Both the business intoxication of all that is Maple Leafs and the fear of losing content almost brought the two largest communications companies in Canada together in what would have been a stunning bid to purchase majority ownership in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.
While it never came to be, as reported in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, the very thought that Rogers and Bell — enemies on cable, internet, telecommunications and just about everything else — could work together demonstrates the economic power and television influence of MLSEL.
What worried both Rogers and Bell was that another company would come in, buy the Teachers’ majority interest in MLSEL, and then do the New York Yankees’ thing and create their own sports network, driven by their high powered content. Both Rogers and Bell looked at the purchase themselves and deemed it to be too expensive. But as owners of TSN and Sportsnet, the two largest all-sports networks in the country, they attempted to protect their own interests first in trying to come together for a bid.
In the end it didn’t happen and the Leafs and Raptors go back to being owned by a pension plan that understands how to make money, not how to win championships.
That won’t make fans any happier. Only winning will do that.
THIS AND THAT
Up next for MLSE: Finding a replacement for Richard Peddie (and that can’t be soon enough). There are those who would like to see chief operating officer Tom Anselmi move into Peddie’s position and I don’t necessarily disagree. But I wonder: Anselmi’s baby has been Toronto FC, which has been a financial windfall for MLSE but an on-field disaster. So, does that make him the best candidate for the job or the worst? ... Moments define the greatest who play and it took Sidney Crosby one game to provide the best moments of this hockey season ... Did you know the best receivers on the B.C. Lions, Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce, both started out catching balls for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ... Could be wrong but I can’t stop thinking that the Lions will blow out the Blue Bombers in Sunday night’s Grey Cup ... There should be no wonder why CFL ratings were down this season: The football, for the most part, was sub-par ... If you wonder why the CFL has such difficulty finding quarterbacks, check out the NFL’s backup quarterbacks. Most of them can’t play ... The new name for the leg stomping Detroit Lions defensive tackle: N-dumb-ukong Suh ... What happens first in Anaheim? A big trade or the firing of coach Randy Carlyle? ... Please, Vancouver, no rioting if the Lions win or lose ... In this year without a sure-thing candidate for athlete of the year in Canada, why not a career achievement award for Daniel Nestor?
HERE AND THERE
The seemingly forgotten Bill Watters was way ahead of the curve on the talk of an NHL building being constructed in Markham. He was telling this story about a year ago and nobody was paying much attention. And while it’s still from the museum of the hard to believe, the fact that Rudy Bratty is the money behind this possibility lends it some credibility. Eventually, the NHL has to find a home for the Phoenix Coyotes and who knows what the long-term prognosis is for the Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and always, the New York Islanders ... If an NHL team ever comes to Markham, can we call them the Waxers? Stumpy Thomas could coach ... Memo to NHL schedule maker: The Maple Leafs must play on Saturday night. Every Saturday night, all season long. Please don’t screw this up in the future ... I know Henry Burris is available and the assumption is he’ll be playing for either Hamilton or the Argos next season, but didn’t he look a little close to done to you, this past season? So why bother ... This is a week to find out about the Leafs: They play the Stanley Cup champ Boston Bruins, home and home ... In retrospect, I wonder: How is it that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got cut by the Canadian junior team last December? And would the Canadians have won gold had he been on the team?
SCENE AND HEARD
Was the Leon McQuay fumble really 40 years ago? Watched it on the first colour TV our family ever owned. Has that much time gone by? And does anyone under the age of 50 understand just what that meant? ... The millions the CFL plans to spend now on revitalizing football interest in Southern Ontario can’t buy or manufacture the kind of passion that seemed so natural in 1971. Those days are no more. They cannot be duplicated ... My three sporting memories growing up: 1. Henderson scores for Canada; 2. Leafs win Stanley Cup; 3. McQuay fumbles. Pretty much everything else meshes together ... Available soon online: Gambling as to how many games it will take Sidney Crosby to take over the scoring lead in the NHL. I’m figuring Crosby will need about 40 games to catch those who would have played 60 at the time ... This much we know: Claude Giroux, who will take over the NHL scoring lead shortly, would not be atop the league had the Philadelphia Flyers not traded away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter ... Perception is everything: the Maple Leafs, averaging 1.21 points per game, are having a terrific season. The Washington Capitals, averaging 1.19 points per game, are having a disastrous year ... This is how crazy it has become to make the playoffs in the NHL: As of Saturday, three points separated the third-place team and the 11th- place team in the Western Conference and three points separated sixth from 13th place in the East. That’s part parity, part parody.
