I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now that the NHL awarded the 2017 NHL All-Star Games to the city of Los Angeles. Now, of course, this caused more than a few fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs to be quite angry. This included myself, which is why this article is as late as it it is, because if I had written it when the news broke, I would have used a much stronger word in the headline.
Now, let’s get down to why this is disrespecting the Maple Leafs.
To start, the Maple Leafs are celebrating their 100th anniversary in the 2016-17 season. Now, of course, the Leafs will be doing a lot of stuff themselves to help mark the occasion. We’ve already seen the new logo that will make it’s debut on Leafs jerseys next season. We’ve seen players that will be added to Legend’s Row and there will probably be another announcement of more players before next season.
However, there are things that only the NHL can give the Leafs. Former MLSE president Tim Lieweke made a stir when he said he wanted to have all the big NHL events in the 2016-17 season as part of the centennial celebration. Now, there is precedent on why he could even ask for something like that.
Back in the 2008-09 season, the Montreal Canadiens were celebrating their 100th season. As part of their centennial year, they were awarded the 2009 NHL All-Star Game and 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The only thing that the Leafs asked for that the Habs didn’t get was an outdoor game. So you would think that the NHL would give the Leafs the same respect that they gave Montreal. Yeah, guess not.
100th vs. 50th
So why did the NHL award the 2017 All-Star Game to the Los Angeles Kings? Well it’s the Kings’ 50th anniversary. You know, that might actually be an acceptable reason if it weren’t also the 50th anniversary for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota North/Dallas Stars. Those five franchises joined in the NHL in it’s first wave of expansion in 1967, along with the defunct California Seals.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly had this to say about the situation,
“We obviously recognize the importance of next year for the Maple Leafs organization and for the National Hockey League… We obviously also understand the importance of the Toronto marketplace to the National Hockey League. Of course we’re going to look at options to appropriately celebrate that importance at an appropriate time. Maybe that’s during the 2017 calendar year… We understand the organization’s interest. We also understand the issue. And we’ll work with them like we always have.”
The NHL shouldn’t have to look at options to ‘appropriately’ celebrate. The bar has been set for celebrating a centennial. Any team that has it’s 100th season should get exactly what the Habs got in 2009. No need to go through multiple teams asking for the game or draft those years.
The NHL is also celebrating it’s 100th year. Could they be trying to send a message here that the Kings are more important than the Leafs? Last time I checked, the NHL is in the business of making money and the Leafs make far more than the Kings. In Forbes’ most recent Business of Hockey list, the Leafs were ranked No. 3, valued at $1.15 billion. The Kings were ranked No. 9, valued at $580 million.
Regardless of the reason, the NHL has made a mistake by not giving the Maple Leafs the 2017 All-Star Game. In many ways, next season could be a new beginning for the Maple Leafs. We could see players like William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen and Mitch Marner start their NHL careers. It could be even more of one if the Leafs manage to lure a certain 2008 first overall pick to the city. The NHL had the chance to make the year even better for Leafs fans.
The thing is that the NHL will probably use the World Cup of Hockey as a reason why Toronto didn’t get the All-Star Game. Now, no matter how you feel about the All-Star Game, the World Cup is even more of a gimmick with the under-24 North American team and the team that is mish-mash of European countries that are not named Sweden, Finland, Russia or the Czech Republic. The fact is the Maple Leafs have nothing to do with that tournament other than that their arena is being used and a few of their players will be taking part.
Hopefully the NHL will come to its senses and least give the Leafs the Winter Classic and draft next season.