THE MAPLE LEAF MONEY MACHINE
“In the world of sports promotion, where nearly everyone loses money and where even the winners have off years, the Toronto Maple Leafs — whose profits are unaffected by war, peace, the economy or how many goals they score — appear to be the original money machine.” This is a report on how they play and pay
ONE SUNDAY EVENING this winter I decided to have a look at my favorite hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, away from their usual setting of Maple Leaf Gardens, and I went down to one of the six Toronto movie houses where their match in Detroit with the Red Wings would be visible, live, on a giant television screen. Tickets, I had read in the paper, were $1.25, $2 and $2.50. I bought one at $2. This put me in the “blues,” for exactly half the price I would have paid the evening before to see the Leafs in living color from a blue seat at the Gardens. By curtain, or face-off, time the house was about three-quarters full, and when Frank Mahovlich scored after five minutes of the first period there was a loud roar of appreciation. The theatre I
had chosen was in the Italian district of Toronto, and I heard someone in the greys behind me yell, ‘‘hella goal!”
The second period was scoreless and a little dull. I began to wish I’d bought a $1.25 ticket, since my position in the blues, about ten rows from the front, gave me the feeling I was watching a television set attached to the end of my nose. Sometimes the picture flopped, and all our heads bobbed in unison. Early in the third period Detroit tied the score (the game ended in a tie) and for two or three minutes the theatre rocked with rhythmic clapping, as several hundred adults tried to encourage the ghostly, flickering image of a hockey team playing two hundred and thirty miles away. continued overleaf
JOHNNY BOWER Goal
DICK DUFF* Left wing
RON STEWART Right wing
GEORGE ARMSTRONG Captain, Right wing
BILLY HARRIS Centre
ALLAN STANLEY Defense
BOBBY NEVIN* Right wing
CARL BREWER Defense
DAVE KE~ Centre~
The money machine in its working clothes: this is the mid-season roster of the Leafs at home in the Gardens, specially posed.
Enthusiasm for hockey in Toronto is so great that Famous Players will not be able to meet the demand for seats — even at $2.50 — this year. Already some of the thirty-two games they will project have been sold out. By next year the theatre owners may well have people lining up for season's tickets — a situation that already applies at Maple Leaf Gardens, where there hasn’t been an empty seat for a hockey game since February 27, 1946, and where the waiting list is now nearly ten thousand names long.
The Leafs are a national institution. They are the co-stars of the most popular television program any Canadian has yet thought up, Hockey Night in Canada, on which they alternate with the Montreal Canadiens. (Southern Ontario sees the Leafs every Saturday night on the CBC. and all of their Wednesday night games against Canadiens are on private television as well.) If the sale of sweaters patterned after those of NHL teams is a measurement of popularity, the Leafs
are not quite the national hockey team of Canada — Canadien sweaters outsell theirs by a slight margin — but they dominate the area they’re centred in; eighty percent of the sweaters sold in Ontario are theirs. Many of their players are popular luncheon-club speakers and nearly all of them have at least one commercial product to endorse. Sixteen Leafs, for instance, recently lined up for a certain razor-blade ad — and got their fifty dollars each without even having to shave with one blade. Their coach has a weekly TV show in Toronto and is the author of a book of hockey tips available from a cereal company, and even their trainer is so famous he is pictured in some ads for the cars he sells during the off season. The Gardens sells Maple Leaf pennants (in three designs), serving trays (with engraved autographs), crests, pins, lighters, mascot dolls, team pictures, souvenir pucks, sticks and miniatures of the Stanley Cup, which the Leafs won last year.
*This photograph and the one on the next two pages were taken before the money machine changed gears, and gave up Duff, Nevin and three promising minor-league players - including Arnie Brown - for Andy Bathgate and Don Mckenney
The Leafs began turning a profit almost as soon as Conn Smythe put them together, in 1927, out of the remnants of the old Toronto St. Patrick's team. The Gardens, which is to the Leafs what Buckingham Palace is to the Queen, was built in 1931, at a cost of about one and a half million dollars, and by 1934, right in the eye of the depression, it paid a dividend to its shareholders. It has not missed a year since, and the total of dividends paid is now over three million dollars. With the advent of pay-TV, which adds nothing to hockey's overhead but will add greatly to the Leafs’ income, there is every prospect of the Gardens raising dividends in the future.
