Things are about to get real in Toronto, as the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons has reported that Steven Stamkos went beyond the reach of Don Meehan’s Newport offices to meet with the Toronto Maple Leafs today.
SOURCES: Maple Leafs met with Steven Stamkos at MLSE headquarters Tuesday. Also present: Toronto Mayor John Tory and CEO of Canadian Tire.
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) June 29, 2016
Of course, we know that Simmons has had some misses before. Besides his controversial persona in the Toronto sports landscape, he’s also whiffed hard on things before, like the Phil Kessel hotdog fiasco. It is worth keeping in mind, though, that the Kessel thing was an anecdote in the middle of a piece and not an attempt at breaking news.
As well, given the gossipy nature of the local hockey scene in Toronto, and Stamkos’ hometown roots, the idea of Simmons having a source close to Stamkos is in no way unrealistic.
Now, it’s not a shocker to me that Stamkos would be continuing to meet with the Leafs. As I’ve hinted at before, there are a lot of reasons to believe the Leafs will be Stamkos’ destination on Friday, both based on gossip and based on simply weighing his available options from the outside. But the exact circumstances that Simmons outlines, while not out of nowhere, are very interesting.
John Tory will no doubt be there to pitch to Stamkos the importance of this city, the one that he grew up in, and what he can do to be a party of the cultural explosion that the city has seen over the past few years. He’ll be there to weigh heavy on Stamkos’ emotions and ensure that he knows that he’ll be a city icon if he makes his decision. But it’s also important to remember Tory’s background; he spent 13 years working for Rogers, who part-own the Leafs and have a huge stake in this move with their 12-year NHL broadcast rights considered. Tory climbed all the way up to CEO of Rogers Media between 1995 and 1999 and remains a contact for the organization.
Also of interest is the inclusion of Canadian Tire CEO Michael B. Medline in the discussions. Canadian Tire is a top-tier sponsor of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, and in 2013, the two sides agreed to a 10-year retail partnership. This involves the sale of MLSE-team merchandise at Canadian Tire locations and subsidiaries, heavy brand integration at the Air Canada Centre, and the movement of MLSE brand Real Sports Apparel from Maple Leaf Square to back into the arena, to make room for a two-floor SportChek flagship location.
Stamkos is presently sponsored by SportChek, but has been used in a minor role. Presumably, Canadian Tire could offer him a new package to become one of the company’s flagship athletes. Presently, Jonathan Toews is their main guy, mainly being used for their Jumpstart charity. As it stands, Toews is the third-most endorsed player in the NHL, making $2.2 million a year according to Forbes. It is suspected that Canadian Tire is a huge player in that.
As well, Rick Westhead of TSN estimates that Stamkos could make up to an additional $600,000 a year per endorsement deal he takes.
Overall, this seems like the right direction for the Leafs to go if they want to close out the financial end of the deal. Their biggest hurdle in this race is almost assuredly the dump trucks of money being offered by other teams; if they can keep that cap remotely close, Friday is going to be a hell of a day.