Lighting the Lamp
with Rick Ackerman 5 December 15 Toronto Maple Leafs
Blues' fans are painfully aware that their favorite hockey team has never won a Stanley Cup championship. It does not lessen the heartache and misery to realize that Florida, Washington, Buffalo, Ottawa (current franchise), Columbus, Minnesota (Wild), Winnipeg, Nashville, San Jose, Phoenix and Vancouver have not won a Cup either since the formation of the NHL in 1917. In this case, misery does not love company all that much. All that matters is that St. Louis wins a Stanley Cup soon. (I am 67 years old and running out of time.)
It may be a small comfort for Blues' fans to know that it is not St. Louis that has gone the longest time without drinking from Lord Stanley's chalice. While the Blues have not won an NHL championship in their 47 year existence, tonight's visiting Toronto Maple Leafs have gone 48 Cup-less years. The last time Toronto players hoisted the Cup was in 1967, the year the St. Louis happened to join the NHL as an expansion team. And it is a great comfort to know that the Blues are a lot closer to a championship than the hapless Maple Leafs, floundering at or near the bottom of the Atlantic Division and only three or so points away from being the worst team in the league.
New coach Richie Rich, uh, I mean Mike Babcock has his hands full, and I don't mean as much with the Maple Leafs' players as he will with bank deposit slips. Babcock's lucrative contract with the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club will pay him $6.25 million a year for the next eight years, more than double the contract of Chicago's Joel Quenneville, now the second highest paid NHL coach at a reported $2.75 per year. The only Maple Leafs' players making more money than their coach are winger Phil Kessel and defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
So, who is the highest paid coach in sports world-wide? A good guess might be the NFL's Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints at $8 million per year or New England's Bill Belichik at $7.5 million. Wrong! How about college football's Nick Saban of Alabama at a reported $7 million. Nope! MLB? No, baseball managers get the relative short end of the stick with the highest paid, the Cub's Joe Maddon and Angels' Mike Scioscia, only making around $5 million per year. Oh, I know. It must be the NBA's Clippers' coach Doc Rivers at an estimated $10 million annually. Wrong again! Drum-roll, please. The winner is soccer's Jose Mourinho of Chelsea Football Club, who makes approximately $20 million per year. And the next ten highest paid soccer coaches made an average of $11.3 million last year, and the numbers have gone up this year.
The Maple Leafs may be one of the worst NHL teams on the ice, yet they are the third most valuable franchise, worth $1.15 billion. Most fans do not realize the team was purchased by Bell Canada, Rogers Communications (and Larry Tanenbaum) in 2012 for approximately $1 billion. Previously, Tanenbaum had bought into Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. in 1996, paying a group led by Steve Stavro $263 million. Stavro had been a close friend and business partner of Harold Ballard, the long-time owner of the team who passed away in 1990. Tanenbaum is a Canadian businessman who made a fortune via his civil engineering construction company, Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. Limited, which specializes in building subways, elevated transit systems, bridges and tunnels in Canada, the U.S. and South America. He was also responsible for bringing NBA basketball and professional soccer to Toronto, as well as acquiring an ownership stake in the CFL Toronto Argonauts under the banner of Kilmer Sports, Inc. Tanenbaum also holds a significant interest in Sports, Ltd, a media company that happens to operate the NHL Network among other ventures. He is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors of MLSE and responsible for bringing in Brendan Shanahan as President and Alternate Governor, Lou Lamoriello as General Manager and Babcock as the head coach in order to start turning the franchise around.
Toronto may be at the bottom of the NHL standings, yet the Maple Leafs have no problem filling their building. The franchise is fourth in the league in attendance, averaging 19, 308 in 12 games at the Air Canada Centre, which seats 18, 819 for hockey. That's an incredible 102.6% of capacity. They need a bigger boat, uh, I mean arena, eh? When the Maple Leafs announced an attendance of 18, 366 (453 under capacity) for a game against Minnesota in March, 2015, it was only the second time in 13 years the team failed to sell out a home game and was the lowest attended game ever since the ACC was built 16 years ago. The Leafs also failed to sell out when Colorado came visiting in October, 2014, and 18, 754 (only 65 under capacity) showed up.
If the Blues choose to play listless, lethargic, disinterested hockey against a woeful Maple Leafs club tonight as they did last Tuesday in a dispassionate, pathetic, pitiful, embarrassing, loss on home ice to the lowly Panthers, then they will surely squander another two points. Not counting last night in Brooklyn, the Blues have only scored 24 goals in the last 10 games, giving up 30 in the same span. This current trend of play is quite disturbing and troublesome to say the least.