What Happens After Leiweke?

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Aug. 22) – So, Tim Leiweke hangs around long enough as CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to oversee structural and cultural change in the hockey department. He bids adieu, ideally in his mind, with the Leafs positioned to move forward in the way of the 2010’s. Hall-of-Fame player-turned-executive Brendan Shanahan shepherds the franchise and Kyle Dubas leads the movement toward analytics.

While this is happening, majority co-owners/antagonists Bell Canada Enterprises and Rogers Communications exhaustively search for a replacement. But, the question is: On what basis? Does the new person come aboard as a titular head – his acceptance of the hockey operation left to him by Leiweke a condition of employment? Or, is he granted the conventional prerogative to hire the people of his choice? If it’s Door No. 1, the new CEO jumps into the fray without authority over the company’s chief asset. He is effectively stripped of hockey jurisdiction before his first day. If it’s Door No. 2, what happens to the structure he’s inherited? There is no guarantee Leiweke’s successor will feel comfortable with Shanahan or his recently-appointed underlings. Would this not pave the way for more upheaval with the Blue and White?

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TIM LEIWEKE WILL BE WAVING BYE TO MAPLE LEAF SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT.

MLSE may not be the only company to build from the bottom up, but it’s the only one I’m aware of. With the Maple Leafs, it seems a coach is always in place for a new GM and a GM is in place for a new president. Now, a coach, GM and president will be on board for the incoming CEO. A truly functional enterprise does it the opposite way – building from the top down. It is difficult to fathom that even the fierce Communication rivals atop the company would hire someone intent on dismantling the hockey framework and starting over yet again. Imagine a new guy coming in on Monday; firing Shanahan on Tuesday; Dubas and his analytics team on Wednesday; Dave Nonis, Randy Carlyle and the new coaching staff on Thursday. Maybe that’s why Leiweke has chosen to sit tight for awhile before returning to the canyons and valleys.

It is clear that MLSE must now hire an individual to strictly manage the business element of the $2 billion company and stand clear of its four professional teams: the Leafs, Raptors, Marlies and Toronto FC. This would be culture shock for the hockey department. From Conn Smythe to Stafford Smythe, John Bassett, Harold Ballard, Steve Stavro and Richard Peddie, the company overseer has always had direct or indirect involvement in Leaf matters. Another meddler would perpetuate an environment of disarray. The company, therefore, is best to seek an individual that can somehow keep Bell and Rogers at arm’s length (Hall-of-Fame referee Bill McCreary comes to mind) and one contractually bound to keep his nose out of hockey, basketball and soccer.

Does such a creature roam this Earth?

We’ll soon find out.

As for those seeking conspiracy behind Leiweke’s decision to leave MLSE, don’t waste your time. It could simply be a family matter. Tim’s wife, Bernadette, is from Colorado and had lived for 18 years in Los Angeles prior to coming north. Whispers had Bernadette heading back to SoCal – with or without her husband. Given the amount of work Tim has done restructuring MLSE, and that he may have had his fill of running sports conglomerates, it is logical to for him to put family first.

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TIM AND BERNADETTE LEIWEKE (LEFT) POSE WITH VICTORIA AND DAVID BECKHAM.  

LOOKIN’ UP ON THURSDAY

What a spectacular afternoon and evening it was in the sky above Toronto. High humidity led to convection build-up; a brief rainstorm late in the day, and a monstrous orange cloud-reflection at sunset.

Here are a dozen of my NIKON images:

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