Talk Is Cheap

So the proverbial shit hit the fan this week when the Star broke a story that at least until the debacle last night took all the attention off the current state of the Toronto Maple Leafs on ice product.  Rumour was according to the Star that the fine folks at Rogers Communications had made an offer of $1.3b for the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund ownership steak in Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment.

Tongues were a wagging and the fine folks on Bay Street started to talk to the sports media and vise versa and well a story was born.  I love when certain puck heads start talking business.

Well, remember when word broke that Richard Peddie could be on his way out and the inital response was “He’s denying it”?  What else happened this week?  It was announced that Peddie will be be gone by next Christmas.  Let’s be clear on one thing.  If a suitable replacement is found sooner, the transition will be sped up.  Organizations don’t just wait until the last minute.  As one MSM management type said to me this week, no one really has a _ of year deal, it just means that person knows how long he is being paid for.  In other words, Peddie may be getting a check until next Decemeber, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t be driving the boat beforehand.

Similarly,   when the Ontario Teachers Pension fund said today that no one has made an offer for it’s stake in MLSE well, that may very well be true.  I guess it depends on on what you mean by an offer.  As we all learned from William Jefferson Clinton, there are various ways to interpret words when they are strung together to form sentences.  I am not saying that talks are on going, or ever happened, rather, all I am telling you is don’t necessarily believe what you read or hear.  There is no obligation to be entirely truthful.

There were a couple of interesting things about the story that broke.  First, it was incredibly interesting who broke it, or rather who didn’t.  No knock at all on the Star guys at all.  Robert Cribb is a damn good columnist.  However when it comes to stories like this I am thinking along the lines of Theresa Tedesco and even Bob Mccown.  Even though Mccown works for Rogers, it is the type of story he would be all over (if it were indeed true).

To me, the funniest part is the coverage that the local media gave the story.  No, not the volume, rather the type of attention.  My favorite were the stories asking the Leaf players what they thought.  I mean, come on, do you really care what any player on any MLSE team thinks about the rumored sale?  I mean asking Armstrong what he thinks because his former team had serious economic problems in the past, that’s news???

Bill Watters was perhaps the best on the topic.  Poor Darren Dreger who had to suffer through Wilbur’s drawl of hatred towards MLSE and Larry Tanenbaum.  I loved when Watters said, repeatedly, I don’t care what you (Dreger)say, or any other reporter in this town, Tanenbaum doesn’t have a right of first refusal.  Then Wilbur went on to say that he knows of at least 5 “bids” for the Teachers stake and finally that Tanenbaum is “scrambling” to raise the money by meeting with banks and that guys like “Larry and Jim (Balsillie) will never own the team”.  I mean if Bill Watters says it it must be true right?

Then there were the endless what would a sale mean to Leafs fans stories.  Would it change the teams fortunes they all asked. I mean come on, say whatever the hell you want about the folks at MLSE, I don’t think anyone can accuse of them of not spending on the team.  I mean what inane comments.

So, what’s my take tons of emails asked.  Here is my thought.  Unfortunately it’s nothing new or that you haven’t read elsewhere.  Stories like this don’t just come out of thin air.  Does it mean a deal is imminent?  No.  I think and I have no way of knowing, that eventually teachers would like to unload their investment.  Despite the fact that this one investment pays dividends most investments are made with an eye to a huge return upon the sale.  As for Rogers, of course they want to buy. If they can own MLSE rights on mobile devices and whatever technology comes down the pipe well there is no real value on that.  Having nothing but Rogers ads around the Toronto arean/stadium has huge upside to them too.  My sense of how this ends is that there are far too many pieces for the average journalist to comprehend.

I will say this.  I don’t think for one second that any dialogue about buying Teachers shares goes on without an eye on the NFL.  I don’t care what anyone says, or who denys what, I am convinced a team is coming here and sooner rather than later.  I am convinced it won’t be the bills either.  If Toronto is the Vatican of hockey, the NFL is the pearly gates of sports ownership.  When franchise value in the area of 1b is mentioned the NFL can’t be far behind.  Prepare yourselves.  It’s coming.

