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Leafs Nation Network leaves the airwaves

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The Maple Leafs’ in-house television network goes black.

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More than 20 years after the team launched Leafs TV, renamed Leafs Nation Network in 2017, the specialty channel will not be back in its current form.

“Thank you for your audience,” the pay channel advised customers who have logged on in recent days. “As of September 1, Leafs Nation network television services will no longer be broadcast.” :

Several staff members confirmed the news to The Sun, they had been informed a few weeks ago. But it is believed that few or no jobs will be lost, as many of the functions provided by LNN are likely to go digital. A spokesperson for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment was not immediately available for comment.

When he made his debut in November 2000, he was a game changer in the National Hockey League. Given the Leafs’ enduring popularity across much of the country, it made sense at the time to gain an advantage over the various networks that were competing to air their games, especially regional ones, and produce this themselves. contents.

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Leafs TV began with a strong training and game presence, at home and on the road, dedicated pre- and post-game talk shows, weekend roundtables with guest reporters from across the league and a slice of the lucrative broadcast pie.

Former NHL broadcast director John Shannon was hired to oversee the rollout, with an offsite studio, as well as get Raptors TV off the ground. Regular hosts such as Paul Hendrick and the presence of Leaf broadcasters Joe Bowen, Todd Crocker of Marlies, analysts Harry Neale, Jim Ralph, Mark Osborne, Bob McGill, Greg Millen and others who have since become regulars from other networks gave him instant credibility. . It started HD simulcasts in 2006.

Although an offshoot of MLSE, initially Leafs TV staff and guest contributors were encouraged to be critical. A club-record seven-year drought without the playoffs certainly tested that policy.

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But the sale of the franchise by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to majority-owned communications consortium Bell-Rogers a decade ago, worth $1.32 billion for all sports properties, including Leafs TV, began making the channel redundant. And Rogers’ 2014 mega-deal to become the NHL’s dominant network awarded a reduced number of games to TSN and left Leafs TV without any live content from its namesake.

LNN copped with features like popular “classic” games and interviews from as far back as the 1960s and 1970s, as well as edited game highlights and live AHL contests from the Marlies. However, the advent of streaming, along with Twitter, other social media and the approval of companies such as Amazon to produce a Leaf documentary on the 2021 season have become the go-to platforms for team-exclusive content. .

“Leafs TV was a big bargaining chip at the time of the (Rogers-Bell sale), but they’ve come to see that (the lack of presence in the game’s broadcast) isn’t working,” a source told Reuters. Sun.

But many other NHL teams have copied the Leafs’ TV model.

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