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Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Toronto Maple Leafs up for sale?

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The Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL are one of Canada’s most historic and beloved sports franchises, but they have won a Stanley Cup championship since way back in the 1966-67 season, long before many of its younger fans were born. They’ve had several owners since then, such as Harold Ballard, Steve Stavro, and the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan, which currently owns the majority of the franchise with about 66 per cent of the shares. However, they’ve all had one thing in common, which is a losing team and a huge fan base.

Many people believe that owning the club is basically a license to print money as it has the highest average ticket prices in the NHL and is valued as the league’s richest franchise. But that could all change if the rumours turn out to be true. Over the last couple of days several news agencies have reported that Rogers Communications, which is one of Canada’s largest companies, are involved in talks to buy the Maple Leafs as well as the Toronto Raptors basketball team of the NBA and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer. In addition, the sale would include the 20,000 seat Air Canada Centre, a minor-league hockey club and the Raptors and Maple Leafs television stations.

Reports indicate that Rogers would like offer $1.3 billion (Canadian) to acquire a 66 per cent majority of the shares in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Rogers Communications is the country’s biggest wireless carrier and already owns the Toronto Blue Jays Major League Baseball team as well as their home field; the Roger Centre (formerly named the Skydome).

Rogers is already one of the nation’s leaders when it comes to sports broadcasting and sponsoring and sees the addition of more franchises as a perfect fit. However, so far Rogers and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan have declined to make any comment on the rumours and reports. A spokesperson for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment did speak though and said she had no knowledge at all of any discussions.

If the sale did go through, Rogers Communications suddenly would be one of the biggest sports enterprises in the world as it would own just about every major sports franchise in Toronto, which is the largest city in Canada. The company could then broadcast content via its numerous platforms.

Leafs fans may look forward to any type of ownership change as they’ve been stuck on 11 Stanley Cups for 43 years now and many fans believe the current owners aren’t interested in sports, but just making money at the fans’ expense. Toronto businessman Larry Tanenbaum, who owns Kilmer Sports, owns approximately 20.5 per cent of the club and TD Capital owns the other 13.5 per cent of it.

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