In the world of sports promotion, where nearly everyone loses money and where even the winners have off-years, this makes the Gardens — whose profits are unaffected by war, peace, the national economy, or how many goals the team scores — appear to be the original money machine.
RED KELLY Centre
ARNIE BROWN* Defense
TIM HORTON Defense
EDDIE SHACK Left wing
FRANK MAHOVLICH Left wing
BOB PULFORD Centre
JIM PAPPIN Right wing
DON SIMMONS Goal
Their average salary for playing hockey is said to be the highest in the NHL. But each player has a second set of working clothes .
Sports “promotion.” however, as it is applied by the Gardens toward the Leafs, involves almost none of the cigar-smoke-and-baloney aura the word usually conjures up. (Almost, 1 said. There are a couple of points to be raised later.) What the Gardens has been selling, over the years, is a package, and the wrappings have usually been as businesslike and even dignified as it is possible to make the violent, and often brutal, game of hockey appear. As just one tiny example of the impression that the Leafs’ owners have striven to give the public: Conn Smythe would sometimes introduce his great centreman Syl Apps (who is, incidentally, now a member of the Ontario legislature) as “our captain, who doesn't smoke or drink.” The Gardens building itself is kept just a trifle cleaner than St. James' Cathedral, and people going to a hockey game directly from dinner at the King Edward Hotel do not look overdressed.
The packaging of the Leafs extends into the
players’ lives. When they show up for practice at the Gardens they must be wearing a jacket and tie, as, indeed, they must when they appear anywhere on the road. (Although at Tam O'Shanter, the suburban curling and golf club where they practise when the Gardens is full of rodeo dirt or other obstacles, they are allowed to dress casually.) And it also extends to Hockey Nii’lu in Canada. The television rights to the Leafs are owned, through a complex and longstanding arrangement. by MacLaren Advertising Co. Ltd., on behalf of the two companies that sponsor the Leaf and Canadien games, Imperial Oil and Molson's Brewery. Theoretically, the Leafs and their management are not in the television business at all. But it is unlikely, to say the least, that a barrage of critical comment about hockey will ever be launched from a broadcast originating in the Gardens. For one thing, Ed Fitkin, the personable commentator who brings us the "videotape highlights," is also the public-relations director of the
Gardens, and it's hard to picture him saying, "Well, the Leafs sure stunk up the join: in that period,” even when the Leafs, as they sometimes do, stink up the joint. Hockey Ni^lti is not in the fair comment business: it is an entertainment package, and that concept so pervades every minute the show is on the air that I imagine if Bill Hewitt, the play-by-play announcer, were to say, “We're having a dull game here tonight. " television sets all over the country would explode.
Something almost exploded this season when Johnny Bower, the Leafs’ remarkable and immensely popular goaltender, was being interviewed between periods during a Molson's segment of the program. "What do you do in the summer?” the interviewer made the mistake of asking him. "I work for the John Labatt Brewing Company,” said Bower. Neither Bower nor the interviewer lost his job.
This apparently makes it more acceptable to undercut the sponsor — if inadvertently — than
The money machine in its other working clothes: almost every Leaf has a second (and sometimes a third and fourth) business.
to commit the infraction that the men who run hockey call “knocking the game“ — even off television. In 1962 Scott Young, the Toronto Globe and Mail columnist and, at that time, between-periods Hockey Nii>ht commentator, wrote in the Globe that the story put out by the Leaf ownership about selling Frank Mahovlich for a million dollars was pure hokum, calculated to get the Leafs some newspaper space during the football season. The three principal shareholders of the Gardens, according to one of them, John Bassett, felt “extreme concern.“ “We took our case to the people responsible for the program,“ Bassett said not long ago. “We told them, A, what Young had written was detrimental to hockey, and, B, he was an inefficient television personality. At the end of the season, I guess they saw our case.” Young was fired.
