New MLSE boss Tim Leiweke has only been on the job six weeks, but he’s already making bold predictions and promising to change the culture of losing that has permeated the multi-sport organization.
On Monday, Leiweke offered these nuggets:
The Leafs will soon end their 46-year Stanley Cup drought and the parade route has already been mapped out.
Leiweke pledges to double the value of MLSE in the next five to seven years.
Masai Ujiri was hired to run the Raptors because, “I didn’t get along with the GM (Bryan Colangelo) … so we brought in somebody who sees the world the same way I do,” Leiweke said.
Leaf Stanley Cup photos from the ’60s at the Air Canada Centre will be mothballed. “I don’t want the players walking in the hallways … and seeing pictures from 1962,” Leiweke said. “Get rid of those pictures and tell them, this is your legacy.”
The Leafs won four Cups between 1962 and 1967.
Leiweke joined MLSE from Anschutz Entertainment Group, owned by Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, which controls MLS’s L.A. Galaxy and the NHL’s L.A. Kings and is part-owner of the NBA’s L.A. Lakers. In his 13 years with AEG, the Lakers and Galaxy each won four league titles and the Kings clinched one Stanley Cup.
The challenge of moving from that winning environment to loss-prone Toronto appealed to Leiweke.
“If the teams were doing well, I wouldn’t have come,” Leiweke, 56, said in Bloomberg’s Toronto office. “What intrigued me the most is the opportunity to have an organization here that can aspire to be much more successful and a greater brand than it currently is.”
The Raptors haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 while TFC has never had a winning season or qualified for the playoffs since their inception in 2007. The Leafs made the playoffs for the first time since 2004 this year, only to blow a three-goal, third-period lead in Game 7 to Boston in the opening round.
Leiweke, who stresses the importance of patience as a means to building long-term success, saw upside in that stinging loss, calling it “the best thing that could have happened to” the Leafs.
“I think they need a few ass-kickings, and that’s one that will stay with them for a long time,” he said of the players. “I think it will pay huge dividends in the long term no matter how painful it was.”