The Toronto Maple Leafs are without a doubt one of the most influential teams in the sport of hockey. Not only is the media coverage of the team greater than that of any other team in hockey-rabid Canada, but they also play in Canada's biggest city all the while boasting one of the most loyal fanbases in all of sports.
That means that for good or for ill the reach of the fan base and of the organization is long indeed and it seems like it may be so long in fact that it can continue to impact players even after they have left the organization. This week former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner revealed that the influence of that fan base may have played a role in him leaving millions of dollars on the table this past summer when he was an unrestricted free agent. Now to be clear it was not the only factor, but Gardiner did admit that the potential of joining one of the organization's biggest rivals was something that he did not envision himself doing.
So how much did Gardiner leave on the table exactly? Well according to a report from The Athletic it sounds like we are talking about a deal that would have paid him over $5 million per season, that is almost $1 million more per season than he is currently earning.
"(The Montreal decision) was definitely tough," said Gardiner as per The Athletic. "That was basically kind of crunch time. They wanted to know if I was going to sign there or not. Ultimately I, honestly, especially playing for Toronto, all of those years, basically going to their enemy or rival or whatever you want to call it, was one part of the decision."
It was not just the fact that he would be playing for a team that he had learned to hate over his years as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs that made him stay away from the offer the Canadiens put forward. Gardiner revealed that the difficulties of playing in Canadian city, things he learned during his time as a Maple Leaf, also pushed him away from signing with another Canadian team.
"And also the Canadian market I think, I’m a little bit older now, I’ve got a kid, and it’s just kind of nice to be in a place where, in a sense, it’s a little bit more relaxed. You can breathe a little bit more."