Tim Leiweke, CEO of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, isn’t shy to admit it. The Toronto Maple Leafs want to host every major hockey event in 2017 – the year of their centennial.
The list of events on Leiweke and the Leafs’ list include the draft, All-Star Game, Winter Classic and World Cup (should one happen in 2016). Toronto’s centennial would be celebrated all season in the same fashion that Montreal’s centennial was endlessly celebrated during the 2009-2010 season.
As Leiweke recently explained to Sportsnet, “It’s not a splash. I just think Toronto – it’s our 100th anniversary, and this is the greatest hockey city on Earth. I think we owe it to our fans. And we’re telling the league that they owe it to our fans.”
“They [the league] don’t disagree, but we’re got to go through a process to win it. I think we’ll win it. I think we’ll get there. But we got to go bid on it,” he continued.
Toronto is leveraging the Montreal experience to its advantage and is obviously excited over the prospect, but the league – in particular, commissioner Gary Bettman – has expressed some caution.
“There’s not some magical formula that you pop in. Some of it has to do with timing and what makes the most sense,” he told Sportsnet in February when asked about the future of outdoor games in general. “It’s based on a whole host of factors: the market, where the team is in terms of its competitiveness, the venue, where we’ve been and where we haven’t been.”
Assuming the same criteria apply to Toronto’s centennial ambitions, it should be a relatively easy process. The only potential hiccup concerns the team’s competitiveness and here views are likely divided by whether you support the Leafs or jeer them.
Hopefully, such blind faith or jealousy doesn’t factor into the NHL’s decision. An honest look at the Leafs will recognize a good, if not great or exceptional, team – one that is competitive enough these days to push (successfully or unsuccessfully) for a playoff spot.
Does it make sense for Toronto to host all of hockey’s major events in 2017?
Yes, it’s arguably the centre of the hockey universe and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more passionate hockey market. The sole exception might be Montreal and they’ve already had their celebration.
Does Toronto deserve such attention?
Yes, as one of hockey’s most storied franchises, it’s hard to make the opposite argument.
This is about celebrating Toronto’s great past as a hockey city. If we can’t celebrate the present or look confidently to the future, let us have at least this – a token reminder of our former greatness.