HOCKEY, of course, is what makes the Maple Leaf money machine go, and the atmosphere of
serious business that surrounds the Gardens and its management is also evident in the way the Leafs play. Most of the Leaf players simply don’t appear to enjoy the game quite as much as the other teams in the league. The Chicago Black Hawks, for example, when they’re having a good night, seem almost to explode down the ice, and there is an air of sheer joy about their young star Bobby Hull when he's skating well. But when the Leafs are going well, there’s a doggedness about their play: they forecheck ferociously; they knock a lot of people down at the blue line, and they grab and hold a lot more people in front of the goalmouth. They seem to be a group of men getting a job done — which, of course, they are — more than a bunch of healthy males playing a game, which they also are. Defeat, as the famous sign in their dressing room says, does not rest lightly on their shoulders, and neither does anything else. They are very serious fellows.
It is not only hockey that they are serious
about. Nearly every regular on the Leafs has an outside interest, usually in business, in which he capitalizes on the name he has made in hockey or the time it allows him between seasons, or both. Many of the younger Leafs are studying at university in the off season, and Bob Pulford completed his BA at McMaster in Hamilton last summer. With the income from the activities listed under their names above — as well as several others that we didn't have room to put in — together with their team salaries and bonuses (minimum NHL salaries are now seven thousand dollars a year), there are probably very few established Leafs making less than fifteen thousand dollars annually, and certainly some making more than double that.
Allan Stanley is one of the few' Leafs in history who have flunked in politics: he once tried for the provincial Conservative nomination in Timmins, Ont. The latest of a line of successful L.eaf politicians — which has included Bucko Mac-
CARL T. BREWER Automobile salesman
DAVID M. KEON Automobile salesman
LEONARD P. KELLY^ MP Farmer
KENT G. DOUGLAS Ticket salesman
MYLES G. HORTON Restaurateur
EDWARD SHACK Salesman
FRANK MAHOVLICH University student
ROBERT PULFORD, B.A. Accountant
JAMES PAPPIN Salesman
DONALD SIMMONS Hockey school proprietor
Each of them probably earns no less than fifteen thousand dollars a year, some of them as much as thirty thousand dollars.
Donald, Howie Meeker and Syl Apps—is Red Kelly, the Liberal Member of Parliament for York West, in Toronto. Kelly's lives sometimes get intertwined. After one game the Leafs played in New York this season, an American fan bearded him in the dressing room. The fan gave him a folder full of information about the labor troubles on the Great Lakes. Kelly took it with him on his hurried flight to Ottawa the next morning. He was still carrying it when he entered his Parliament Hill office, and when he heard his secretary say, “Oh, Mr. Kelly, there’s a lady on the phone for you now.’’ Kelly took the call. The woman's voice said, “Why on earth does that Punch Imlach always blame Johnny Bower when the Leafs lose?”
One of the reasons for the kind of hockey the Leafs play, and the kind of public figures they appear to be, may simply be Toronto. Only four of the current Leafs were not born in Ontario and one of them went to school in Toronto, as
did, by my count, eleven others. This naturally gives them a much stronger feeling of playing for the old home town than any of the NHL teams except the Montreal Canadiens, who, as the national team of French Canada, are another special case. The Leafs are a part of the community, recognized everywhere, and carry the reputation and tradition of their team with them wherever they go. This is another fact that doesn’t hurt their business careers. Andy Bathgate, for instance, was the highest scoring New York Ranger in history, and one of the most lustrous stars in the NHL for the past five or six years, but was seldom able to cash in on his abilities in New York. Now that the Leafs have acquired him in a latc-season trade, Toronto may expect to see his name in newspaper ads slightly less often than Eaton’s.
