Own Toronto Maple Leafs

Apparently a lot of people want to own the Maple Leafs

When I first heard of this "Own the Leafs" idea a few days ago, I dismissed it as the type of wishful thinking you might get from someone who mistakes drinking Tim Horton's coffee for a patriotic act. The idea might seem to make sense, but only if you can't see through the marketing hype. Similarly, the Toronto Maple Leafs brand geniuses have seduced fans into the belief that there's something pure and quintessentially Canadian about our hometown hockey team. Well, that is except for its disinterested and/or elitist ownership who have continually balked at doing what it takes to win championships.

So now that the team is up for sale, what better chance to wrestle the team away from corporate interests and deliver it to those who really care, the team's lunch-pail wielding fans? All it'll take is a $1000. Oh, and a million fellow everyman dreamers.

That's organizer Darren Thompson's plan in a nutshell. Recruit a $1000 investment from a million people, and that should be enough to purchase the stake in the franchise that the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan is looking to move. "Why couldn't every single Canadian have an ownership in that fund? My thought was I've always wanted to own my own professional sports team and when I talk to sports fans, it's always one of the dreams that comes up," Thompson told the Sun. Haven't you always wanted to say you own part of an NHL team?"

On one level it's a nice idea. Beyond the dream of the average Joe becoming a team owner (however small the share), one would have to think that participants would likely stand to make some money off what is a very lucrative franchise. It's also not without some precedence. The NFL's Green Bay Packers are owned by community interests, Thompson's quick to point out on the website he's set up for his cause.

Unfortunately, it's also just completely unrealistic. As much as the Leafs might position themselves as the purest manifestation of our national pastime, the team is also part of what is now a massive business empire. And Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is simply too valuable a commodity for big-money investors to let fall into the hands of a community fund that, even if wildly successful, still won't have the money to play hardball. Not only that, but the purchase, even if the fund met its financial goals, would still require approval from MLSE's majority owner and the NHL, something neither are going to do.

Still, the idea has been surprisingly (at least to me) popular. On a site update yesterday, Thompson claims that he's already put together "close to $35 million in committed dollars." Never mind that this figure is "based on the amount that people have put in the comments section that they would be willing to invest," which is anything but a safe method of investment calculation. As skeptical as I am, the very fact that 35,000 people have even feigned that they'll invest in the scheme is pretty impressive.

So kudos to Darren Thompson for hatching an idea that's bound to get even more attention in the coming days, but don't hold your breath that it'll actually go anywhere.

Photo by bigdaddyhame in the blogTO Flickr pool.

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