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Slideshow: the Internet reacts to the Maple Leafs’ crushing loss

Toronto had such high hopes for the Maple Leafs, which made it all the more painful to watch as they blew a 4-1 lead over the Boston Bruins in game seven of their first playoff series in years. Today, while editors invented punny headlines (sample: “Keep Calm and Bergeron”) and local sports pundits waxed on about scaling mountains and coming back down to earth, gobsmacked Leafs fans mourned en masse and took refuge in humour. Below, a slideshow of the most agonized and hilarious reactions to the big loss.

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Where to get Maple Leafs playoff tickets—and the giant piles of money they’re going to cost

Getting this close will likely cost you at least $300 (Image: Toronto Maple Leafs)

The Toronto Maple Leafs begin their first postseason run in nine years against the Boston Bruins on the road tomorrow night. The series returns to the Air Canada Centre on May 6 for games three and four, and, unsurprisingly, playoff-starved fans snapped up all available tickets in minutes (despite a sizeable markup). Still, if you’ve got a little tenacity and a lot of money, there are several ways to get seats. Tips on where to look—and how much you’ll pay—below.

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Toronto Maple Leafs stoke a little playoff excitement with a pair of bad-ass Game of Thrones-style pics

(Image: Toronto Maple Leafs)

As of 9:45 p.m. on Saturday night, it was official: the Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Cue wild celebrating among the team’s loyal and long-suffering fans—us included. Then came the pundits’ inevitable post-hoc analyses, pre-playoff predictions and unoriginal jokes about the team’s lengthy drought. The organization, meanwhile, marked the auspicious moment with a pair of slick, Game of Thrones-inspired images that are sure to give shivers to any HBO-loving Leaf fans (we know which Joffrey we prefer). The postseason begins April 30—the city has a full week to soak in the excitement and practice drawing symmetrical maple leafs in blue face-paint.

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Best Bets: unofficial odds for our favourite Toronto Maple Leafs off-the-ice storylines in 2013

NHL hockey is finally here after a 119-day standoff between owners and the players union that robbed fans of nearly half the season. The Toronto Maple Leafs begin the season on the road against the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow night, and Toronto’s ever-loyal fans are readying their jerseys and face paint. Unfortunately, the Leafs’ chances of hoisting the cup this year are slim (Vegas oddsmakers peg them at 40:1). Given that, and our love of absurdly arbitrary sports odds-making, we dreamed up a few other possibilites that you probably won’t find in the local sports pages but will make good fodder for friendly wagers.

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What Toronto Maple Leafs brass, players and hockey insiders are saying about Brian Burke’s firing

Brian Burke and Dave Nonis during the NHL entry draft last summer (Image: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Sport)

The reactions to the shocking end of Brian Burke’s tenure as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs—and the slightly awkward beginning of Dave Nonis’—have been swift and varied. While MLSE insists the decision was months in the making, many are baffled it came just days before training camp when ownership could’ve made its move during the lockout. Speculation has also been rampant about who on MLSE’s board pushed hardest for the dramatic dismissal and predictions already abound about how Nonis’s regime will differ from Burke’s. Below, a roundup of comments from those closest to the deal—MLSE bigwigs, the most well-connected pundits and Leafs players. Plus, Rob Ford.

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Send in the Clowns: behind the desk with SportsCentre’s Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole

Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, the wildly popular, wise-cracking hosts of TSN’s SportsCentre, can’t stop laughing—at fumbling athletes, at ranting coaches and especially at their own jokes

Send in the Clowns: TSN Sportscentre Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole

Onrait (left) and O’Toole are watched by two million viewers every week

In 2002, Jay Onrait was hired to co-host TSN’s late-night edition of SportsCentre. The broadcast, which airs after the night’s big games and matches, is the channel’s highest-profile slot. Onrait came with TV hosting experience and an encyclopedic sports mind. He was nevertheless an unusual choice: he’s a lanky joker with a background in stand-up comedy, the sort of guy who can’t resist contorting his face to make an audience laugh. He worships early David Letterman, especially his cheap gags, like when he’d chuck a watermelon off the roof. That sort of thing, he assumed, wouldn’t fly at TSN, where sports stats are analyzed with utmost seriousness.