Another reason why the Leafs play the kind of hockey that has won them the last two Stanley Cups is named Bert Olmstead. Olmstead was
thirty-two years old when the Leafs, who had finished last the year before, drafted him from Montreal in 1958, and he'd already put in more than eight years in the NHL. On the ice he was a workhorse, a tireless checker and one of the most effective men at getting the puck out of a scramble in a corner ever to play in the league. His aggressive play was one of the reasons the Canadiens won four Stanley C ups. Off the ice. too, he was a tough guy, who was once charged with assault for flattening a critic in a tavern washroom. He was a pusher, and between periods he would lash anyone he didn't think w>as pulling his weight. In those days many of the men who are now the mainstays of the Leafs — Pulford, Brewer, Keon. Baun — were just getting used to big - time hockey. When Olmstead told them in the dressing room to "get off your butt and start playing hockey or I'll stuff this stick down your throat,” they would usually start playing hockey. Olmstead had a particular
continued on page 47
THE MAPLE LEAFS
continued from page 15
Can Bathgate be what Mahovlich hasn't been: the one “big man” who will lift Toronto as a team?
influence on Bob Pulford, with whom he roomed, and it is not entirely coincidental that Pulford’s energetic, persistent play has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Leaf's games for the last four seasons.
Olmstead left the Leafs in 1962, and, although they had their best season since 1948 last year, winning both the league championship and the Stanley Cup, they have not been quite the same team without him. They lack a leader on the ice, the one man who can inspire the whole team, as Beliveau does Montreal, Howe does Detroit, and Hull does Chicago. The player they have counted on to be their “big man” for the past three or four years, Frank Mahovlich, a much vilified athlete of enormous talent, has had problems getting the lead out recently, and has turned out to be a “big man” who doesn't score very many goals and who can t, or won t, check. And it is still too early to see if Bathgate, who was the fourth highest scorer in the league when the Leafs got him but is nearly as undetermined a checker as Mahovlich, will provide the lift they need.
Just as Mahovlich and Bathgate are exceptions to my generalization about doggedness, there is at least one notable exception to the ones I made earlier about complete seriousness and propriety. Eddie Shack, one of the most exciting skaters in hockey and by all odds now the most popular player in Toronto, is one of the least serious people in the world. He enjoys skating, traveling, yelling, shooting, kidding—life. He arrived in the NHL at the age of twenty-one as a functional illiterate, but he has been going to school and his native stupidity is roughly equal to that of the former Roy, now Baron, Thomson. He is an adept trader-upper of automobiles and a wily buycr-and-sellcr of just about everything anyone he meets wants to buy or sell, and he is a very foxy euchre player indeed.
But the Leafs, as a team, are more mechanics than artists, and the big problem for the man who has to make them win is getting them what athletes call “up” for enough games a season. Since there is not a great deal of difference between the NHL teams with the most physically gifted athletes and those with the least, a team that is “up" — or alert, and hungry to win — can often knock off a
physically superior team that simply isn't in the right frame of mind that night. The Leafs’ frame of mind is in the care of Punch Imlach, their coach and general manager. Imlach is one of the few men who have taken over the reins of a big-time professional team without having made it in the big time himself. But it's difficult to imagine what he might have achieved as a coach if, as a player, he'd been another Rocket Richard. He is a hald, superstitious man of forty-six whose manner can be friendly and domineering at the same time. His single purpose in life, for the moment anyway, is to win hockey games. If he has to ride roughshod over some personalities to do so, well, he rides, and the hockey games, in the main, have been won. Professional sport is one of the few walks of life where a man's success or failure can be measured instantly: What kind of day did you have at the office? Well, not too bad, I guess, but that secretary problem is really getting me down, etc. But: what kind of night did you have at the hockey rink? We win. This factor of instant measurement, surely, is one reason why the men involved in sports are so wrapped up in them: you can’t just do your job, you have to win at it, and that takes a great deal of attention.
Imlach took over the Leafs in 1958. They had finished last the year before and were apparently well on their way to finishing out of the playoffs again. But he souped them up for a roaring finish, got them into the Stanley Cup finals, and in the next few years
steadily built their personnel and morale until, last spring, they were the best hockey team in the world.
One of Imlach’s most effective ways of tinkering with the money machine has been to add to it well-broken-in players from other teams in the league. Among veterans who have come to Toronto to play out their careers in recent years have been Bower, Kelly, Stanley, Bronco Horvath, Eddie Litzenberger, Larry Regan and, most recently of all, of course, Bathgate and Don McKcnney from New York.
