Leiweke hints at fewer pre-game ceremonies

MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke suggested to Sportsnet 590 The Fan that ceremonies like this one celebrating Doug Gilmour may not be quite as common at Leafs games in the future. (CP/Darren Calabrese)

New Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment president and CEO Tim Leiweke says Toronto Maple Leafs home games could have a different feel in the future.

In recent years, pre-game ceremonies celebrating the achievements of past Maple Leafs teams have been commonplace at the Air Canada Centre, but that doesn’t coincide with the culture Leiweke says he is trying to create in Toronto.

“It’s trying to get into the mind of a guy like Joffrey Lupul and think about what it is that ultimately motivates him and how we create an environment for him and the rest of that team that gives them the best chance at winning,” Leiweke told Joey Vendetta on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Tuesday.

“I don’t think what motivates Joffrey Lupul is another celebration on the ice, while he sits on the bench, celebrating 50 years ago and something that happened in 1962 or 1963.”

MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke talks Leafs, Raptors and TFC on Sportsnet 590 The Fan

Leiweke caused a stir earlier this summer when he told Bloomberg News in July, “I don’t want the players walking in the hallways of the Air Canada Centre and seeing pictures from 1962. Get rid of those pictures and tell (the players), ‘This is your legacy.'”

Though Leiweke didn’t explicitly say he would take down all the old pictures, or do away completely with nostalgic pre-game ceremonies, he suggested things will be different going forward.

“At some point we have to find a balance of turning around to these guys and saying, ‘Let’s build our own history here, let’s build our own championship run, let’s put it on your shoulders, let’s make this about you and what you can accomplish, and let’s not hide behind that great, brilliant history of the Maple Leafs,'” Leiweke explained Tuesday.

“Let’s embrace it, let’s honour it, but let’s start right now that we all want to put on our shoulders the responsibility, the risk, the obligation that we want to win Stanley Cups, we want to build a new championship regime and we don’t want to hide or make excuses.”

The Leafs are the most financially viable franchise in the NHL, worth a cool US$1 billion, but have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967.

“We’re going to do anything it takes to win,” Leiweke added. “That’s what we’re trying to do in Toronto.”

Leiweke not concerned about status of Kadri, Franson

Forward Nazem Kadri and defenceman Cody Franson were key performers for the Maple Leafs last season, but both are currently restricted free agents and in need of new contracts as training camp approaches.

Leiweke said he’s not worried about their status.

“(Leafs GM) Dave Nonis is doing a great job. I couldn’t be more supportive. I let him do his job and I’m not going to tell him how to do his job,” Leiweke said. “I’m going to create an environment for him and the players to succeed. As everyone knows, the key to being successful in the NHL is managing your cap well.

“I would hope every player wants to be part of this organization starting in training camp – we’ve added (David) Clarkson, (David) Bolland and (Jonathan) Bernier. We’ve added a lot of character to this team and organization and we’ve added guys that have won rings; they know how to win Cups.

“So, if I’m a player I want to be in camp and I want to be a part of this organization because I think we have a chance to do some great things here in the next few years.”

On July 25 Leiweke signed Nonis to a five-year contract extension.

“At the end of the day Dave Nonis sees the world as a marathon and not a sprint and that’s why I have such great respect for him. We’ll stay the course and make decisions for the long term.”

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