With the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 100th anniversary season approaching, MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke says he’s determined to make it a centennial to remember and bringing the Winter Classic to Canada for the first time ever could be part of the celebrations.
"Why shouldn’t we have a Winter Classic here? No Canadian team has ever hosted a Winter Classic. It’s not right," Leiweke told Gord Stellick and Ric Nattress Saturday on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. "We deserve a Winter Classic in Canada."
Tim Leiweke with Gord Stellick and Ric Nattress
The possibility of Toronto hosting the 2017 Winter Classic first came to light on the eve of the outdoor showdown between the Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium when Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported that a deal is in the works that would see BMO Field renovated in order to host the outdoor game.
Leiweke didn’t discuss the potential overhaul of BMO Field, but he did reiterate that one of the main obstacles for a bringing the Winter Classic to Toronto is the lack of an appropriate venue.
"We have been working with (chief operating officer) John Collins at the NHL for a while on thinking that through and the first thing that he told us we’d have to figure out is how to deal with capacity."
While the size expectations for a potential outdoor game in Toronto don’t quite match what was seen at the game at the Big House — which broke an NHL record with more than 105,000 fans in attendance — Leiweke says the location would have to be in the 40,000 seat range in order to make it economically viable for all the parties involved.
The Rogers Centre meets that criteria with seating for 54,000, but Leiweke says the home of the Toronto Blue Jays is not an option to host the game.
"I know some people have suggested Rogers Centre," Leiweke said. "But that’s a non-starter for everybody.
"If we’re going to do this, we have to do it in a way where it is as iconic and legendary as what we just experienced in Detroit."