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Ganging up on the Leafs

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  • billbarrisles
    http://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/TorontoSun/Sports/2005/03/04/949951- sun.html Fri, March 4, 2005 Ganging up on the Leafs FELLOW OWNERS HEAPED VERBAL ABUSE ON
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      http://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/TorontoSun/Sports/2005/03/04/949951-
      sun.html

      Fri, March 4, 2005

      Ganging up on the Leafs

      FELLOW OWNERS HEAPED VERBAL ABUSE ON TANENBAUM AT NHL MEETING, STEVE
      SIMMONS SAYS

      By STEVE SIMMONS

      THE GAP between the Maple Leafs and the National Hockey League has
      grown wider, less trusting and more emotional. At issue isn't just
      the philosophical conflict between commissioner Gary Bettman and
      Leafs board chairman Larry Tanenbaum, but the contentious
      relationship between a hockey club that wants a deal done yesterday
      and a league bent on protecting its weaker franchises.

      The Toronto Sun has learned that Tanenbaum read from a prepared
      statement at the owners-only portion of Tuesday's board of governors
      meeting in New York, strongly stating the position of the Leafs and
      urging that a deal with the players must be accomplished. Immediately
      afterward, he became a target of verbal abuse from his fellow owners,
      numerous sources at the meeting have confirmed.

      One source referred to the shouting down of Tanenbaum as "pretty
      ugly."

      Another called it "nasty business."

      When asked to confirm that he received significant backlash from
      fellow governors after reading his statement, Tanenbaum first
      said: "I did not receive any type of backlash. I deny that."

      But he quickly went on to say: "The meeting was confidential from the
      point of view of 30 owners. We made comments and others made
      comments. Those comments will remain confidential. I'm not going to
      speak about what went on.

      "That's the commissioner's job if he chooses to. The commissioner can
      characterize it any way he wants."

      Tanenbaum did admit to leaving the meeting and returning to Toronto
      in an "emotional state."

      "I hate this," he said yesterday in an interview. "This is awful,
      damned awful. I'm sorry we lost the season. We won't lose another
      one. We cannot.

      "If we (the Leafs) were a power of one, we know we could do it.
      Unfortunately, that's not the way it works ...

      "Not playing hockey is my No. 1 frustration. That's what we are here
      for. That's what our business is and that's what our fans expect.

      "We should be playing and we are not and, yes, that is incredibly
      frustrating to me. I left the meeting frustrated by the fact we don't
      have a deal. And that level of frustration will continue.

      "We as the ownership of the Toronto Maple Leafs want to be playing
      hockey. We don't want this."

      Prior to the season being mothballed, Tanenbaum quietly had met with
      Mario Lemieux and Tie Domi in an attempt to bridge a gap between
      players and owners. But what has yet to be bridged is a gap between
      players and players, even at the negotiating level, and owners and
      owners, with the Leafs clearly representing the minority.

      Surprisingly some of the Leafs' staunchest critics at the board of
      governors meeting were fellow large-market owners.

      The Leafs, meanwhile, have been the most vigilant and inwardly
      outspoken team opposed to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.

      The club has made significant profits annually for Maple Leaf Sports
      and Entertainment Ltd., in the very system that hockey is now
      fighting against.

      And on the day the season was officially called off, CEO Richard
      Peddie was asked about the job Bettman has done in the negotiations.

      He answered, first by pausing, then by saying: "I don't know if
      anyone did a good job ... We all get a failing grade, players and
      owners."

      Other NHL franchises -- even those that wanted to play the season --
      were more publicly supportive of Bettman's leadership.

      While clearly the Leafs don't have support of their fellow governors
      with their willingness to deal, they likely would represent the
      strongest anti-Bettman faction among owners in this climate of
      uncertainty.

      "We don't control what's going on," Tanenbaum said with further
      frustration. "There are 29 other teams. We're just one voice."

      Right now, a voice the league would rather not hear.
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