Air Canada Centre, Leafs roster both under renovation as training camp nears

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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TORONTO When you take a tour around the Air Canada Centre and listen to the extensive renovation plans Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment have for the arena, its hard not to start drawing parallels to the organizations NHL team.

The building is currently receiving a multi-million dollar upgrade that is expected to be completed by next September. The timeline for the Maple Leafs roster to be rebuilt is much longer than that.

With the Air Canada Centre set to celebrate its 10-year anniversary in February, MLSE decided to put even more money into the building than usual this off-season.

An $8-million scoreboard and control room upgrade has already been installed while construction is underway for what is to become a large atrium entrance that will feature a 60-by-40-foot screen overlooking an outdoor plaza.

The company sees the renovation as a reward for its fans.

We have great support here, said Bob Hunter, who runs the ACC. The fans continue year after year to give us that support. I mean its like an IOU in our books, we owe it to them.

When youre sitting at home watching your high definition television and you come down here and you see 10-year-old technology, (its) not the same. Its like keeping up with the Joneses youve got to continue to reinvest.

Ideally, the Maple Leafs would have the kind of team that complements the building, which has more than stood the test of time over its first decade.

Even with a week to go before training camp opens, its already pretty clear that it wont happen this season. Interim general manager Cliff Fletcher sat down for an informal chat with reporters Thursday morning and spoke candidly about a team that is likely to experience some struggles this season.

Like their arena, the Maple Leafs have gone through plenty of changes over the summer with the acquisition of a dozen players, five coaches, two front office staffers and two scouts.

Its just the beginning of a rebuilding process so no one should plan on watching playoff hockey at the Air Canada Centre next spring.

The bottom line is, we have only one top six forward ... and thats (Nik) Antropov, said Fletcher.

There will be competition for lineup spots during training camp and the Maple Leafs could end up with as many as 10 players 25 and under this season.

It sounds increasingly unlikely that first-round pick Luke Schenn will be among them. Fletcher says the 18-year-old defenceman would have to overwhelm us to crack the lineup this season.

As a result, the most overwhelming thing on display in the coming months will likely end up being the new scoreboard hanging over centre ice. MLSE purchased Mitsubishis latest model and increased the videoboards light display by 800 per cent in the process.

The company also invested heavily in the control room that operates the scoreboard to ensure it had the top technology available.

This will be the best videoboard/control room combination of any arena in North America, said Curtis Emerson, a control room engineer. We will set the standard for this season.

Organizations: Air Canada Centre, Maple Leafs, NHL Joneses

Geographic location: TORONTO, North America

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