The Globe and Mail has a story in the paper today about an un-named league executive talking about the murmurs about having another NHL franchise in Toronto. Other league executives have pointed out this has not been a topic at any of the Governors meetings thus it is all speculative. It has also been pointed out that if it were to ever happen it would have to be the move of an existing franchise. Adding new teams when several current teams are in financial distress is not generally regarded as a prudent move.
So let’s just play the pie in the sky game for a moment. Would it be a good idea and could it possibly happen?
Toronto is the biggest and most feverish hockey market on the planet. Despite the fact that this new team would always be the 2nd team in Toronto I am sure it could make money and more importantly make money for the league. I am told that right now the 6 Canadian teams account for over 30% of the NHL’s revenues. Another team in Toronto would only increase that. Is the market big enough? That isn’t even a question. If New York/New Jersey is big enough for 3 teams and the city of New York is big enough for 2 football teams and 2 baseball teams (as is Chicago), Toronto is certainly big enough to support 2 NHL teams. The building would overflow with all the average fans who have no chance of ever getting a ticket to see the Leafs in their lifetime.
What could stand in the way? The Leafs would stand in the way. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has a wonderful monopoly on the hearts and minds of the Toronto sports fans. Why would they allow any of that to be eroded to benefit another owner and the NHL? Toronto had the chance to have a rival on their doorstep when Hamilton bid for a team at the same time Ottawa did. The Leafs and Sabres both let the NHL know they would both exercise their right to veto as a Hamilton team would infringe on their territorial exemption. Yes the new owners could pay a fee to the Leafs, but only if they choose to accept it and they are not obliged to. I believe they won’t. If I were running MLSE I would not. Why allow someone come in and cut little chunks out of your huge pie if you have the ability to stop it before it starts?
There will always be the talk of a team relocating to the Kitchener/Waterloo area as long as RIM owner Jim Balsillie has a voice and reporters have microphones, but he is clearly not a partner the NHL governors want despite his bulging bank account.
Would another team in Toronto work? Of course it would.
Will it happen? I doubt it.
See you at the rink.