VANIER CUP TO REMEMBER
I hope you watched the Vanier Cup Friday night, but like most people I know, I doubt you did. It’s too bad, really, because you missed what was probably the football game of the year. You missed this amazing, no quit, back and forth McMaster team, with its remarkable quarterback Kyle Quinlan passing and running for about a season’s worth of yardage against the best pro team in university football, Laval. It was a game to remember, and a reason to celebrate sport for what sport should be all about in this country. I’ve never quite understood why it is that we as Canadians pay so little attention to CIS sport. I’ve never understood why the CIS has chosen to operate in its own vacuum, caring little about the outside world. But consider yourself fortunate if you saw the Vanier Cup. With no connection to either school or anyone playing, it was compelling theatre.
WHY NOT CALVILLO?
For the second year in a row the question needs to be be asked: How did the Football Reporters of Canada not vote for Anthony Calvillo as the Most Outstanding Player in the CFL? How and why. Last year, it was Henry Burris over Calvillo in a vote that still baffles me. This year, it was Travis Lulay, who didn’t just get the nod, but romped, garnering 42 of the 62 votes available leaving the legendary Calvillo at just 20 votes. Statistically, there was little to choose from between Lulay and Calvillo. They threw the same number of touchdown passes, but Calvillo passed for 400 more yards, had a higher quarterback rating and when push comes to shove, he’s still Calvillo. Really, it should be like boxing: You have dethrone the champion to get the title. Nothing wrong with Lulay, but he’s no Calvillo. Never was. Never will be.
AARON RODGERS’ BRILLIANT SEASON
When the NFL season began, I wrote something that bothered a number of readers: I wrote that Aaron Rodgers was playing at level comparable to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. And in came the emails: Screaming, yelling, accusing. How could you possibly compare Rodgers to Manning’s career-long brilliance and Brady’s Super Bowl history? So here we are, 11 weeks into the NFL season, and the Green Bay Packers are unbeaten, and Rodgers has thrown 28 touchdown passes and just three interceptions, with an unheard of quarterbacking rating of 130.7, and Steve Young of all people is calling this the greatest quarterbacking he has ever seen. If the position has been played better before, I can’t recall it happening. So, please, save the emails and just appreciate greatness. It doesn’t happen often like this.
AND ANOTHER THING
Your favourite Raptors player is a) Andrea Bargnani; b) DeMar DeRozan; c) Jose Calderon; d) whomever gets drafted first this coming June ... The Raptors strategy for the shortended season: Lose as many games as possible ... So who has it worse, Rick Nash or John Tavares? And why do they want to spend their entire careers losing? ... Now that the NBA lockout is over, does this mean the Portland Trail Blazers have to hire a general manager? ... It’s that time of the year again: the Texas Rangers have sent out a snazzy brochure pumping Juan Gonzalez for the Baseball Hall of Fame and you know, they make a pretty good case for Juan Gone ... Rest in peace, Vasily Alekseyev, the only household name in the history of weightlifting ... Two players on my minor hockey team missed practice because of the Jay-Z, Kanye West concert Thursday. I’m not benching them for missing practice, only for their dubious taste in music ... That was a wonderful gesture by the new owners of the Philadelphia 76ers, buying up so much of Julius Erving’s memorabilia to put on display for their fans ... Can we please, please put a stop to Mike Ditka’s ‘Stop It’ segment on the NFL pre-game show? It’s embarrassing, even for Da Coach ... Born this date: Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee and Davey Boy Smith. And a happy birthday to Chad Kilger (35), Garry Valk (44), Pudge Rodriguez (40), Pierre Mondou (56), Mike Scioscia (53) and the quiet gold medalist, Kathleen Heddle (46) ... And hey, whatever became of Greg Barton?