The NHL’s richest franchise, the Toronto Maple Leafs, published full page ads in the city’s newspapers and on the internet on Apr. 10 to apologize to fans for failing to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year. However, it’s likely to fall on deaf ears since fans are paying the highest ticket prices in the league and are treated to some of the worst hockey imaginable.
After not winning the Stanley Cup since the 1966-67 season, most fans figure it’s about time the team’s ownership group, currently Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), finally took the blame for the club’s poor showing. It appears MLSE has realized the team’s fan base is losing patience with the franchise after five decades of ineptness and offered the apology as some type of peace offering.
It may be one of the last things MLSE does though, since the organization which includes the Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC, and Toronto Marlies, was recently sold to media giants Rogers and Bell and is awaiting government approval.
The Maple Leafs play in a league in which 16 of the 30 tames make the postseason and their former head coach, Ron Wilson, was given a contract extension in December by his friend and general manager Brian Burke, and was then fired a few months later with a new contract as a going away present. Randy Carlyle was then hired as head coach with 18 games remaining in the doomed season.
Burke was hired as the Leafs’ general manager and president in 2008 and the team has digressed instead of progressed under his leadership. The Leaf’s looked set to end their playoff jinx as late as February 6 when they were sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 28-19-6. However, they imploded after that and in the last 29 games of the season posted a record of 7-18-4 to place 13th in the conference and 26th in the league. Their final record stood at 35-37-10.
The letter of apology was signed by Lawrence Tanenbaum, the Maple Leafs chairman, who said the season was unacceptable. However, the fans already know this and are wondering what the club is going to do about it. If Burke’s record has returned unacceptable results fans are asking why he is still employed by the club. The letter also said the team has the greatest fans in the world, the team is sorry for falling short of their expectations and ownership takes full responsibility with no excuses.
In addition, Tom Anselmi, the chief operating officer of MLSE, emailed an apology to season ticket holders and asked the team’s fans to contact him directly to express their concerns. Most fans blame Burke for the recent mess though as he has failed to address the team’s most pressing needs, such as goaltending, and a first-line center. They became especially agitated when it was obvious the season was slipping away from them and he sat idle at the NHL’s trade deadline.