Toronto deserves a second NHL team: committee
Published Thursday, June 2, 2011 7:49PM EDT
A city committee is backing a Toronto councillor's proposal to try to lure a second NHL team to the city.
Toronto's Economic Development Committee said on Thursday that the city should officially write to the NHL and express interest in hosting an additional franchise.
The Toronto Maple Leafs is the league's most profitable franchise, according to Forbes.com, and a recent economic study suggests that a second team in southern Ontario would be an immediate financial success.
"There are five million people in the region already. There are going to be a million new people in the region in the next 10 years or so as the market grows. And we are already the best market in the world," Coun. Josh Colle said Thursday.
Colle proposed the city make overtures to NHL and express its determination in hosting a second hockey team, should the opportunity arise.
"The City of Toronto must convey a loud and clear message to the NHL that we are willing partners and would make the best host city for any new or relocating NHL franchise," read Colle's letter to the committee.
Now that the committee has approved the motion, it will be voted on by city council on June 14.
Colle said he envisions Toronto's second team playing outside of the downtown core. He suggested the team could play at the Woodbine Racetrack in the city's north end, adding that another location could lure a different crowd than those who trek downtown to Leafs games.
The idea has some at Woodbine rubbing their hands in anticipation. The massive complex is currently home to a number of big-ticket draws.
"That would be great, why not? We have got all the parking facilities; we've got the casino and great horse racing. And we've got sports fans here at Woodbine, that's for sure," former NHLer Cliff Pennington said during a visit to the track on Thursday.
But the idea isn't a break away, with at least one councillor expressing doubts.
Coun. Michael Thompson says the city doesn't have the money for a second franchise, and a second team would create too much traffic congestion.
"Imagine a situation where there were two games happening in this city at any given point in time. We have enough challenges in this city with one," Thompson told CTV Toronto.
The NHL has already blocked at least one attempt to move a team to southern Ontario, quashing RIM owner Jim Balsillie's overture to relocate the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton.
League Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that keeping franchises in the cities they are currently in was a priority, and balked at Balsillie's openness about moving the team to southern Ontario.
But with the Atlanta Thrashers set to move to Winnipeg, Colle said the NHL brass has shown its willingness to consider moving teams to Canada and that several U.S. teams remain mired in financial uncertainty.
"With the success Winnipeg just had, I'm sure other cities in Canada are thinking ‘Why not me, why not us?' and it did give a signal that the NHL is willing to go north of the border," Colle said.
On top of that, a recent study by the Mowat Centre for Policy alternatives suggested that the economy of the NHL has changed to the point that Canada could support a total of 12 teams – five more than the seven they currently have, including Winnipeg.
The study suggested the best location would be in the Greater Toronto area, a market they said could support as many as three teams. A second Toronto-area team would likely generate higher revenues than the average U.S. team, the study suggested.
Colle said a second NHL team would bring significant increases in tourism, jobs and tax revenue to Toronto, drawing visitors from around southern Ontario.
Attempting to secure a second NHL team in the Toronto area is not a new concept, with some half-dozen plans raised in recent years.
Beyond Balsillie's extensive attempt to force the NHL's hand, there have also been sweeter salvos and quiet attempts to win Bettman's eye.
In 2009 a group led by pitchman Andrew Lopez unveiled an ambitious plan complete with a team name (the Toronto Legacy), logo, business plan and a reported $1 billion in financing.
Lopez held a press conference, claiming that the group would build a brand new arena at a former military base in Downsview Park.
In 2009, a group met with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly about building an NHL-calibre arena in Vaughan, while other musings have suggested Waterloo could host a franchise.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Naomi Parness