Imlach's system is one of needling the players who must be angry to play well and coddling those who give their all anyway — Dave Kcon, the Leafs’ quick, brilliant little centre, for instance, is often excused from Monday morning practice when the Leafs return from a road trip. Imlach does use a number of gimmicks that seem to be strange ways to treat grown men. Before a trip to Montreal in February, he gave each member of the team a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale, whereupon they went and got themselves positively clobbered by the Canadiens. He has been known to send five defensemen out on his power play just to humiliate his forwards. His statements to the press are often carefully tailored for the ears of the team — he does not seem to mind criticism of himself, but sometimes thinks the writers are unfair to his players, And he slaps on fines that would make adults quit nearly any other job in the world; twenty-five dollars for being
late for practice is one example. But he is convinced that all his acts help him win hockey games, and who are we to argue with him?
i WAS WITH THE I.EAFS on the weekend they played their worst game of the year Saturday night and probably their best one Sunday. In the first game the Boston Bruins, a physically inferior team, edged them 11-0. The next night the Leafs beat the Chicago Black Hawks 2-0.
The Leafs had been heading for some sort of nosedive for a couple of weeks before the Boston game, losing one here and one there, winning a couple by luck, but generally playing sloppy hockey — by their standards anyway. They were still in a tight three-way race for first place, though, because Chicago and Montreal were idling too, and it just might have occurred to the Leaf players that they could finish on top without putting in too much effort. In the Boston game, they were terrible. The Bruins’ good, workmanlike rookie, Gary Dornhoefer, scored fifty-three seconds after the opening face-off, and the Leafs never seemed to notice they were behind. Before the first period was half over, the score was 4-0 and the crowd was ironically cheering every save made by the Toronto goalie, Don Simmons.
Without the one big man to inspire them, the Leafs, when they collapse, collapse as a unit. On the ice as well as off it, there are no cliques among them — they are a team — so that when an outbreak of lethargy hits a
few of them, it can quickly become epidemic.
We outsiders did not find out how defeat rested on their shoulders that night. After the game, the Leafs packed quickly and in near silence, and went off in twos and threes to Union Station where a CNR train was waiting to whisk them to Chicago. The players headed straight for their sleeping car, and the rest of the group traveling with the Leafs — the reporters; Imlach and his assistant King Clancy; Foster and Bill Hewitt; a thirteen-year-old boy who had won a trip with the Leafs in a Gardens’ draw and who had lost a nickel on the game; the boy’s brother-in-law; and a Gardens public relations man — all sat in the lounge car.
Imlach and Clancy pored over a master sheet of what they both call “statistics,” and shook their heads.
“It has to be a joke,” Clancy said.
“It’s the worst — — beating I’ve ever taken,” Imlach said. Imlach uses a distressing number of —'s when he talks. The thirteen-year-old was at the other end of the car. “I’ve got to tell them about it.”
I said that most of the players would already know. “I can’t take that chance,” Imlach said. “I've got
to make--sure they know how
bad they were.”
The Leafs had used a youngster from their junior team, the Toronto Marlboros, in the Boston game. He had not played noticeably worse than the veterans. “I told him in front of the team,” Imlach said, “that I wasn’t taking him on this trip, because I
wouldn't humiliate him by making him play with a team like this.”
“We've got one line that didn’t get a hit, didn't get a shot and was on the ice for five of their goals.” said Clancy, who counts every body contact and every shot each player gets, and picks his own. private, three stars after every game. He carefully kept the statistics sheet hidden from me.
“The breaks were all against them too,” said Foster Hewitt, perhaps not realizing he was not on the air.
“Breaks--!” said Imlach.
“I was going to ask you what you thought was the turning point of the game,” one of the newspapermen said to Imlach. Imlach laughed. “When we
skated out onto the--ice,” he said,
and we all went to bed.