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The Maple Leafs are valuable and inefficient and have diehard fans, according to Forbes

Despite the ongoing, soul-crushing NHL lockout, Forbes magazine still published its annual look at the business of hockey this week. As usual, the Toronto Maple Leafs were ranked the most valuable team in the league, but this year marks a special milestone: the Leafs are now the first NHL franchise to be valued at $1 billion, a fortune compared to the league average of $282 million. (Though Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment bigwigs like Richard Peddie and Tom Anselmi scoffed at the figure, Forbes argues that $1 billion is reasonable if you extrapolate from the $2.05-billion sale of MLSE this year.) The magazine also ranked Leafs fans third in the league, based on their willingness to shell out $123 on average for a ticket (the highest in the NHL by 50 per cent), plus robust memorabilia sales, social media activity and television ratings. On a gloomier note, the Leafs have the worst “bang for buck” over the past seven seasons, which means the money spent on player salaries isn’t netting wins or playoff runs. Not that Torontonians needed Forbes’ number crunchers to figure that out.

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City-bound: Markham has finally outgrown its “town” status

A shout-out to the Town of Markham, which will finally become a city on July 1. (Since Markham has about 310,000 residents, the town designation was a bit of a joke.) Welcome to the club! Also, stop trying to make Toronto look bad. [CBC]

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QUOTED: former CBC exec Richard Stursberg thinks Hockey Night in Canada is probably doomed

It’s going to be very, very difficult. The sports networks are jacking up the prices, so they’re going to have even deeper pockets when they come to the table. TSN and Sportsnet have proven that they can get big TV audiences as easily as the CBC does. And that’s very hard to fight against.

Richard Stursberg, CBC’s former executive vice-president for English services, sounding the death knell for Hockey Night in Canada. The public broadcaster’s television and digital rights for NHL games expire in two years, and Stursberg believes there’s only a “low” chance it will be able to renew. (Kirstine Stewart, the woman who now holds Stursberg’s old job, insists otherwise.) While big telecommunications companies are willing to shell out wads of money for TV sports rights, the public broadcaster has had its budget slashed and has had lower ad revenues this year, in part because all the Canadian teams dropped out of the playoffs early. All of which imperils HNIC’s future—and Don Cherry’s opportunity to show off his flamboyant coats. [Globe and Mail]

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QUOTED: Tim Hudak explains what the Toronto Maple Leafs and Justin Bieber have in common

—Progressive Conservative leader and Boston Bruins fan Tim Hudak, on why Toronto’s home team is just like the prank-lovingJesus tattoo-sporting pop star. Though Hudak praised the city for having “the best damn hockey market in the world,” his warm feelings don’t extend to the perenially struggling Leafs (he calls their plans to rebuild “another way of continuing to strive for mediocrity”). So, what does the naysayer think could help? He told the Globe and Mail that competition from another Southern Ontario team would force the Leafs to pull up their socks (we’re looking at you, Markham). Although we agree with Hudak that the woebegone Leafs need to get their act together, we doubt alienating both the Bieber-loving and Maple Leafs-loving demographics is a smart political move. [Globe and Mail]

(Images: Tim Hudak, Ontario Chamber of Commerce; Justin Bieber, Adam Sundana)

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Markham will build a massive arena (which, of course, has nothing to do with getting an NHL team)

(Image: Marlon E)

Late last night, Markham council decided to move ahead with plans for a colossal arena in a meeting with several digs aimed squarely at Toronto (one councillor: “I’m looking forward to seeing the Markham Chargers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs”). The town will borrow $162.5 million to pay half the cost of the 20,00-seat complex, while private partnership GTA Sports and Entertainment, chaired by Bauer Performance Sports chairman W. Graeme Roustan, will pony up the other half of the cash. Though the arena will be bigger than nearly every NHL arena, Roustan denied that it’s NHL bait, saying the venue can stay afloat with concerts and the like if no big teams come calling. We’re not fully buying that story, since most arenas of that size have an anchor team, and a confidential report suggests Markham is concerned non-hockey events won’t be enough of a draw to pay all its rent—there’s even been talk of negotiating a termination clause if Roustan doesn’t deliver a big-league team within a reasonable time frame. Still, the ambitious plan has us reflecting on Markham’s ongoing campaign to rival Toronto: just imagine the bruised egos if Markham gets both a casino and a better hockey team. [Toronto Star]

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Could Hockey Night in Canada soon be cancelled forever?

