'Better bid' than Balsillie
Group to unveil plans for T.O. team -- and could have NHL's full support
DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA
Jim Balsillie will learn this morning he could face some stiff competition to become the owner of Canada's next NHL team.
It's expected to come from a consortium that Toronto sources confirmed included businessman Victor De Zen.
An 11 a.m. press conference at the Rosewater Supper Club in downtown Toronto will unveil the team and arena name, jersey, site plan and renderings of the group, which is aiming to score an NHL expansion franchise for Vaughan, on land owned north of Pearson airport.
The deed to the land is held by De Zen, the founder and former CEO of Royal Group, a home improvement and building products company he recently parted ways with following the emergence of a scandal over land deals.
Earlier reports suggested De Zen was not interested in ownership, but might be keen for an arena deal.
The group, which is apparently ready to pour $1 billion into the privately financed development, has done a lot of homework, including the zoning of the land in 2006.
Reports indicate it had a meeting with the NHL in April, and the whispers now are that the league could be in full support of the endeavour.
Balsillie could be at least part of the reason for that.
It's believed the BlackBerry billionaire's methods to relocate the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton have irked league execs and owners, who would prefer to rake in their share of an expansion fee.
As such, the league is expected to argue that, while market studies show the area will support one other team along with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, it will not support two more.
"In the eyes of the NHL," a source said, "this is a better bid (than Balsillie's) any way."
This could be one of two expansion franchises the league plans, said the source.
Meanwhile, the group will today reveal its plan to "honour Canadian heroes while supporting cancer research, national scholarships and children's charities" in what it calls "unprecedented annual net profit donations."
Among those it will trot out will be Herbert Carnegie, an Order of Canada recipient and the first African-Canadian player to be offered an opportunity to play in the NHL.