Maple Leafs vs. Ryerson


Toronto’s NHL team goes to war with local Canadian university

Sean Tepper
Eyeopener (Ryerson University)

TORONTO (CUP) –– Ryerson University might seem like an unlikely rival to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), but the school is giving the sports giant some serious anxiety.   

MLSE filed an injunction against both Ryerson and Loblaw Companies in late June, demanding the university stop referring to its new $60-million athletic facility as Maple Leaf Gardens (MLG).

According to court documents obtained by the Eyeopener, MLSE believes that “Loblaw and Ryerson threaten and intend the deliberate use of the trademark to deceive the public and infringe the rights of MLSE.”

The filings also suggest that MLSE believes Ryerson’s 2,600-seat arena may compete with the Air Canada Centre (ACC), the company’s current venue for sports and entertainment.

“It really boggles my mind,” said Ryerson president Sheldon Levy. “How in the world can we compete with [the ACC]? What we want in there they would never want and what we would dream about having in there we could never have. [MLG] can’t handle U2.”

The documents also suggest MLSE feels threatened because the venue will be managed by Global Spectrum, a Philadelphia-based company which manages stadiums such as Citizens Bank Park and the University of Phoenix Stadium, both of which house professional sports teams and high-profile concerts.

While Levy believes that it is impossible to compete with a stadium like the ACC, MLSE – which formerly owned MLG – claims “the use of the property as a sports and entertainment facility creates a real risk of confusion in the minds of the public that MLSE is still involved in its operation.”

“Do you think people are going to confuse the Ryerson Rams with the Toronto Maple Leafs?” Levy said. “The only reason they would is we’ll win championships.”

MLSE stated it would never have sold the property to Loblaw if it knew a stadium would be built on it.

The two parties are currently negotiating and, even though no progress has been made yet, Levy said he hopes the matter can be settled out of court.

“[We told MLSE that] we read the covenant, understand it and we will not break the covenant, but that has not been a satisfactory answer to them,” Levy said.

When Ryerson partnered up with Loblaw in December 2009, it saw MLG as being a crucial acquisition, which would not only provide its overcrowded athletics department with more space, but help build an identity for the school’s teams.

Under the current agreement, the Gardens’ main floor will be home to a Loblaws grocery store, while the facility’s upper levels would house a full-athletic centre, including basketball courts and a hockey arena, which would be home to the university’s varsity teams.

While the Loblaws grocery store is set to open this fall, Levy said the athletic facility is set to open this winter.

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