If Bettman builds it, GTA hockey fans will come

Artist's concept of new Markham arena complex originally proposed in 2012. (Supplied photo)

Artist's concept of new Markham arena complex originally proposed in 2012. (Supplied photo)

MIKE STROBEL, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 5:19 PM ET

Dear Gary: What’s keeping you? Love, Toronto hockey fans.

Seems inevitable we’ll get a second NHL team.

The league has gone 14 years without expanding, the longest dry spell since 1967, the economy is rebounding and league revenue is expected to top a record $4 billion next year.

Meantime, the Big Smoke is going gangbusters.

When the Maple Leafs arose in 1917, Toronto housed about 500,000 people. Now, the GTA is closing in on seven million, with nine million in the Golden Horseshoe.

Even subtracting treacherous Habs fans, that’s a massive hockey market.

Every day, new potential customers flock here, from hockey hotbeds like India, China and Iran.

Plus, let’s face it, the Leafs could use the heat. As every business student knows, competition breeds success.

No one needs reminding the team has won exactly zero (0) Stanley Cups since the Original Six in 1967. Maybe a new team on their doorstep will put fire to their ass.

The NHL on Wednesday denied media reports that Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec City and Toronto are in line for new franchises, totalling $1.4 billion in fees. The Vancouver Province says the Vegas team is a “done deal.” Sports Business News named Toronto, but did not specify where in the GTA.

Hamilton? Vaughan? Markham? Kitchener? They’ve all been touted before.

My old Miss Universe pal Andrew Lopez fronted a fantasy bid in 2009 to plant an arena and team, the Toronto Legacy, at Downsview, as the Leafs’ “little brother.”

It went nowhere. The Leafs are quite happy as an only child. A spoiled one, at that.

In this town, you could put a team anywhere and it will sell out, once you get over the tricky hurdle of building a 20,000-seat rink.

In fact, Toronto has hosted two big-league teams before — the Shamrocks and Blueshirts (both NHA) before the First World War, and the Leafs and Toros (WHA) in the early 1970s.

If stingy old Harold Ballard had not forced the Toros out of town before the NHL-WHA merger in 1979, we might already have two NHL teams — and lord knows how many Stanley Cups.


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