Bottom Line: What the Financials Say About the Maple Leafs

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Bottom Line: What the Financials Say About the Maple Leafs
Icon Sports Media"It's the plus-and-plus if you play your minuses correctly."

So said Mrs. Carlson, who owned the fledgling rock station on CBS's late 70s comedy WKRP in Cincinnati.

And so it is for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Like many pro sports team, the Leafs are a "minus" in the ledger of a financial juggernaut—Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment.

According to documents obtained by the Toronto Star, MLSE generated a profit of $83 million on revenues of $383 million in fiscal 2007.

The Star also reported a profit margin on revenues of 21.8 percent on the dollar. By comparison, Canada's largest bank's fiscal profits were 13.3 percent.

Even more astounding is the fact that profits are expected to clear $100 million by 2011. MLSE President Richard Peddle would not confirm or deny these figures when contacted by the Star.

The paper also revealed that the netting in which Leafs captain Mats Sundin scored his 500th career goal was cut into 2000 pieces, mounted on cardboard, and and sold as memorabilia—generating an estimated $40,000 in revenue.

Not bad for fabric scraps.

What's clear, then, is that MLSE is making money—often at the expense of Leafs fans, who pay as much as $400 for seats.

Too bad that hasn't translated into results on the ice. 

The Leafs haven't made the Finals in 40 seasons, much less won a Stanley Cup. This year, they're predicted by most to finish no better than eighth in the conference.

For Leaf fans, it's a disappointment. For the bean-counters at MLSE, it's just another $50 million expense.

As a Montreal Canadiens fan, I have no problem seeing the Leafs go down on the ice. But I have to wonder if maybe the MLSE brass want them to lose—just so they can keep the long-suffering fans desperate for a free-agent savior and an elusive Stanley Cup.

Maybe that's how all owners operate, come to think of it.

Financial outlooks vary from team to team. Still, it would seem that the Star's revelations would affect future plans for profit-sharing amongst the NHL's struggling franchises.

And what will the NHLPA will thinking as it preps for future CBA meetings—because didn't the owners' side claim losses across the board the last time?
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