King of denial? Leiweke to leave MLSE by next year

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After strongly refuting reports he was stepping down as president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Tim Leiweke is stepping down as president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

On Thursday, MLSE chairman Larry Tanembaum announced that Leiweke would leave his post by June 30, 2015, or until a replacement had been found.

“Under Tim’s leadership, MLSE has made a number of key moves to strengthen our organization on the path to championship success,” Tanenbaum said in a statement. “We look forward to closely working with Tim to build on this foundation and further accelerate our momentum as we seek a new leader for MLSE.”

Leiweke, 57, became the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in June of last year, after a lengthy stint in the same position of the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which owns the Los Angeles Kings. In his statement, Leiweke alluded to “new opportunities on the horizon” as part of the reason for his departure.

(And, to be fair to Leiweke, his denials of CBC’s original report were somewhat honest — he denied he was stepping down soon, saying that he was “fully committed to the season at hand.” Which he kind of is.)

Though he oversaw the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, MLS’ Toronto FC and the Maple Leafs, Leiweke received a good chunk of his press over the last year with regards to the hockey club. Early in his tenure, Leiweke said he wanted to be a “hero” in Toronto (adding he already had a Stanley Cup parade route planned), comments the Toronto Star called “laughable,” adding that “in the cultivation of executive arrogance, the new guy in town is intent on scaling new heights.”

A month later, Leiweke caused more controversy when he ordered the removal of pictures of the Leafs’ Stanley Cup team from the dressing room hallway.

“I don’t want the players walking in the hallways of the Air Canada Centre and seeing pictures from 1962,” Leiweke told Bloomberg. “Get rid of those pictures and tell them, this is your legacy.”

He later apologized, saying the decision wasn’t directed at Leafs alumni but rather a challenge to the current squad.

On Leiweke’s watch, the Leafs also hired 28-year-old assistant GM Kyle Dubas and took a major step forward in utilizing advanced analytics, reportedly hiring a trio of bloggers/website administrators to head up their stats department.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.