TORONTO - The Maple Leafs might not win the Stanley Cup by 2016-17, but they are planning a huge party.
The franchises’ 100th anniversary will be Dec. 19, 2017 and just as the Montreal Canadiens did to mark their centennial in ’08-09, the Leafs plan to host the NHL’s signature events leading up to the milestone.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. is going for the hat trick, the June draft in 2016, the Winter Classic outdoor game at BMO Field around New Year’s and the mid-season all star game.
“Nothing is confirmed with the league,” MLSEL executive vice-president and COO Tom Anselmi said Sunday. “They know our wish list would be some or all of the key league events as part of our 100th in 2017.”
But it would be hard for the NHL to say no to an Original Six franchise when the Canadiens were accommodated. The outdoor game is the big question mark for the Leafs, but this wouldn’t even have been mentioned on Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday unless MLSEL is going to expand 20,000-seat BMO Field at some future date with a second deck. Anselmi did not comment on the latter.
The previous outdoor games in Edmonton, Buffalo, Calgary, Boston and Pittsburgh drew between 38,000 and 71,000
The Leafs haven’t hosted the all-star game since the second year the Air Canada Centre opened in 2000 and the last draft was held here in June of 2002, But there will be other big dates such as their home opener in 2016-17. Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 would be the anniversary of the Toronto Arenas first game, a 10-9 loss to the Montreal Wanderers. Unfortunately, 2017 would also be 50 years without a Cup if the Leafs don’t get one before.
Expect the hoopla surrounding the centennial to a boom for MLSEL business with commemorative sweaters, patches and other trinkets. The Canadiens also used their moment in the sun to add new features to the Bell Centre, create a team Hall of Fame, retire some famous sweaters, release a movie about the club and hold several dinners and public festivities.