MLSE Chair Apologizes To Maple Leafs Fans For Team's "Unacceptable" Play This Season
A full-page letter addressed to Maple Leafs fans from Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Chair Larry Tanenbaum appears in Toronto newspapers today, and as "end-of-season statements go, this one was hard to miss," according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. The letter read in part, "We have fallen short of everyone’s expectations, and for that we are sorry. We take full responsibility for how this team performs on the ice, and we make no excuses. The way this year ended was unacceptable." Mirtle writes the letter is a "rare public comment for the team’s minority co-owner, whose stake in the organization is set to increase slightly when the Rogers and Bell consortium takes over later this year." Tanenbaum was "again a regular at Leafs games this season -- sitting in his season’s tickets behind the home team’s bench and shaking hands with players in the dressing room after wins -- and he couldn’t have enjoyed what he saw during the past two months." Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke will meet with the media today, and he was "given a mild vote of confidence in Tanenbaum’s letter, which stated that 'ownership believes in the plan for the Maple Leafs.'" SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said of the letter, "By making this public, they’re trying to express to the fans that ownership is feeling the same way the fans are ... and ownership and the fans are in the same boat. They’re both paying top dollar, they both expect better results and they’re both furiously disappointed" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/10). In Toronto, Kevin McGran writes the likes of this "unequivocal apology ... have not been seen by the powers that be in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment." There is "no doubt the franchise has been humbled." A tailspin that began in early February "dropped them from playoff contention, cost coach Ron Wilson his job and turned the city into the butt of jokes in other NHL markets." The Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since '67, the "longest drought in hockey," and they have not "reached the playoffs in seven seasons, also the longest current drought" (TORONTO STAR, 4/10).
HOLDING PATTERN: The NATIONAL POST's Sean Fitz-Gerald notes the Maple Leafs, along with the Raptors, Toronto FC and the "long list of MLSE’s holdings, are in a holding pattern while the sale of their parent company approaches a closing date this summer." Tanenbaum increased his ownership stake to 25% from 20.47%, and "also maintained his title" as MLSE Chair. It is "not clear whether the open letter to fans is a signal that he is preparing to become a more public face for ownership" (NATIONAL POST, 4/10).