ACC will open its doors to public for free skates

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

An NHL lockout could give Maple Leafs fans an opportunity to see the Air Canada Centre like never before. "The intent right now is to have free public skating (on nights the Leafs may have played at home),"ACC general manager Bob Hunter said. "We want to have some community programming that would include minor hockey as well."

If the entire 2004-05 season is wiped out, that would leave 41 nights open at the ACC. Of course, that doesn't include pre-season and playoff games.

Hunter refused to put a number on the lost revenue Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. faces during a lockout, calling it "significant," but it doesn't take an accountant to realize it would be in the millions of dollars.

"We're still going to have a pretty busy building,"Hunter said. "We are very fortunate we own another major-league franchise (the NBA's Raptors)."

It's probable the St. John's Maple Leafs will play some games at the ACC, but those games are not contingent on a lockout. They're expected to go no matter the labour situation.

The ACC won't be trying to fill nights with events such as concerts. There's no sense in trying to book an act for a night in December if there's a chance the Leafs could be playing that night.

"The problem is the timing," Hunter said. "If the (labour situation) is not resolved, the league will only tell us there will be no playing for blocks at a time, such as every four weeks."

As for employees, those who work on a part-time basis will lose wages they otherwise would have earned on the dates the Leafs were scheduled to be in action. Full-time employees face reductions in salary, but not layoffs, in January.


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