TORONTO – Brian Burke’s job is safe. Bryan Colangelo and Aron Winter can rest easy as well.
The impending sale of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment to Bell Canada and Rogers isn’t expected to affect the men in charge of running the company’s sports teams.
“They’ve said that the management team here is one of the reasons they were interested in this company,” Tom Anselmi, MLSE’s executive vice-president and chief operating officer, said Friday. “Obviously, (they like) the teams and the content and the resources. We’ve got a terrific management team here we’re real proud of, some of the best GMs in the business.
“We’ve just got to get on about doing the job now.”
Burke’s Maple Leafs are almost 30 games into the NHL regular season while Colangelo’s Raptors opened training camp Friday following the NBA lockout. Winter and his staff at Toronto FC are currently preparing for next month’s Major League Soccer draft.
It’s an extremely busy time in the Air Canada Centre offices.
In addition to the long ownership search, the company is also still looking to replace outgoing CEO Richard Peddie.
“Richard’s leaving at the end of December so everyone’s going to have to pick up their socks a little bit and do a little bit more,” said Anselmi. “And you combine that with launching a Raptors season a month and half late and helping this (sale) close, we won’t be short of things to do.
“Job one is getting back to day-to-day business as usual and let the teams do what they’ve got to do, which is starting to win.”
Success on the rink, court and pitch was fleeting while the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan controlled the company. On Friday, it announced that it would sell its 80 per cent stake for $1.32 billion.
The sale isn’t expected to be finalized until the summer, but Burke doesn’t anticipate any changes to the way he does business in the near or long term. He’s been president and general manager of the Maple Leafs for three years and can’t envision any way for Rogers and Bell to contribute more than the teachers did.
“It is a hard-cap system,” Burke told reporters in Washington. “A deep pockets owner maybe can spend on the front office side or maybe can do things on the broadcast side, but it can’t change what you pay players.”
Burke addressed his team before they faced the Capitals on Friday night and promised them that they wouldn’t see any changes. Colangelo and Winter were among those that attended a glitzy news conference at the ACC.
Most of the discussion from the prospective owners was centred around their plans to distribute content across various platforms.
“I really believe this is going to be just a pivotal moment in sports history in Canada when we look back on it in 10 or 20 years from now,” said Anselmi.
In the meantime, the mandate remains exactly as it’s been for the men calling the shots with the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC.
During his time at the podium on Friday, MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum talked about the importance of turning each of the struggling teams into winners.
The message was heard loud and clear.
“The plan is to have lots of success,” said Anselmi. “Larry was real clear: Winning is job one here. We’ve had a lot of success here as an organization except for we need to win more. That’s the priority now.
“We give these teams the resources, we’ve got to put the best people in place and we think we have that.”