The Toronto Maple Leafs played a very rare matinee game at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday versus the Carolina Hurricanes. The 8-1 victory had the city in a buzz, but it wasn't just the score that had people excited.
It's so rare that this team plays a game in the afternoon - especially on a weekday. It was in celebration of 100 years of pro hockey in Toronto.
The intended effect was to allow for fans of all ages to enjoy the event - kids and adults alike. The night games aren't kid-friendly, as most will be in bed before the end of the game.
Sportsnet's Luke Fox shared an anecdote about his own kid, who would normally not even get through the first period.
"When I came home from the ultra-rare matinee Tuesday, my seven-year-old boy asked me what I wrote about: “Mitch Marner? The goal Nylander scored? The jerseys?”
He’s never asked anything like that before. I’ve never heard him say the words “Marner” or “Nylander” before. He’s never taken so much interest in a hockey game he’s not playing.
Turns out, all the kids in his class were encouraged to wear Maple Leafs gear instead of their school uniforms that day, and he devoured the third period when he walked in the door. The home team scoring eight goals probably didn’t hurt.
The engagement of children for a 2 p.m. puck drop in Toronto spread well beyond the influx of kids at the rink. Maybe TV ratings take a small hit, but a couple of family-friendly start times over 41 home dates is a wise investment in future fandom."
Tyler Bozak and Mitch Marner echoed the sentiment, with the former saying that he wished there would be more afternoon games next season.
“Personally, the day game was awesome. I wish we had more of those,” Bozak said. “Now having a kid of my own, I know how important it is to be role models and stuff like that. To be able to put a smile on their faces and have them all cheering for us, it was a pretty cool atmosphere and a fun game to be a part of.
“It’s just nice – you wake up, you eat and you just go to the rink and play,” he explained. “I think it would be like if you were fully prepared for something and had to wait a whole day to do it, it’s nice to just wake up and have at it. For me, personally, I thought it was awesome. I wish we had some more day games.”
It's probably not the most feasible thing to do during the week, as people work and the game crowd has to contend with rush hour traffic following the match, but on the weekend - why not throw in a few. The Boston Bruins have found success with matinees for years - they're one of the few teams that do them on a relatively regular basis.
Fox's comment about investing in "future fandom" is important - if the kids are not watching hockey now, will they be fans as they grow up? Certainly several will be, but a lot of potential fans may be lost on the way simply because the games weren't accessible to them growing up.
What do you think?