In Chicago, the Leafs spent Sunday as they do most days on the road. The devout went to church, the rest killed time. Some had eaten on the train, and the others gathered in the hotel coffee shop. The public relations man introduced the team’s thirteen-year-old guest to the players in the restaurant. Told the boy had lost his nickel bet the night before, George Armstrong said, “We'll try to win it back for you tonight,” which may come perilously close to the league's rule against fraternizing with gamblers. The players were restrained after their performance the night before, but not morose. However heavily defeat may have been resting on their shoulders, they were bearing the weight.
By mid-morning, most of the players had gone to their rooms to rest or catch up on sleep missed on the train. They take rooms even when they're not staying overnight. Most have roommates on the road, but a few, like Ron Stewart, who snores, have single rooms.
Early in the afternoon Imlach called a team meeting in the suite he was sharing with Clancy, and, presumably, told the players how bad they were. He also told them that he was putting it squarely to them: he was bringing in the goalie from the Leafs' farm team in Denver, Colo. If they were scored on heavily tonight, they must take the blame themselves. If not, Simmons could be held responsible for the catastrophic score of the night before. (Bower was along on the trip, but had an injured catching hand.) Suddenly the phone rang, just when many of the players must have been thinking that Simmons, having fallen, ought to be given a chance to ride the horse again immediately. Imlach answered, and learned that the aircraft carrying his goalie couldn't land in Chicago, and was turning back to Des Moines. Simmons was under the gun.
The Leafs, looking thoughtful, came down from their meeting for a communal steak. At around five they began making their way over to Chicago Stadium.
Imlach had invited me to travel in the team's car on the way back to Toronto, and about half an hour before game time I dropped into the dressing room to leave my bag. It was as silent as a library, with the players, some of them still not completely dressed for the game, sitting on the benches that ringed the room, contemplating their equipment bags as if they were going to paint pictures of them.
EVERY NHL TEAM plays seventy games a season, and while all of them play some games as if they were what athletes call “laughers,” it is a rare player who doesn't tighten up with excitement before he is on the ice. One of the oldest veterans in the league is still sick with tension seventy times a year. I left, feeling as if I had interrupted the service of a church I didn't understand, and went to get a beer and a program, and take my seat.
Watching a hockey game in Chicago is like watching the Christians against the Lions, except that in Chicago most of the animals are in the stands. When Reg Fleming, one of the Black Hawks' tough guys, was injured in a fall he took untouched by a Leaf, the crowd started chanting, “We want Howie,” a call for Howie Young, who was then the Hawks’ even-tougher guy. They got him, later, but by that time the game was as rough as it was going to get. At one
point. Brewer, the Leafs’ bad man. speared Stan Mikita, which is to say he rammed the business end of his hockey stick into Mikita's stomach. It was as vicious a spearing as I had ever seen. Mikita, a dirty but exceedingly effective hockey player, clutched his stomach and fell as if axed, and another Hawk, young Autrey Erickson I think, swung his stick at Brewer's skull. Brewer ducked behind the net, and then backed into a corner, four Hawks surrounding him with their
sticks at slope arms. With the crowd, most of whom had seen Brewer’s spear, yelling for blood, I thought perhaps I was about to see hockey’s first killing. As the Leafs moved in to Brewer's aid, Mikita, who is almost as good an actor as he is a hockey player, got quickly to his feet and joined his teammates, with his stick up too. Later, Brewer was to say, “I wasn’t really afraid because 1 knew none of those guys coming at me first would really hit me, but when I saw Mikita coming around behind me, I thought thcre’d be real trouble.” As for his own spear: “Mikita had been doing it to our guys. Just before I got him he’d given me a really wild one in the groin. You just can’t let anyone get away with that.” As the Leafs piled from behind into the Black Hawk war party, the sticks came down. There were a few minutes of fist fighting, with no clear decisions, and the game went back to relative peace — except that a few fans, if that is the word, threw pieces of their chairs onto the ice, and one hit Brewer’s shoulder pad.
