x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The Leafs: what price hockey's most consistent losers?

Word leaked out last week that the Toronto Maple Leafs were being peddled on the open market. Talk about a one-of-a-kind investment opportunity.

For sale: One storied NHL franchise. A surefire cash cow regardless of on-ice performance, with its gold-plated future guaranteed due to (age-old) past successes and an emotional connection with fans that predates memory and trumps reason. Yes, for a billion dollars or so, all of this can be yours if the price is right.

Word leaked out last week that the Toronto Maple Leafs were being peddled on the open market. Talk about a one-of-a-kind investment opportunity.

The majority owner, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Fund, was reportedly considering divesting itself of its sports property, which includes the Leafs, the NBA's Toronto Raptors, the Toronto Marlies (the Leafs' farm team), the Toronto FC soccer team, Air Canada Centre, mascot Carlton The Bear and a bag of pucks.

The asking price? In the region of US$1.3 billion (Dh4.77bn). That is a lot of money for a collection of clubs that have not made a play-off dent in a very long time.

Of course, when it comes to the Leafs - easily the jewel of this particular transaction - on-ice performance is almost inconsequential.

Leafs fans will pay - and pay and pay - for the right to watch their team come out on the short end most nights. Division titles? Playoff appearances? Stanley Cups? Those things might matter to most teams - and their fan bases - but they are almost peripheral issues in Toronto.

Which perhaps is why the Teachers' Fund reacted to the rumoured sale with an overarching denial. Hey, why sell a billion-dollar asset that pays double-digit interest year after year, regardless of actual success?