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BLOG: Anselmi striving to bring unique fan experiences to Ice District

The 17-year former MLSE executive in Toronto hoping to bring similar hype as 'Jurassic Park' for the Raptors in the NBA

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - Newly-appointed Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club President of Business Operations and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Tom Anselmi has watched his projects grow from the ground up to achieve new heights.

During a 17-year stay with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), a key role in developing the Air Canada Centre for the Etobicoke, Ontario native included a branching out from the venue to further engage fans and create buzz around the organization's many clubs that include the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Toronto FC, and the Toronto Raptors.

The highly-publicized Raptors, bolstered by the thousands who've occupied 'Jurassic Park' in the streets of downtown Toronto throughout the NBA Playoffs, will watch on with anticipation tonight as the league's only Canadian side goes for its first championship in franchise history tonight at home with a 3-1 series lead on the Golden State Warriors.

Video: 1-ON-1 | Tom Anselmi Exclusive

"I remember when we were first conceiving the whole Maple Leafs Square concept," Anselmi, speaking for the first time from the Oilers Hall of Fame room, said Monday. "It was really about expanding our footprint. We're in the business of limited inventory, we have 20,000 seats to sell or whatever, so how do we engage a broader audience in a bunch of different ways? This really was started to sell a 10,000-square foot sports bar with an extra 2,000 seats, then the square."

Anselmi was the brainchild behind the square's utilization as a meeting ground for fans and their teams' biggest moments, and spoke to the potential Ice District has in the coming years to mirror that excitement in the colours of orange and blue.

"Did we ever imagine what's going on there now? Not a chance. But it's great to see and it's happening everywhere now.

"It's become a really important part of the sports experience, and so here in the city of Edmonton where we're got an enclosed room that has the best of both worlds, I think it's a really interesting opportunity."

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