The Toronto Maple Leafs finished No. 122 overall – dead last – in ESPN the Magazine’s annual ranking of North American pro sports franchises.
Franchises are evaluated in eight categories: “Bang for the Buck” (wins during the past three years per revenues directly from fans), fan relations, quality of ownership, affordability, stadium experience, players (efforts on the field, likeability off the field), coaching and title track (championships won, or expected, in the lifetime of current fans).
ESPN noted the Leafs raised prices 7.2 per cent after 2010-11, fell to 13th place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference last season, and still generated an $82-million (U.S.) profit.
The magazine’s Peter Keating wrote: “The Leafs are like the [New York] Yankees – an internationally famous franchise with a glorious history, devoted followers and staggeringly high prices – except they play like the [Kansas City] Royals. Even worse, they regularly blow off fans: In our surveys, the Leafs finished dead last among all teams in the categories of player accessibility, staging promotions and giveaways, and engaging fans through social media – a hideous trifecta.”
The Leafs are owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., also the owner of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors (No. 103).
While MLSE has recently been purchased by BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc., ESPN sees “little reason to expect change.”
The magazine has ranked the Maple Leafs last among NHL franchises for five consecutive years.
Globe and Mail staff