Vancouver Sun


- — John Kryk

TORONTO Spanish is all French to David Hopkinson. So to speak.

The longtime Toronto resident and former Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainm­ent executive begins his new job with soccer goliath Real Madrid next month — and he isn’t exactly el experto on the native language of España.

“I’ve had a few vacations in Mexico and have learned some of the most rudimentar­y words, but really that’s it,” the former MLSE chief commercial officer said Wednesday morning, in his first interview since agreeing to become Global Head of Partnershi­ps for Real Madrid Club de Fútbol.

“So I’m going to go learn Spanish. To me, that’s part of this adventure. I’ve got a tutor I’ll be working with on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, at 8:30 a.m. in my office … I’m after it, and I will learn Spanish.”

But how can Hopkinson function without a firm command of Spanish in his new job, in which he’ll seek to further grow the famed franchise’s brand globally?

“English is the global football language,” Hopkinson said.

Right. Not just on the pitch, but off.

“Hoppy” — his nickname since Grade 7 at Glen Ames Public School — was born and raised in Toronto. Except for five years at McGill University in Montreal, he has lived in the bustling, trendy Beaches area of lower-east Toronto.

Hopkinson’s wife, Lawrie, also is a lifelong Torontonia­n. Did he have to bend her arm, and those of daughters Claire (age 14) and Miranda (9), to relocate overseas?

“We did have some discussion about climate,” he said. “We’re passionate Torontonia­ns … We love Toronto. So there was a little gentle arm-twisting.

“We’re not huge fans of snow. And so heading someplace where it doesn’t really snow is attractive for us. Like Toronto, Madrid is a cosmopolit­an, beautiful city full of warm people and I think it will be a smooth transition for us.”

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