Report: T.O. can't support second NHL team

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:52 PM ET

Teams in Quebec City and Hamilton would draw enough support to survive in the NHL, the Conference Board of Canada says in a report released Thursday.

But it slams the door on a second NHL franchise in Toronto. Or in Montreal or Vancouver, for that matter.

While Quebec City and Hamilton have the minimum market conditions to support franchises, no other Canadian city fits the bill, the board said.

"Future Hockey Day in Canada celebrations could include up to four all-Canadian matchups if an eighth or even ninth city acquires an NHL franchise," director Mario Lefebvre said of the board's 12th analysis of the professional sports market. "However, nine has to be considered the upper limit."

The board says a second team is not feasible in any of Canada's three biggest cities.

Market saturation for both fans and corporate supporters as well as territorial issues with existing teams, would be difficult hurdles for a second team, the board said. It noted that a Hamilton franchise would need to address the territorial claims of the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Quebec City, Hamilton as well as Winnipeg, which reclaimed the Jets this season, "have less of a margin for error than teams in larger Canadian or U.S. cities," Lefebvre said.

"These franchises can be successful as long as they have dedicated owners who are invested for the long term, manage their business and markets carefully, and the Canadian dollar remains a strong currency."

Factors the board studies include population, market wealth, corporate presence, taxes and exchange rates and playing facilities.

BACKSTROM BUMMED

Concussed Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom isn't optimistic about getting back in the lineup any time soon.

Backstrom, who was left with a concussion after being elbowed by Rene Bourque during a game against the Calgary Flames Jan. 3, told a Swedish website that he might miss the rest of the regular season.

"I don't know when I will be able to play again, but I hope I will be ready for the playoffs," Backstrom said on Gefle Dagblad, with a translation via the Japers Rink blog. "I'm getting better, but it takes time."

Backstrom has already missed 15 games with an injury he expected to get over quickly. He practiced a few days after being hurt but had a setback and was shut down by team doctors.

"Two weeks ago I tried to get on the ice for a practice, but I got off after three minutes," Backstrom said. "It didn't work. I just wasn't ready. It's tough, for sure. It's so frustrating for me to be there right now."

LONG ODDS FOR GOMEZ

Think Montreal Canadiens forward Scott Gomez will end his season-long scoreless skid against the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday?

Bodog, an online sports book, doesn't think so. They've posted 11-1 odds that Gomez, who has gone more than a full calendar year without a goal, will score against the Leafs.

But it's a shorter 6-1 that Gomez will go the entire season without scoring. And if you're really optimistic about a long-shot coming in, it's 50-1 that Gomez will finally score in the Habs' regular-season finale April 7 against the Leafs.

Bodog has listed a number of prop bets for punters to mull over as the NHL season drags along, including 2-1 odds that Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby will play in February. Or 4-1 odds that New Jersey Devils sniper-turned-enforcer Ilya Kovalchuk will get into another fight this season.

And for Vancouver Canucks fans wondering if backup goalie Cory Schneider will be traded. Well, Bodog is giving just 2-1 odds that he'll be on the move.

PENS' KENNEDY SITS

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy has a high-ankle sprain that will sideline him for a month or longer.

"After a week we'll have a better idea of what the time frame looks like exactly, as it calms down over the next week or so and as he rehabs," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday. "Right now we're looking at four to six weeks."

Kennedy, 25, was hurt Sunday during the Penguins' 5-2 loss at New Jersey.

He has six goals and 16 assists in 42 games this season.

BRIEFLY

Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards will be host of his third annual charity golf tournament July 12 at the Kenora Golf and Country Club on July 12. Proceeds will go to the Canadian Cancer Society and Kenora and Lake of the Woods Regional Community Foundation. Richards played minor hockey in Kenora and lives on Lake of the Woods near Kenora during the off-season ... Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone, who's missed five games with an upper-body injury, might play Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. Malone practiced with the Lightning Thursday and said he "feels good" ... New Jersey Devils centre Travis Zajac will likely miss another month, according to GM Lou Lamoriello. Zajac has played just eight games this year while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon ... Injured Detroit Red Wings Jimmy Howard (broken finger) and Dan Cleary (knee) will both miss this weekend's games. They will be re-evaluated next week, GM Ken Holland said.


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