Darren Thompson, of Leduc, Alberta, wants to buy the Toronto Maple Leafs. It may seem like high treason for an Albertan to own the club—really, could it be any worse than the soulless Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP)?—but Thompson’s initiative gives everybody who wants to own a share of the Leafs a shot. In theory, his plan is simple: he’s seeking a $1,000 investment from over one million Canadians to make up the $1.3 billion the OTPP is asking for its share of the franchise. Sure, it seems ludicrously far-fetched—but is it?
“I’ve always had a dream to own a professional sports team,” Thompson said in an interview with CBCNews.ca. “When I realized I didn’t have the talent to make an NHL team, that was the only chance I’d have to get my hands on the Stanley Cup.
“If teachers can buy a hockey team, why couldn’t every Canadian that has a dream for this buy one, too?”
Thompson says that since launching his website March 13, one day after Teachers’ [OTPP] announced its intention to sell, he has received $40 million in pledge commitments by email — promising varying amounts should the project get off the ground. In one day of the drive, promised — and as yet theoretical — pledges totalled as much as $5 million, he said.
The model actually isn’t new in the world of professional sports. South of the border, the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers are owned by a non-profit community organization and they just so happen to be the reigning Super Bowl champs.
Thompson has a Web site, “Own The Leafs,” and has set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account for his project. He says that not only has he received support in the motherland—that is, Toronto—but also from expats overseas and even closeted Leaf fans in Montreal.
So is his idea really that far-fetched? Yes, it absolutely is. But if there’s one thing Leaf fans have grown to love (and throw money at), it’s an underdog.
• Own the Leafs site urges fans to buy share of team [CBC.ca]
• Want to own the Leafs for $1,000? There’s a catch [Toronto Star]
• Wanna own the Leafs? [Toronto Sun]
• He has a dream [AlbertaVenture.com]