Leafs fans lament lockout
There was a crowd outside the ACC on Saturday night but fans weren't there to watch the Maple Leafs.
Instead of cheering their team on against the arch-rival Montreal Canadiens in Toronto's season opener, fans gathered to commiserate and show their frustration over the NHL lockout.
About 30 people met up at York St. & Bremner Blvd. around 4pm, many of them wearing blue-and-white Leafs gear turned inside-out.
The gathering was small but what they lacked in size, they made up for in passion; chanting and shouting as passing drivers blasted their horns in solidarity.
One fan says their turned-out jerseys are a symbolic gesture to show that they support their team but not the NHL.
"The players and owners are not hearing what they other party has to say and that's a problem," says Patricia, who drove downtown from Mississauga.
"Its very frustrating because we want to support our team and we're not being given the opportunity to," she says.
Demonstration organizer Matteo Codispoti says the rally is a way for fans to send the NHL and the players' union a message.
"There's a real economic impact when you take something the size of the Toronto Maple Leafs out of Toronto," he says, pointing out that bars, restaurants and hotels in the downtown core will sorely miss the spin-off business brought on by a Leafs home game.
Codispoti says the rally isn't meant to demonize anyone, but to call attention to the suffering the lockout is causing in the city.
"I think the Leafs are as much a part of a Toronto as the CN Tower and how they treat our game is important to us."
Scott Wheeler held a picket sign calling for an end to the lockout, his Dion Phaneuf jersey turned inside out.
"We're just trying to make whatever difference we can and trying to bring awareness and a voice to the fans because during the last lockout, fans did not have a voice," says Wheeler.
"We want to start this (demonstration) in other cities, too so that it's not just happening in Toronto," he says.
Wheeler adds that the impact of the lockout goes far beyond Maple Leafs fans.
He's concerned about the thousands of workers and business owners whose jobs depend on money changing hands at restaurants and pubs on a Leafs game night.
Wheeler and his fellow demonstrators are still holding out a glimmer of hope as news came that the NHL and the Players' Association could be back at the bargaining table on Tuesday.
Both sides met up last week, but didn't talk about the core money issues that are keeping both sides apart.
The NHL has cancelled all games through October 24th.
Meanwhile, Codispoti says with the Leafs locked out, he is missing out on quality time with his 5-year old son.
Both of them make a ritual of cheering on the blue-and-white from their living room on game nights.
(with files from Siobhan Morris and The Canadian Press)