The Leafs played determined, hard hockey, knocking more Black Hawks down in the first period than they had Bruins in the whole game the night before, according to Clancy’s hit charts. The Leafs have the best defense in the league: Allan Stanley,
who falls short of being the fastest skater in the NHL by roughly a hundred and eight players, but whose poke-check is a work of art; Carl Brewer, who may be the fastest defenseman and who is almost as good at his specialties of shoulder-fakes, lob-shots and holding sweaters as Stanley is at his; Bob Baun, a punishing body-checker; and Tim Horton, a wise, tough veteran who was playing so well through the first half of this season he almost became the inspiration the whole team needs. They have a complete squadron of capable, seasoned forwards, and when everyone is knocking opponents down they look unbeatable — but whether this is a cause of their problems this year or just a symptom, no one can say.
On the train back they were relaxed and chatty, sitting around the smoking room at either end of their car, wearing underwear or pajamas, soaking up the apparently innumerable soft drinks they had bought at the station. A euchre game in one smoker went on past three until the last tension drained out of the last players. No one talked much about the hockey game. At one point, Shack looked at Mahovlich and said, "Man, you were really flying tonight,” and Mahovlich, who really had been, just grinned.
ONE ANSWER to the most popular question about the 1964 Leafs—what is wrong with them?—may be that they have been bassetted. Bassettation is not yet clearly definable, since the lesults of the first experiments conducted with it are not yet all in, but it is a growing phenomenom. It occurs when a Canadian institution is influenced by John Bassett, a tall, handsome and cocky Toronto businessman. So far, bassettation has been profitable for roughly half the institutions it has been applied to. The Toronto Telegram has increased per-
haps four times in monetary value since Bassett became its publisher. The Toronto Argonauts, of which he is now' a director, are the richest football team in Canada. But Toronto has a private television station, CFTO, of which Bassett is chairman of the board and for which viewers are unenthusiastic. The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, for whom he is a defeated candidate who was once spoken of as cabinet timber, is just getting along. In each case, profitable and unprofitable, not long after Bassett has moved in. somethini> has gone haywire. The Tely launched a Sunday edition. It flopped. The rich Argos established themselves as the worst football team in Canada. CFTO. which was supposed to be the juiciest plum in private broadcasting, is now the only commercial-network station that can't beat the CBC national news on ratings—wdiich means, presumably, that the quality of its programs up to news time is not high enough to attract a bigger audience in advance. And the Conservatives . . . well, Bassett ran in 1962.
Bassett, in partnership w'ith Conn Smythe’s son Stafford and a third Toronto businessman named Harold Ballard, bought control of the Gardens and therefore the Leafs from Conn Smythe in 1961. Since then the team has won one league championship out of two tries, and the Stanley Cup tw'ice. But that haywire element may be creeping in, too. There seems to he a growing resentment of the Maple Leaf money machine, at least in Toronto. While there are still twelve thousand fans willing to spend twelve cents each to send a telegram message to the Leafs playing in Montreal and goodness knows how many prepared to shell out $4.00 whenever they get a chance to buy a hockey ticket, there is also, if I may hazard a guess at the public mood.
a lot of resentment at the way the Gardens appeared to ramrod through Toronto city council a request to expand its seating facilities. The expansion the Gardens wanted would have jutted into the public air over both Carlton and Wood streets. The Gardens was prepared to pay rental on the air space, but the city’s zoning laws clearly forbade such construction. Council, w'ith a speed they could scarcely have mustered if the University of Toronto wanted to build
a new hospital, voted to amend the zoning law. A few weeks later a committee of the Ontario Legislature quashed their amendment and, at least among the people 1 heard talking about it. there was a great air of relief. The public, for a while, had seemed bullied by the Gardens, and the bullies had lost.
The Gardens also seem to be reacting hypersensitively to public criticism. By now there is at least one columnist in Toronto, the Globe's
Scott Young, who takes the odd poke at hockey and the Gardens: and the public has the impression, rightly or wrongly, that there is real enmity between the two parties. This is a very unusual relationship between any part of the Toronto press and the Gardens.
And. too. the Leafs are not — not at the time I write, anyway—playing hockey in a way that is calculated to win the Stanley Cup. Is this a consequence of bassettation? Who can say? ★