When your team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since before man walked on the Moon, your reward is a constant barrage of cynical jokes at its expense.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, there’s been one go-to bit of mockery for opposing fans every season: “Plan The Parade.”
It’s a phrase that captures the overhype that arrives whenever the Leafs appear to have done something positive or when they have the faint whiff of championship contention. It’s referenced by hockey columnists and has inspired both self-deprecated Leafs blogs and Twitter feeds.
Tim Leiweke is the new guy in town for the Leafs, having taken over as Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment president and CEO after leaving a similar position with the Los Angeles Kings.
Maybe he doesn’t get the context. Maybe he’s trying to own the phrase. Whatever the case, Leiweke told Bloomberg News on Monday that he’s actually planned the Stanley Cup championship parade for the Leafs.
“I have it planned out and it’s going to be fantastic,” Leiweke said yesterday in his first interview since taking over the Toronto-based sports group, which owns the city’s National Hockey League franchise, as well as the Raptors basketball team and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC.
While employees at MLSE were a little shocked he mentioned winning the Stanley Cup so soon after starting the job on June 3, Leiweke said the company has to focus on results. “If you can all dream about that and get that in your mind, we’ll have something we’re all driven toward,” he said he told them.
Speaking of minds, Leiweke also doesn’t want those of the Leafs poisoned with the past. So he’s planning on some redecorating.
Winning above all is key to turning Maple Leaf Sports around, Leiweke said. That may mean sacrificing a few sacred cows, particularly for the Leafs, who haven’t won a Stanley Cup since grabbing four from 1962 to 1967 despite being the richest team in the NHL.
“I don’t want the players walking in the hallways of the Air Canada Centre and seeing pictures from 1962,” Leiweke said. “Get rid of those pictures and tell them, this is your legacy.”
Yes, because what would inspire more awe and honor for a player wearing a Maple Leaf on his sweater: Frank Mahovlich winning the Stanley Cup in 1962 or an image of Tyler Bozak winning a faceoff in 2013?
Predictably, there’s been backlash. Via the Toronto Sun:
“I think it’s incredibly presumptuous of Leiweke to be planning a Stanley Cup parade route,” said Rob Del Mundo, of TMLfans.ca. “That’s like going out on a first date and asking your companion ‘So what should we name the kids?’”
(Great line, by the way.)
Hey, remember when a Canucks blog had readers submit their suggest parade routes? Of course you do: One of them spelled out '1994', and we all had a laugh.
Moving on ...
He’s not crazy about moving on from the past either. “I don’t see any reason to remove the old pictures from Air Canada Centre. Taking away that photo in the press box of Frank Mahovlich celebrating the Stanley Cup win at City Hall won’t make the Leafs any more competitive,” he said.
Hey, give Leiweke credit: He’s trying to shepherd this franchise out of its decades of losing into a new era of success, and is willing to do so with unbelievable hubris. No wonder he hired Dean Lombardi in LA.
But in the end, all that matters is what happens on the ice. If the Leafs needed a guy who was all bluster with little to show for it, they wouldn’t have fired Brian Burke.
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