Monday, May 11, 2009

Will Toronto get a 2nd hockey team?

Former Maple Leafs tough guy Kevin Maguire met recently with NHL VP Bill Daley and is fronting a group that is interested in a NHL franchise in Vaughan. Jim Balsillie is trying to buy the Phoenix Coyotes for $212.5 million and move them to Hamilton. Another group headed by Vancouver developer Tom Gaglardi would like to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Hamilton as well.

However, Jim Balsillie's bid and the league's response has created an incredible amount of negative PR for the NHL among Canadians (especially in Southern Ontario). There's always been a large anti-Bettman faction in this country, but in recent days, it seems to have grown considerably. There's growing bitterness in Toronto over the fact that the league has become all but inaccessible for everyone but the wealthy elite and the business community, and that could have long-term effects on the fan base in this part of North America.

It seems everyone would like to own a hockey franchise in hockey mad Toronto. Let's face it, at least 20 NHL teams would make more money if they could relocate to Toronto. But don't expect the NHL to approve a move to Toronto. If Toronto is such a lucrative market, then why would the NHL allow someone to move into the region without the league getting something out of it.

After the dust settles in Phoenix, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and other troubled franchises, the league will have to eventually turn its attention to Southern Ontario. There is big money to made here by selling an expansion franchise to the highest bidder. That could be anywhere between $250 million and $400 million.