs, Raptors, and Blue Jays. Recently, the media has made a big deal out of the loyal Maple Leafs fans booing Mr. Gardiner like a drunk fan at a Counting Crows concert after Gardiner’s costly turnover against the Avalanche. Mind you, Mitch Marner coughing the puck at the blueline didn’t help out either.
Gardiner was visibly emotional after the game. I argue that’s because he was happy that his teammates stuck up for him after being booed. Although, the fans turning on him never helps. It’s like a shot to the heart, making Mr. Gardiner think, “Toronto fans, you give love a bad name.”
Should the fans boo?
Now, this is a notable question and here is my answer: they can do anything they want. Why do I say that? They paid for their ticket and if they’re mad because a player is underperforming, they should be able to voice their displeasure. Yeah, it does seem a bit petty and who knows, maybe it is? I, along with some others, find this to be a good thing. It shows that the fans of Toronto care about their on-ice product Everyone likes to complain about the crowd being lifeless and full of “suits”, but when it shows some signs of humanity, people like to get on Twitter and call ’em disgraceful, obnoxious, and ungrateful. Take a walk to Philly and see what the crowds are like there, you’ll come to appreciate the Toronto spectators much more.
And here’s another way to look at it: if you’re not doing your job right, your bosses are probably going to let you know. That’s just a part of life, a rite of passage you can say. How do you get better if nobody points out your faults? We all need that little nudge from time-to-time. It holds you accountable. In this particular example, booing players like Gardiner is a fan’s way of holding the players, that they are paying the absolute top dollar to see play, accountable for their inconsistencies on the ice. Is it harsh at times? Yes, of course. Might it run the targetted players out of Toronto? Maybe.
The last time I checked though, you could compare the New York Yankees and the Maple Leafs. They’re both on the same level when it to prestige. Has the “Bronx Cheer” ran players out of town? Sometimes, but it usually doesn’t because the players are paid handsomely. Not to mention, playing for either of these teams is considered to be an honour.
Another thing to consider
I rather see fans boo Gardiner in the arena and not harassing him on social media. You think that doesn’t happen, but sadly enough, it does and sometimes it gets way too personal. Booing him at a game is a way better method for a fan to show their displeasure with him. Not forgetting to mention, its actually pretty civil compared to editorials in the sports section, half-hour time slots on the radio, various Reddit threads all complaining about Gardiner’s play. You would think that would get to the thickest skinned people and break you down piece by piece until you decide to catch the next train out of town.
Will Gardiner become the next Larry Murphy?
Another question has been raised from this event: will Gardiner become the next Larry Murphy? No, he won’t. No way, Jose. We live in different times and once people calm down and realize that Gardiner is way more valuable then what they give him credit for, the hate will stop. Yeah, fans will have a hard time forgetting the costly game seven blunders. As well as the constant turnovers. But once he sets up a game-winning goal, this will just be yesterday’s news. No harm, no foul.
Fans in Toronto want to win and sometimes that competitive spirit makes them over-the-top when it comes to criticizing the team’s players. Sometimes a player like Jake Gardiner becomes the scapegoat for a much deeper-rooted problem that a team like the Leafs may have. The Athletic’s James Mirtle wrote a postgame article that said it was not Jake Gardiner’s fault that the Leafs lost on Monday. Yeah, Gardiner didn’t help and he contributed to the loss, but when teams lose, they lose as a team. In general, the Leafs defence all together has been a big issue. It’s not all on Gardiner’s shoulders.
For the boos, as the infamous Rocky Balboa once said, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place… You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.” That’s the way it has been since the start of time. It will remain the same now, then, and forever. Mr. Gardiner learned that the other night, but I bet you any money he’ll take his blows as they come and keep moving forward. If the Leafs want to do anything big this season, they’re going to need a defenseman like him no matter what you think about his play. That’s how winning is done.