No. 122: Toronto Maple Leafs

Ultimate Standings 2012

Updated: September 7, 2012, 12:04 PM ET
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 120
Title track: 121
Ownership: 120
Coaching: 112
Players: 121
Fan relations: 119
Affordability: 122
Stadium experience: 104
Bang for the buck: 122

Is it possible to be No. 122 with a bullet? After finishing 120th or 121st in the standings every year from 2008 to 2011, Toronto hiked prices 7.2 percent, cratered to 13th place in the NHL's Eastern Conference (GM Brian Burke said last season was "akin to an 18-wheeler going right off a cliff") and finally bottomed out in our rankings. The Leafs are like the Yankees -- an internationally famous franchise with a glorious history, devoted followers and staggeringly high prices -- except they play like the Royals. Even worse, they regularly blow off fans: In our surveys, the Leafs finished dead last among all teams in the categories of player accessibility, staging promotions and giveaways, and engaging fans through social media -- a hideous trifecta. And even though the team apologized for its performance in full-page newspaper ads in April, and Bell Canada and Rogers Communications, two of Canada's biggest media companies, just closed a deal to buy the club, there's little reason to expect change. The Leafs are by far the most valuable franchise in hockey and last year generated an enormous $81.8 million in profits. Now that's Loonie.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.