Corporate branding on display at a Maple Leafs game (Image: jbcurio)

Once the CBC’s current contract with the National Hockey League expires in 2014, Hockey Night in Canada could be over, according to the Financial Post. The paper reports that the CBC, facing $115 million in funding cuts, likely won’t have the financial might to compete with Rogers Communications (which owns Sportsnet) and Bell Media (which owns CTV and TSN) for NHL broadcasting rights. On the other hand, Kirstine Stewart, the chief of the CBC’s English services, says that the public broadcaster will find a way to broker a deal because it brings hockey to general audiences, not just the sports-obsessed. In the May issue of Toronto Life, Stewart tells Jason McBride, ”We help establish hockey…when you put hockey on a sports channel only, you’re preaching to the converted.” Though there’s still a possibility the CBC could secure national broadcast rights, which are controlled by the league, future regional rights for Toronto Maple Leafs games are firmly in Rogers’ and Bell’s hands. Toronto sports fans will remember that Rogers and Bell recently banded together to buy a controlling stake in Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment—which means that the two companies will divvy up the Leafs broadcasts between them like some kind of corporate version of a fantasy draft. [Financial Post]

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How the Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators could cripple the CBC

The Canucks better bring it (Image: Loxy!!)

We’d bet no one—not even these guys—is watching the Stanley Cup playoffs more closely than CBC execs. Already contending with a $115-million cut to funding, the broadcaster could lose out on millions more if the Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators (the only two Canadian teams remaining in the playoffs) are eliminated, according to the Globe and Mail. See, CBC only sold ad time during the first-round playoff episodes of Hockey Night in Canada, hoping that, as the tournament progressed and hockey mania surged, the value of slots in later rounds would grow. (By contrast, TSN owner Bell Media went the safe route and sold all its playoff advertising upfront.) The problem with CBC’s plan is that viewership may not grow—both Canadian teams, as well as the fan favourite Pittsburgh Penguins, are in danger of elimination. And would Canadians really get excited about a Florida versus Phoenix matchup?
[Globe and Mail]

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Maple Leafs execs to fans: sorry this season (and last one, and the one before that…) sucked

(Image: Dustin Hall)

The Toronto Maple Leafs brass have released an open letter apologizing for the team’s dismal performance this season. It’s not an original move (the Raptors and Canucks have both begged forgiveness in the past), but perhaps it was a necessary one, given that the Leafs missed the playoffs this year for the seventh straight season—and their fans are losing patience.

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Q&A: Patrick Dovigi, the NHL-goalie-turned-entrepreneur who won Toronto’s lucrative garbage contract

Patrick DovigiYour company, Green for Life, has multi-million-dollar contracts in Oshawa, Whitby and Hamilton—and now one for 165,000 homes from Yonge Street west to Etobicoke. Not bad for a 32-year-old.
I guess I’ve done well. I just bought a place in Forest Hill.

So you’ll be collecting your own garbage.
Yep. My neighbours are already hounding me to see if they can put out extra bags.

Tell us about your bid. The city currently collects at a yearly cost of $166 per household. You say you can do it for $106. Are people wrong to think your numbers are too good to be true?
They’re 100 per cent wrong. We had 20 people researching this contract for 10 weeks. We followed every city truck that left every yard, noted when they started and counted how many houses they ­visited, what time they got back in and where they dumped their loads.

And what did you see?
Each truck was collecting from a maximum of 675 houses a day. In Hamilton, my employees collect from up to 930 houses a day in the same amount of time.

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