But fans don't have to wait until the draft lottery on April 30 for a whiff of Leafs-related positivity. Since March 9, when fares on the Union Pearson Express airport train were cut by more than half, some good news has been right in front of them.
The train's dismal ridership stats have been widely and rightly attributed to one thing: Ludicrous fares. If there was any doubt about this, it should have evaporated when ridership more than doubled after fares were slashed. Back when adult return fares cost as much as $55 from Pearson airport to Union Station, and $36/$30 from the Weston and Bloor stops, it was actually more economical for visiting hockey fans and west-end locals to drive to the game and pay for parking. And parking around the Air Canada Centre isn't cheap!
Now, however, the UPX has suddenly become an appealing option for getting to games — and to downtown Toronto in general. It served me very well on two recent trips: To the Leafs game vs. my beloved Calgary Flames (which we will never speak of again); and to the March edition of "Friday Night Jazz" at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada (pictured below. After three visits, I have yet to tire of the aquarium, although I could have done without the 10:30pm last-call at the monthly adults-only soiree. Combine archaic Ontario liquor laws with bizarre insurance issues — cocktails and open-topped shark tanks do not mix, I suppose — and that's what you get.)
Of course, my 12-minute UPX journeys only made sense because they began within easy walking/biking distance of the Bloor stop just east of Dundas Street West. For most Torontonians, getting to the Bloor or Weston stations without a vehicle requires a ride on public transit, but once they're on the TTC it only makes sense to continue all the way to Union. This may change if and when a pedestrian tunnel connects Dundas West subway station and the Bloor UPX stop, and when a single fare covers the entire trip, but I wouldn't hold your breath on either of those fronts.
Still, hundreds of thousands of west-enders do live near the UPX line, and every single one of them resides in the Centre of the Hockey Universe, so I kind of expected Monday's $5.30 trip to the ACC to include at least a few blue-and-white-clad fans. I was really looking forward to bringing my six-year-old daughter (pictured above) to her first NHL game, and was almost looking forward to hearing "Flames suck!" in the shiny, cushy confines of the UPX. But this annual taunting would have to wait until we took our seats in the rafters of the ACC after a short walk from the train platform.
Leafs Nation, it turns out, has yet to discover the merits of the UPX. But it should get on board ASAP: Not only does it provide a quick, inexpensive and comfortable way to get to games, but more fans on the trains would mean less traffic congestion around the ACC.
Because let's face it: Leafs Nation needs all the wins it can get.