Thursday was the American Thanksgiving. Our team spent the afternoon at Texas Stadium, watching the Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Jets.
It was a great time. Many of our players had never seen an NFL game before, let alone one at Texas Stadium.
But it was also a great point of comparison. The building was sold out and there is talk the new Cowboys stadium will cost over $1 billion.
Everywhere there were signs of the tradition and excellence the franchise has enjoyed.
It was a great chance for our group to see that type of fan excitement from within.
The excitement, the passion, the anticipation, the spotlight and even the media coverage is very similar to what our players experience in Toronto.
Playing in Toronto isn’t like playing anywhere else in the NHL. We think it’s the best place in the league; you’re on the big stage every night, playing in front of a sold-out crowd.
We work very hard on making sure that the player’s entire family experiences everything the city can offer, from first class medical coverage to access to the best fit in schools.
All that said, we know that playing in Toronto isn’t for everyone. The level of fan interest and the expectation of performance are intense.
We are very open in our discussions with players and agents. You need to be excited about the possibility of playing here.
When we signed Jason Blake as a free agent this summer, we talked a lot about our commitment to the players and their families and how we support them away from the rink. Jason was attracted by the challenge of playing here and by how we as an organization welcomed and helped families.
Those things, as well as the excitement in the market are what make Toronto unique in the NHL. It was fun, for a day, to compare the life of a Cowboy with that of a Maple Leaf.