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Maple Leafs CEO Tim Leiweke to step down by next summer

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Tim Leiweke says he'll be stepping down as MLSE CEO by next summer. (USATSI)
Tim Leiweke says he'll be stepping down as MLSE CEO by next summer. (USATSI)

Though he's only been with Toronto Maple Leafs parent company Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for just over a year, CEO Tim Leiweke is already planning for his exit from the company. Initially reported by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman that he would soon leave his post, MLSE confirmed Thursday that Leiweke informed the company that he will exit by June 30, 2015 or until a successor is found.

Since his arrival, Leiweke has been full of proclamations about the direction of one of the NHL's most storied franchises. In one of his first interviews after taking the job, Leiweke said he already had the Maple Leafs Stanley Cup parade route planned despite the fact that the team hadn't won the top prize since 1967. He also touted grandiose plans for the Maple Leafs' forthcoming centennial celebration in which the team would aim to host just about every major NHL event over one calendar year. Now he won't be around to see any of that.

Prior to joining MLSE, which also operates the NBA's Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC of MLS and the Toronto Marlies of the American hockey League, Leiweke spent 17 years with sports entertainment power AEG.

The announcement of his impending departure comes just days after Leiweke strongly refuted Friedman's report.

If Leiweke remains with the company until his June 30, 2015 deadline, he'll have just two years under his belt. According to Sportsnet's John Shannon, MSG and Comcast/NBC are already rumored to have interest in one of the most powerful and respected sports and entertainment executives.

For Maple Leafs fans, they'll have to wonder what all the fuss was about. Beyond hiring Brendan Shanahan this summer to become the Maple Leafs' president of hockey operations, and announcing plans to honor the team's legends with a statue, there's not a lot to be said for what Leiweke did to help improve the hockey club.

The Maple Leafs missed the playoffs last season after a disastrous late-season collapse and Leiweke decided to retain general manager Dave Nonis and head coach Randy Carlyle. They even gave Carlyle an extension.

Things are changing in the Leafs organization now, but it still seems as though they are a ways away from planning any parades.

In a career that spans 30 years, Leiweke's time in Toronto will register as a mere blip in his professional timeline. Though the Raptors showed improvement as an organization and Toronto FC has made some high-profile additions to the team, the Maple Leafs may still be running in place a bit.

Depending on how Shanahan turns out in his current role, that is likely going to end up being Leiweke's legacy with the franchise. The jury is still out on that one as Shanahan is far too early in his tenure to make any kind of judgment.

For all of the plans and optimism Leiweke touted, they'll seem especially hollow now for long-suffering Maple Leafs fans.

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