Life in the 21st century NHL means getting a big-ticket practice facility and the Maple Leafs finally have caught up.
They cut the ribbon yesterday on a new $45-million four pad on Kipling, just north of Lakeshore, replacing their aging single-sheet facility next door.
The MasterCard Centre takes many of the perks at the Air Canada Centre and improves on them, with a small theatre for team meetings, a full kitchen, and an office already dubbed the Burke Bunker, where the general manager can look down on practice, then spin his chair to monitor weight room activity.
ďThis is the Cadillac, the best in the NHL,Ē Burke said of the 29,000 square foot building, in which the Leafs are major tenants, sharing space with the Hockey Hall of Fame Resource Centre.
It was eight years ago that then-GM/coach Pat Quinn was promised a new practice facility, but it took a long dance through red tape between the City of Toronto, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., the Lakeshore Lions Club and the Toronto District School Board, who all had a stake in the surrounding land.
The City and the Lions Club paid $40 million to build it, with MLSEL adding $5 million for the Leafs and AHL Marlies to have a lounge, whirlpools and state-of-the-art medical equipment, while paying a further $600,000 a year in rent.
The City gets its badly needed first new arenas since 1982 and MasterCard, along with naming rights, is sponsoring some free public skating. There also is talk of the surrounding land being flipped to the city by MLSEL for an all-weather stadium should Toronto FC switch to grass at BMO Field.