MLSE CEO Keith Pelley
MLSE CEO Keith Pelley

At Friday’s press conference, Keith Pelley discussed his new role as MLSE CEO, his early evaluation of Brendan Shanahan and Brad Treliving, and the winning culture he is hoping to help foster in the Leafs organization. 

Keith Pelley’s Opening Statement


I will not make this a habit of participating in team operation news conferences, but this is different. This is the first time I have spoken publicly at a news conference as the CEO of MLSE. With that title brings a heavy responsibility of overseeing the Toronto Maple Leafs. I relish that opportunity.

At the core of that responsibility is the real reason I came back to Toronto: to win. Good is simply not good enough. I can assure you that is the collective position of ownership. When I asked during the interview stage, “What was the definition of success to the owners?” One of them said immediately and emphatically, “Just win.”

It is not easy in a league where rules and regulations promote competitive balance, but where we can, we will provide our hockey operations with every resource to win. I have been here for four weeks. I am still assessing, evaluating, and learning. I can assure you that no decision—like the decision earlier this week—will be made without a detailed analysis that provides us with the best chance to win.

We need to win. Nothing else matters. No doubt, you have heard that before, but I am 1,000% committed to it.


You mentioned, “Just win.” You are not talking about a round, right? You are talking about the Stanley Cup. When do you hope to accomplish that by?

Pelley: It is impossible to put a timeline on that. It is undeniably our focus. I have always believed that the formula for success is great skill combined with chemistry and unity. In the midst of facing adversity in the first series down 3-1, I got a full glimpse of the chemistry and unity that Brad and Brendan have.

I cannot comment on what has transpired over the last number of years, but I can tell you that chemistry and unity are the critical components that add to skill in order to be successful. Winning is winning the Stanley Cup.

I saw this year, during the 2023 Ryder Cup, where we came in as underdogs, the bottom line was that under the guidance of Luke Donald, we had chemistry and unity that exceeded that of the Americans. As a result, we were very successful.

I believe the recipe for success is skill, chemistry, and unity. For me, success is winning the Stanley Cup. Nothing else matters than winning a Stanley Cup.

As you evaluate the organization in your new position, what is the justification for keeping a President with one playoff series win in 10 years?

Pelley: I can only comment, as I said, on the first four weeks. Brendan Shanahan is the President of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is a champion. He is a three-time Stanley Cup winner. What I saw in my four weeks with the two gentlemen beside me showed me that the chemistry and unity is being built at the highest levels.

I don’t have any other comments because I wasn’t here for the last eight years. I understand the results, but I can only evaluate what I have seen in the first four weeks.

You are from Toronto. You probably heard so much negative talk about the team. How much does it burn you that this team hasn’t had success, and now you are in a role to change that?

Pelley: I haven’t spent much time here in the last nine years, but in the last three or four weeks, I have gotten a full glimpse of the power of Leafs Nation. I understand the passion and commitment of the fans. It quickly reminded me of going to my very first game in Liverpool and hearing that song, “You Will Never Walk Alone.” The fans here not only deserve but demand a championship.

There is no complacency. We are not here to sell jerseys. We are here to win. We are going to do everything we possibly can to do that.

As much as I love the city—and Toronto is my home—that was not the lure for me to come back. The lure for me to come back was the possibility and commitment to being successful and to winning with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I am going to do everything in my power, and everything with the support of ownership, to do just that.

As I said, the fans are incredibly passionate. What I saw in Maple Leaf Square was staggering to me in Game 6. The city is certainly different than it was nine years ago. One of the ways it is different is that there are even more Leafs fans and Leafs Nation is even bigger than it was then. They deserve 100% of our effort to go in and make this team successful. I believe that it is what we are going to do.

A philosophical question: You were away for nine years. While you were away, the philosophy of this team in terms of how cap money was spent seemed to be to spend whatever you need on the highest-skill players because we can’t afford to lose them. It went up until the point where it is around 50% of the cap. The rest of the 50% is spent on everyone but those four or five.

You talked about the need to bring in chemistry and unity as well as skill. When you spend that much on so few players, it doesn’t seem to leave you a lot of money left over for the chemistry and unity of the team. Does your philosophy conflict with the way things have been handled over the last nine years? Do you see it affecting how you negotiate with anyone who is potentially looking for a new deal in the near future?

Pelley: The actual makeup of the team is the responsibility of Brendan and Brad. When I talk about chemistry and unity, I talk about it throughout the entire organization from ownership all the way to the equipment manager. Everybody has to pull on the exact same rope. Everybody has to understand the objective and goal. There has to be unwavering support for each other. There is no defensiveness. That is what unity is. That is what chemistry is to win. Everybody understands it.

It is not the combination of just skill alone. Skill, from my experience, is obviously a critical component of it, but if you don’t have the chemistry throughout the entire organization and the unity, starting from ownership all the way through to the equipment manager, it is more difficult to be successful.  That is the support that I am going to provide.

Brendan and Brad have shown that chemistry. They know what they have to do this summer. They are the experts at it. I am going to support them to hopefully drive the importance of chemistry and unity throughout the organization.