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Leafs not raising ticket prices as Shanahan says rebuild will require patience

03/03/2015 06:04 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Brendan Shanahan wants fans to know the Toronto Maple Leafs are committed to a long-term rebuilding project, and that they won't have to pay more to see it unfold next season.

In a letter to season-ticket holders that will go out Wednesday morning, the team president outlines the expectation for short-term pain with the goal of becoming a Stanley Cup contender in the future.

"There are no shortcuts to building a team the right way," Shanahan writes in the letter. "It will require patience and a long-term view, but it is important for you to know that the process will be well worth it when we get there."

In line with that, the Leafs will not raise ticket prices for next season. It's the fifth time in seven years all ticket prices will remain the same across the board, following increases in some areas of Air Canada Centre for 2014-15.

The Leafs are on their way to missing the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons. Shanahan, who was named team president in April, tells season-ticket holders that the management team and players will be committed to becoming a contender "and will not be satisfied with anything less."

"He has a plan," Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chief commercial officer Dave Hopkinson said in a phone interview Tuesday. "It's clear that he's getting ready to reveal his plan and that (the moves) we're doing right now is the setup to give him the flexibility."

The Leafs made six trades leading up to Monday's deadline, shipping out veteran winger David Clarkson and pending free agents Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik, Olli Jokinen and Korbinian Holzer. General manager Dave Nonis said he did not push to make larger deals to trade players with longer contracts.

On the business side, Shanahan was "intimately involved" with the decision to keep ticket prices the same, according to Hopkinson, who said ownership was "extremely supportive" of the decision. Hopkinson said it follows other fan-friendly initiatives that have gone into place in the past year, like giving season-ticket holders the opportunity to opt out of two pre-season games and holding a September fan fest.

"There's a bunch of things we're doing to really demonstrate to our fans in deeds not just words that we do not take their loyalty for granted, that we appreciate their support," Hopkinson said.

Given the organization's recent mediocrity, this fan base seems prepared for a full-scale rebuild. Hopkinson said fans he has talked to are excited about that possibility and predicts that "they're going to be able to be very enthusiastic about our trajectory very soon."

Hopkinson said the season-ticket renewal rate has been over 99 per cent in each of the past two years.

"I think that our most loyal supporters, they're believing in Shanny, they're believing in where we're going, and they're excited to see that we have got a very, very clear direction here," Hopkinson said. "We're fortunate that we have the support from that group that allows us, from a business perspective, the patience to do what Shanny needs to do here in order to build a team that's going to consistently compete for a championship."

Shanahan was not made available for interviews Tuesday. Speaking about the organization's plan, Hopkinson said Shanahan is "resolved" to stay the course to produce winning hockey the right way.

"He will not be swayed by media pressure or fan pressure or Twitter or anything else," Hopkinson said. "He's going to do what he needs to do in order to make this team a consistent winner."

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