SBD/September 19, 2013/Franchises

Leiweke Wants Leafs Fans Who Sit Behind Team's Bench Back From Intermissions Sooner

Filling the bench-side seats is part of Leiweke's focus on game environment
MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke "already has an eye" on ensuring Maple Leafs fans at the Air Canada Centre this season "get back to their seats when the intermissions end," according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. The swaths of empty seats behind the home team’s bench that "appear on Hockey Night in Canada each week have become a running joke in the rest of the country." Leiweke "wants to see that particular tradition end, even if it means needling those paying $400 a night to become more invested in what’s taking place on the ice instead of their catered suites under the stands." He said, "One thing I’ll do is get back out there. Out of respect. That’s one thing we’re trying to tell everyone. I think it’s hard for these guys when they come out and the seats are all empty. From my standpoint, I’ll probably be more focused on the environment we’re creating for the team and maybe that’ll be a good thing." Meanwhile, he spoke on Monday to the arena's staff "just before" the Maple Leafs' preseason home opener. Leiweke said of the feeling of sitting in the ACC’s platinum seats behind the Leafs bench for the first time, "Strange. I was 19 years in LA and this is the first home game. I’m just learning my way around the arena and experiencing it. When you’re in hockey, no matter what team you’re with, you look at the Leafs and you look at that sweater and you understand the history and the tradition here. So it’s a little strange to be sitting here and realizing I’m a part of this team now. It makes me understand the pressure here" (, 9/17).

CHANGE OF MIND ON OLD PHOTOS? In Toronto, Dave Feschuk reported Leiweke made "an about face" on the decision to get rid of pictures of former players in the ACC's hallways. It "appears as though he’s beginning to grasp a few key realities about life in the centre of the hockey universe." Leiweke said he "wasn’t as diplomatic as he should have been." There are "many among the club’s alumni who appear willing to forgive and forge ahead while wholeheartedly backing the new CEO’s championship vision." Leiweke said that he has "reached out to ex-players who 'buy in' to his philosophy, and his efforts at bridge-building continue." When Leiweke "spoke to the throng at the team’s annual Leafs and Legends charity golf tournament a couple of weeks back, other luminaries of history said they appreciated his conciliatory tone." Former NHLer Bob Nevin said, "I think he’s sort of sorry he said what he said. I think he’s maybe realizing that people take their hockey seriously here" (TORONTO STAR, 9/18). Also in Toronto, Curtis Rush reported former NHLer Johnny Bower "talked to Leiweke to try to change his mind about taking down those old photos from 1962 that hang outside the Leaf dressing room." Bower said that a more in-depth meeting with Leiweke "will take place soon, perhaps next week" (TORONTO STAR, 9/18).

LIGHTS, CAMERAS, ACTION: The CP's Stephen Whyno reported HBO’s “24/7” crew yesterday made its first appearance at the Maple Leafs’ practice facility, “more than three months before the Winter Classic.” It was a “one-day cameo and a taste of what players and coaches will encounter once daily shooting gets underway in December for the league’s annual behind-the-scenes series.” Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said, “This is just a precursor to what’s coming. ... We’re not going to see them again, probably, till Dec. 1.” Carlyle "doesn’t think it’ll be a major change for his players, given the attention they already get in Toronto" (CP, 9/18).
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