Black floorboards covered the Air Canada Centre ice like a shroud yesterday, as if preparing for the funeral of the 2004-05 season. While some Maple Leafs skated at Lakeshore Lions Arena in the faint hope a last-minute deal would delay the lockout, their home was in the first stages of being mothballed.
"We're taking the short-term approach until we see what happens," Richard Peddie, president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, told Leafs TV yesterday. "We're still going to run clinics and plan to be aggressive in staying in touch with our fans."
A giant padlock wasn't put on the dressing room door at 12:01 this morning when the lockout was enforced, in fact players are welcome if they wish to stop by club offices for social visits. But facilities are off-limits and beginning today, the players would have to rent ice time at the club's Lakeshore practice rink as any member of the public would.
Defenceman/winger Wade Belak caught part of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's press conference yesterday, which savaged the union's conduct in CBA negotiations. Belak fiercely defended the players' stance, but admitted he felt for "the little guy" in this dispute, the fans and the people whose livelihood depends on the 50-odd dates the Leafs fill at the ACC.
"Everywhere you go now, people will be asking me, 'when are you guys going to get back to work,' " Belak said. "I know I certainly want to play."
Bettman gave all NHL teams permission to release their buildings for other events for the next month. But Peddie said that was likely too short notice to lure any concerts or related shows to the ACC.
"We could have around 250 events a year, but Paul McCartney, Phil Collins and Madonna don't make up for (the revenue) of a Leafs game," he said. "No, the Leafs do not lose money. But when you read about profits, it doesn't take into account things such as taxes and ammortization. We're a team above water, but we're one of the lucky ones. We support what the commissioner is trying to do."