Reaction roundup: What the city’s sports (and business) writers are saying about the MLSE deal

Reaction roundup: What the city’s sports (and business) writers are saying about the MLSE deal

Sure, the fact that Bell Canada and Rogers have teamed up to purchase Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment is old news now, but the full implications of the deal remain to be seen. For our part, we’re wondering if the Toronto Maple Leafs will be slapped with absurd roaming charges on the road, or whether fans will have to purchase beer by following a series of annoying prompts on their cellphones. Of course, there’s also the tricky matter of whether or not the $1.32-billion purchase will turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing for Toronto sports teams—and, by extension, their fans—when it comes to the business of winning and losing. We round up what the city’s sportswriter corps is saying on the matter, after the jump.

1. What will happen to Hockey Night in Canada?
The Grid’s Rob Duffy highlights the impact of the deal on you and your smart phone, writing that fans should expect more MLSE content delivered to their mobile devices. Oh, and apparently the Leafs’ new owners will eventually try to steal NHL broadcasting rights away from the CBC, “which will, of course, kill Hockey Night in Canada and dramatically reshape Canadian media as we know it.” So there’s that.

2. The largest purchase in Canadian sports history had a cool code name
Four Globe and Mail reporters went full-Woodstein on the story, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the deal. According to the paper, MLSE chairman and billionaire Larry Tanenbaum played kingmaker, granting competitors Bell and Rogers the chance for joint ownership—as long as they gave him a 25 per cent share of the company. The deal even had a code name. The folks at Bell called it Midnight: “a dark reference to two rivals coming together.”

3. What’s winning got to do, got to do with it?
The Sun’s Steve Simmons writes that Rogers’ and Bell’s primary interest is delivering as much content as possible on as many different platforms as possible (the Star’s Damien Cox echoed a similar concern). Simmons points out the telecom giants likely aren’t overly concerned with the Leafs’ penalty killing or the Raptors defence. The Globe’s Eric Duhatschek, on the other hand, begs to differ: he counters that winning is, and always will be, good business.

4. Another reason to hate Bell: they own part of the Habs
In addition to now owning part of the Leafs, Bell already has a minority stake in the Montreal Canadiens. (Bell president and CEO George Cope already stated that the company will maintain that stake.)

5. At this rate, Rogers and Bell will soon own your child’s little league team
The Globe and Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin thinks the deal, which saw two competing corporations reach a compromise, is quintessentially Canadian. (There’s some truth to that, but a more fitting resolution given the circumstances might have been for the companies to drop the gloves and wail on each other.) Dowbiggin’s main concern, though, is journalistic. With Rogers and Bell owning both the city’s sports teams and the reporters that cover them, can we really expect untainted journalism?

6. The Competition Bureau is on the case
Always looking to rain on a billionaire’s parade, the federal competition watchdog is set to investigate the MLSE deal, the Canadian Press reports. The Competition Bureau, which stays on the lookout for anti-competitive behaviour by large corporations, hasn’t released the specifics of its investigation. Still, the purchase seems like an obvious target for at least a little scrutiny.

• What does the MLSE sales mean for TSN and Sportsnet [The Grid]
How the MLSE deal was done [Globe and Mail]
Nothing in MLSE deal for Toronto fans [Toronto Sun]
Cox: What would Conn Smyth think of the Maple Leafs now [Toronto Star]
Despite MLSE deal, on-ice fortunes of Leafs will remain the same [Globe and Mail]
• MLSE deal: What Rogers and Bell buyout means for fans [National Post]
MLSE deal: A typical Canadian compromise [Globe and Mail]
Toronto Maple Leafs sold, but Competition Bureau will investigate [Canadian Press]