Hockey fan launches online bid to buy the Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs could soon be owned by the public, if the mission of one long-suffering member of Leafs Nation has his wish fulfilled.
Darren Thompson, a New Brunswick native living in Leduc, Alta., has launched an online recruitment campaign to raise enough money to buy majority ownership of the franchise.
"Every since I was a kid, and I think I'm like every other kid whose played pond hockey, I had a dream of lifting the Stanley Cup," Thompson told CTV News Channel.
"I'm a hockey fan first, I'm a Canadian second. I just want to see the Cup back in Canada. And to see the Leafs hoist it … man that would be a dream come true."
But lifting the Cup himself would be even better, Thompson said. He realized at the age of 14 that he wasn't good enough to play hockey professionally and decided the only way he'd be able to lift the Stanley Cup is if he did it as an owner.
Now he's asking the public to pitch in to raise enough money to buy into the franchise.
Thompson got the idea to recruit the public a week and a half ago, after hearing that the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan planned on selling its controlling share of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Leafs and Toronto Raptors, among a number of other sports ventures.
Thompson built a website to build community support, with the idea that if enough people pledged $1,000 he could raise enough money to make an offer.
In 10 days, Thompson has received more than 40,000 messages and has received promises for around $40 million. Some people have offered as much as $20,000 to the cause.
"If Ontario teachers could buy the Leafs, why couldn't every Canadian and share in that dream? I'm just a Canadian with a huge dream, and there seems to be a lot of people with the same dream," Thompson said.
While such public ownership structures are rare, they are not without precedent. The NFL's Green Bay Packers are owned by the community. The CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders are also owned by residents who have paid for shares in the team.
Still, Thompson's dream is a long shot, he admits. Those promises will still have to turn into pledged dollars, and he will need more than a million people on board if he expects to raise enough money to reach the likely sale price, about $1.3 billion. The group would also need approval from the league before it would be allowed to buy into the team.
"We are just now getting into the formalization process. We are 11 days in and we are really starting to see some traction," he said.