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Another example of MLSE being a classless organization


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MLSE has done many disgusting things over the years, my favourite being the selling of Maple Leaf Gardens to Loblaws and rejecting Eugene Melnyk's plan of buying the iconic art deco building and turning it into a community rink and an amateur sports hall of fame. Now it looks like they are into revisionist history as well. From Monday's Toronto Star:

Banning Watters: Another petty MLSE move

Unable to get their veteran players to waive no-trade clauses, the Toronto Maple Leafs are apparently making other moves to improve their lot in the NHL, such as putting the boots to those who criticize them.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has erased all images and references to AM 640 announcer Bill Watters from the Air Canada Centre, the kind of thing the old Soviet Union used to do with those who had fallen into disfavour.

This would be a shocking move anywhere else, but this is the same organization that moved quickly to sack the team's dental staff after missing the playoffs two years ago.

So what has Watters done to merit disappearance?

According to MLSE, it considered Watters' criticism of the organization and bosses Larry Tanenbaum and Richard Peddie to be personal in nature.

If you didn't know better, you'd think Harold Ballard had risen from the grave.

The radio station is standing behind the commentator, although it values its position as rights holder enough that it provided MLSE with Watters-free posters on request Friday. Still, it's to 640's credit that it didn't sack Watters, which some might have done.

Watters says MLSE is taking his commentary the wrong way.

"There's no vendetta," Watters said yesterday. "What I do is strictly an analysis of the Leafs' situation and the people I think are responsible."

If Watters has been harsher on the Leafs lately, there's not much evidence of it. Watters admits he might have ramped up things a bit when general manager John Ferguson Jr. was sacked recently, but the guy's been verbally bludgeoning management since he got behind the mike at 640 in 2003.

He's called Tanenbaum and Peddie "dimwits" for their handling of the team. He once said Tanenbaum had a PhD: "Papa Has Dough."

More than once he's said the dismissal of that pair is the only thing that will improve life at MLSE.

Watters says Friday's move didn't come entirely out of the blue. "They've sent messages that I'm being hard on their people," he says, adding that he has ignored them. "Well, I was hard on them when a lot of others should have been hard on them. Until they get those two guys out of there, the hockey team is going nowhere."

Watters says he won't back down because it's not a matter of personal grudges even though Peddie was the guy who fired Watters as assistant general manager five years ago.

"Richard treated me better than anyone there," he recalls of his Leaf days. "But that doesn't make him any less incompetent.

"If I slip and say something personal, then I have to deal with that. But speaking about incompetence, I have free rein."

Still, Watters admits he does get a little carried away at times.

"If you lock (Peddie and Tanenbaum) in a room with a basket of apples and a jockstrap," he said recently, "they would starve to death before they figured out how to put the jock on."

That's pretty harsh stuff, especially by the rather tame standards of 640 and other electronic media outlets, but it hardly justifies this kind of move.

Watters is paid to make strong comments. And while some of his comments are more indecipherable than caustic, he does a great job of speaking his mind with both colour and authority.

For MLSE, this not only looks petty, it exposes one of the reasons this franchise has been struggling for the better part of four decades.

In future, they might want to worry more about what's happening on the ice and less about what people are saying about them.

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Bill Watters used to be Pat Quin's assistant. He also does a lot of of the hockey shows on sportsnet - he's the old white haired fella. While i agree this is a petty and silly thing that MLSE is doing, I have listened to Waters' show on the radio enough to know that I dont like the guy. Which really has no relevance to the issue at hand, just like to make that clear any chance I get!

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I love it. They should put a 2nd NHL team right in Toronto to really piss them off.

Stick them in Hamilton. I'll gladly support them.

I have always been OK with that and would like to see it happen. Toronto (media) likes to say they are the hockey capital of the universe. I see no reason why that area could not sustain two teams. Quit putting them in Florida!!

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Just for clarification, the images in question were ads for his radio shows on AM 640, nothing to do with his past employment history with the team.

Dave, isn't it all related? They wouldn't care as much if it was some local no-name idiot with no prior connection to the Leafs. The Fan's Gord Stellick hasn't been muzzled and he's been really critical.

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