It takes about ten days to get final broadcast TV numbers. We won’t know until Tuesday, May 29, therefore, how many viewers watched the Toronto Maple Leafs get eliminated Saturday night by the Tampa Bay Lightning in their seven-game opening round series.

What we can predict, however, is that the audience was somewhere between three and four million — and that no game after that over the next three rounds of these playoffs came anywhere close to that number.

Rogers Media announced their $5.2 billion, 12-year NHL rights deal back in 2013. They took over as exclusive National Hockey League rights holders in 2014. At that point, the Toronto Maple Leafs — key to the deal as the biggest draw on television in Canada among NHL clubs — had gone 47 years without winning or even contending for a Stanley Cup. The drought had to end sometime soon, right?

Wrong, Tim Horton’s breath. Eight Stanley Cup tournaments later — for the past 18 years in fact — the Leafs have failed to advance out of a single round of any playoff series. And “1967” is still the ugliest chant in sports.

Those eagerly anticipated four- or five- or maybe even six-million viewer nights never happened. There are still two Canadian teams in the tournament: the Edmonton Oilers, who won their Game Seven Saturday night over the LA Kings to advance; and the Calgary Flames, who play their seventh and deciding game Sunday against the Dallas Stars.

There are plenty of other talented teams left in the tourney. But for many Leafs fans, hockey ended Monday night in Toronto.


Meanwhile, that rights deal marches on, and the way it was drafted it costs Rogers more each advancing season.

Imagine, as well, you are a writer now at The Athletic. Your biggest click magnet just went over a cliff. This isn’t a happy time, either, at traditional media outlets with a strong sports bent such as The Toronto Sun. Sports radio? Yeesh.

In short, for too long, the Leafs have been the golden goose that keeps laying eggs. This latest loss doesn’t cut as deep, in my opinion, as last spring’s collapse against the Montreal Canadiens. Toronto and Tampa played an excellent series and Toronto went down fighting against an experienced squad who knew how to win after two straight Stanley Cup victories.

Still, the Leafs could have won Game 4 or Game 6. They waited for the NHL’s best goalie, Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, to stop being ordinary and be the world’s best again, a fatal mistake. Any shots he didn’t block his teammates did, shutting down Toronto’s much vaunted attack.

Tampa Bay could have been beat but the Leafs, once again, skated past the golden opportunities that came earlier in the series.

Netflix was barely out of those big red machines outside video stores when that Rogers-NHL deal was struck in 2013. NHL hockey now must compete with Prime Video, Disney+, AppleTV+, Paramount+, Crave and other streaming services for viewers.

Rogers and the Leafs are down to another “next year.” In the meantime, go Blue Jays.

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