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ONcourt Special Edition, The Bear: “Downey leaves Tennis Canada”

ONcourt Special Edition, The Bear: “Downey leaves Tennis Canada”

Written by: Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche


***Pierre Lamarche has been an outspoken proponent of Canadian tennis and how the sport should have a major place in the Canadian sport landscape. He believes this lofty ambition can only be achieved through the combination of success on the international professional competitive scene, with the required domestic infrastructure and a true partnership between Tennis Canada and the tennis private sector.

His comments are often taken as critical by those who feel targeted by his questions. His background as a player, coach, and leader [see background] in the sport and coaching industry warrants that his views, which are shared by many others, be given due process by anyone [or organization] who really wants to help Canadian Tennis achieve the proper national status it deserves in the sport community.***


One week after being front and center in Canada’s great semi-final run in Davis Cup in Belgrade, Michael Downey, CEO and president of Tennis Canada, has informed the TC Board of Directors that he was leaving to become the Chief Executive of the Lawn Tennis Association as of January 6th, 2014.

Michael Downey has been a major force in helping tennis rebuild its image as a major sport in our country. First and foremost his leadership skills and his business acumen provided the opportunities for Tennis Canada to achieve profits which clearly benefited tennis development. The selling and operations of the Opens coupled with great fund raising initiatives brought about major financial resources to the organization.

His role in establishing Montreal as a major national center brought substantial provincial and municipal government subsidies which again helped the growth of the development budget. Some of these initiatives might not have been universally supported [the cost of building clay courts was astronomical at Jarry] but they grew the resources of Tennis Canada.

His tenure at Tennis Canada was certainly helped by the Milos Raonic phenomena and the outstanding performances of Peliwo and Bouchard in winning Wimbledon junior crowns. He also made sure that these athletes and the Davis Cup team received the financial and human resources support required to achieve these outstanding performances on the world scene.

Michael is a very kind person, heavily respected by everyone especially by his staff. His leadership will certainly be missed at Tennis Canada in view of the many changes that loom on the horizon. Bob Brett who was only answerable to Michael Downey has now left Tennis Canada which means that Ontario and the rest of Canada [not Quebec] will be under new guidance in the development area. Louis Borfiga from Montreal will now assume these responsibilities. He is a very competent individual but a lot needs to be done to re-establish the strained relationships due to policies which clearly were unfriendly towards the many Academies and Indoor clubs. These Academies and Indoor clubs are major resources for player development in this country. This is an opportunity to make it right.

As for me, the Bear, I always liked Michael Downey although he must have thought of me as an annoying voice. I never questioned his intentions but I certainly questioned the development policies that were championed by him. These policies, as he admitted, were not his own creation but those of the people he trusted. He was always loyal to them and I respected him for that. I personally believe we need more initiatives at the entry level right across the country, not just in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. We need strategies to bring tennis to many more communities that create the Crosby’s and the Gretsky’s of this world. We also need to harness the resources of year- round facilities which are the Golden Goose of Tennis Canada.

Michael Downey’s legacy at Tennis Canada is without a doubt second to none. I am sad to see him go after losing Greg Rusedski and Louis Cayer to the Brits. How ironic to have all three of them working for the LTA!

Britain 3, Canada 0

Go Canada Go

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7 Responses to “ONcourt Special Edition, The Bear: “Downey leaves Tennis Canada””

  1. 1
    Michael Paduch Says:

    Thank you, Pierre, for a balanced and kind article on Michael Downey. I do not know him but I am sure he is a great, kind man.

    Is it fair to say that the vision of Tennis Canada under his tenure, however successful it may have been during that time, was too small for this country i.e. does Canada – considering the country’s size, history and international linkages – and its people deserve – and an afford – more than Jarry tennis courts in Montreal and one major, annual event? It is a rhetorical question for me as you might guess, because I believe it does and yet we did not see this reflected / acknowledged by those in the senior public positions Michael had to work with to convince about the importance of growing this sport here.

    All the best!

  2. 2
    The Bear Says:

    You are right for tennis to really grow in this country we must harness the public sector, at the national and provincial level to access their infrastructure, and the private sector to access the resources required to introduce this great family, community, excellence activity all across our wonderful country. All Canadians should have the opportunity to be part of our Canadian tennis family.

  3. 3
    AJ Says:

    How would you react if USA incharge of Tennis Development
    ( USTA ) Patrick McEnroe betrays USA & goto Russian Tennis

    It is sad that Michael is betraying Tennis Canada For Better Money.
    We should be asking him this Question, Yet i see is Standing ovation
    Of his Service,

    It is called outsourcing, When we Outsource our jobs
    We critisize the companies. Yet Michael is leaving Tennis Canada in the
    Development Phase & Show me the Money attitude.
    i am disappointed by his jumping ship & Losing credibility.

  4. 4
    Michael Paduch Says:

    I am not sure who is ‘we’ here. Outsourcing repetetive jobs that can be performed remotely at a fraction of a cost is standard if cross border barriers are low. We can’t outsource construction, in-class eduction, acute medical care or local farming the same way. Having an executive leave for a better job is not outsourcing, however. It is called the “talent drain” and has been a problem for Canada in close to two decades. We lost governor of the Bank of Canada not that long ago, and the same happened to the former Canada Post CEO. Both run similar but larger organizations in Britain.

    Can we appeal to patriotic instincts? High performance sports, tennis being one of them, long ago stopped being a patriotic manifestation of country’s prowess. I grew up with fanatical belief that if Polish soccer team loses to Germany in 1986 then it is a replay of 1939 Blitzkrieg offensive, so we better mount border defenses :-)

    These folks do not swear oath to Canadian people and Constitution when they sign their employment contracts, so let’s be real here. Federal Heritage Ministry is ill-equipped and inappropriate place to lead the federal sports funding for the country and, as I said many times, the fact that much smaller countries have senior ministers for sports while Canada has none /junior minister under Heritage portfolio does not count/ shows simply where our mouth is when it comes to supporting sports.

    And that is where I would aim my critique, not at the guy who perhaps had enough hitting the brick wall and was looking for new challenges.


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