Lastly, for those who like to look west down the 401 to the city of Detroit and Mike Illitch as this favourable owner as opposed to the corporate face of our teams, let me just say this; the grass is always greener.  I lived in Michigan for a long time and in many of those years Illitch wasn’t beloved.  He was loathed.  When he took over the Tigers he was hated.  It’s like everything else; it’s easy being a hero when you win.  Don’t get be wrong, the red wings are the prototype in which others want to emulate in the NHL.  In terms of being the darling multi sport owner he hasn’t always had the squeaky clean facade.

Lots more on this later.



About the Author
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
December 4, 2010 9:01 am

My sense of how this ends is that there are far too many pieces for the average journalist to comprehend.

typical smarmy blogger comment about the MSM. go back to your bathrobe and your basement, TSM, if that is your real name.

while bloggers hide behind their keyboards, real journalists engage in serious research, like stating the obvious while citing unnamed sources to back it up.

December 4, 2010 2:03 pm

I don’t agree that the NFL is coming to Toronto – ever. The Rogers/Bills arrangement has been a fiasco, there’s no stadium (nor will there ever be the will to build one) and the market adds nothing to advertising revenues. The NFL isn’t expanding – it’s oversize as it is at 32 teams. The Chargers are maybe going to LA, and other than possibly the Bills, there’s no other franchise moves imminent.

December 4, 2010 2:43 pm

You may be right, Stumack, but..

besides Buffalo and San Diego – Jacksonville, St Louis, and Minnesota have all been rumored to be at risk of relocation. Jacksonville in particular seems destined to move because it is a market problem as opposed to a stadium one.

Also – Phil Lind said recently on PTS that he believes the Rogers Centre could be modified to accommodate an NFL team by lowering the playing level. Although if that occurred, you’d have to build a new MLB stadium (but you presume that a 40k retro MLB stadium could be built much more cheaply than a 75K NFL stadium that would only be used 10 times a year).

I often wonder what’s more likely – an NFL team or a 2nd NHL team. I think Toronto is commonly underestimated in terms of its size and wealth and could easily support another franchise. (Leafs and Raps get great support, and the Jays bad attendance is due to not making the playoffs in 17 years and poor stadium atmosphere, not a market issue IMO. If they were a team that took a playoff run, attendance would be good to great.) Having said that, I’m not sure Toronto could manage both an NFL and 2nd NHL team. Maybe if the NHL team was in Hamilton..

Either way – I’d love to see a 2nd NHL and/or an NFL team here. I hope it happens. This is an elite market. We deserve more sports options.

December 4, 2010 2:57 pm

There seems to be a lot of one-ups-manship with the Rogers/MLSE story. The Star keeps printing articles that are trying to validate it’s original piece. Meanwhile the Globe keeps publishing stories that seem intent on showing that the Star jumped the gun.

I’m not sure how I feel about Rogers owning all 3 big franchises. On one hand, the monopoly aspect is a little unsettling.

But, I suppose it could be extremely financially lucrative. And you’d think Rogers would want good performances from the teams so more people are watching/listening on Sportsnet/The Fan. So, it may lead to more competitive teams.

Truthfully, I think it would be more beneficial to the Raptors and Jays than the Leafs. The Leafs are already a powerhouse – and there is an NHL cap. The Jays and Raptors though, could benefit from a lift up (no cap in baseball, and a soft cap in the NBA).

Roy Green
December 5, 2010 4:42 pm

It sounds like small potatoes, but is it too much to ask that bloggers learn to spell? It’s not ‘STEAK’ which is something to eat, but STAKE. When I see this stuff more and more, I tend to agree with Dowbiggin when he knocks the blogosphere.

Former Rogers customer
Former Rogers customer
December 6, 2010 10:42 am

Like who gives a crap about the “Centre of the Universe”

All losers since 1967 –

Steve from Waterloo
Steve from Waterloo
December 6, 2010 12:38 pm

Two thoughts: Rogers is the only corporation that has openly, and seriously, stated that they might be interested in ownership of an NFL franchise. If they buy MLSE, they are unlikely to have the reserves to then add a purchase fee for a NFL team.

Second, IF Rogers were to buy MLSE, that may be the only way I can see a 2nd NHL franchise in TO. I think the current ownership has made it clear that they will not agree to a second team locating in their “area” no way, now how. Rogers on the other hand, will make money anyway they can, so they may be more likely.

Maybe…they buy MLSE, then sell the rights to a second franchise which can be used towards an NFL franchise???

December 6, 2010 5:05 pm

Former Rogers Employee – um, this is a Toronto sports blog… Sooooo…. Us?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x