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Waffle throwing at Leafs game leads to mischief charge

The Canadian Press

12/22/2010 5:34:50 PM

TORONTO -- A 31-year-old man charged with mischief after throwing waffles on the ice at a Toronto Maple Leafs game says he did it out of frustration at the underperforming team.

"I'm just a normal Leafs fan and love them to death," Joseph Robb of Oakville, Ont., said Wednesday in an interview.

"I don't know, maybe this is what needed to be done just to keep the attention on them. Because how many years are they going to go (without success)? I'm only 31 and I've been through a lot."

His love affair will be from a distance, however, after being barred from the Air Canada Centre, as well as other Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment events at BMO Field and Ricoh Coliseum.

Further punishment could follow from a January court appearance.

Robb's waffle-toss in a 6-3 loss to Atlanta on Monday night was the second such incident at the ACC this month.

Officials could not spot the first culprit. The second was easier to notice, since he was wearing a Santa hat and Darcy Tucker Leafs jersey as he walked down the stairs towards the playing area before heaving the waffles over the glass.

Toronto, which currently stands 28th in the 30-team league with a 12-17-4 record, was trailing 5-1 at the time.

The Leafs said they consulted with police and "supported entirely" the decision to lay the mischief charge.

"It's just an inappropriate action that we're trying to ensure that doesn't repeat itself," said Bob Hunter, MLSE executive vice-president for venues and entertainment.

"If the fans want to boo and the fans want to say things then they have every right and opportunity to do that. But to throw things in a crowd of 19,000, we do not consider as being appropriate behaviour."

Robb was issued a trespass notice from MLSE that will stand "until such time that we remove that."

"This was just another classic case of someone deciding 'I'm going to make a statement,"' added Hunter. "Well, unfortunately that's the wrong way to make your statement."

Robb did not think he would face such sanctions because he didn't hear about any repercussions to the first waffle-throwing incident some days ago.

Robb acknowledged he had thought about his actions, in that fans don't usually arrive at games with a box of waffles.

"No you don't. Obviously. (I) thought long and hard since the guy threw the waffles. And I said 'Hey, you know what I've got the balls to do it."'

Leafs winger Clarke MacArthur had a different interpretation.

"It's not funny. The guy's an idiot, whoever's doing it," he told reporters Tuesday.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson called it "dumb."

Robb already is working on his defence.

"I see octopuses being thrown on in Detroit games and hats being thrown on. I mean, is a hat better than a waffle? Just because you're praising someone (with a hat for a hat trick), you can't throw something on when they're crap?"

The waffle story has been drawing plenty of attention locally, in part because of the mysterious choice of the frozen breakfast treat.

"Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the two incidents this season involving the tossing of frozen waffles onto the ice is that it's taken Leafs fans so long to figure out a measurable way of expressing distaste for a team that hasn't won jack since 1967," wrote Globe and Mail columnist Jeff Blair.

"How about tossing some good hockey players on the ice?" offered someone named identifying himself as SabreDude on www.tsn.ca.

Asked if he regrets his actions, Robb paused before saying no.

"This needs to be said," he said.

He did apologize for throwing the box of waffles while play was going on.

He said it was "one time to make a message."

Robb seemed unfazed by being banned from the arena.

"Bar me. I don't get to games anyway," he said. "They've overpriced tickets, they give them to fans who wear suits and don't even want to watch them play. If that's what type of fans they want in their building, then have them. I'll still watch them on TV."

But later he said he would apologize.

"Because I'd love to go back to the ACC. It's a great venue to watch hockey. But as of now, just good luck the rest of the season."

Robb also tore into MLSE for charging fans to watch the team on its Leafs TV station.

"This team is a joke and I'm glad it's getting all the publicity it can," he said of the stunt.

"I'm not here to gain from it. I've had many opportunities -- CBC's 'The National' wants to do interviews with me on TV. And I don't think it's right, because that's not my purpose. My purpose was just to say I'm a frustrated Leaf fan and this is not acceptable no more and that's it."

Robb was handling the calls at his parents' house, because his father has the same name and the phone had been ringing "non-stop," he said.

A local report pegged the first waffle-thrower as a 27-year-old construction worker identified only as Jack M -- the same name as a tweeter sending messages as @EGGO--BOMBER.

Hunter said MLSE bars a dozen to two dozen fans a year due to inappropriate behaviour.

"It's got to be a serious nature," he said.

Hunter notes that between the ACC, BMO Field and Ricoh Coliseum, almost three million fans a year attend MLSE events.