|MLSEL won't be able to veto a second team in the Greater Toronto Area according to the NHL. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)
The Maple Leafs aren’t warm to the idea of a second team in their yard, but that doesn’t mean they and the NHL can’t see the day coming.
That was evident Monday when team president Brian Burke and league deputy commissioner Bill Daly spoke at a sports management conference in Toronto dealing with the topic of franchise re-locations.
Daly was asked afterwards if a second Southern Ontario team was inevitable, on the heels of Jim Balsillie’s failed attempt to move the Coyotes to Hamilton.
“Without talking about time frame, there may be,” Daly said, citing the obvious economic benefits of another team in a strong market and its potential to boost league revenue sharing. “You could rise the tide for all boats. I don’t think it would make the Leafs any less successful.”
Though Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. strongly objected to incursion in what they see as their exclusive market, Burke said it was Balsillie’s method and not the concept of a second team that had riled his club.
“MLSEL has never said once we’re unfalteringly opposed,” Burke said of another team coming in. “If a business case is made (it must be looked at).
“(Phoenix to Hamilton) was a hi-jacking of a team and shoe-horning it into an existing market. We were also worried about the harm a second team would do to the Buffalo Sabres.”
But a second team won’t be decided by the Leafs alone.
Daly made a point of saying that stories of a Toronto veto in the matter are not correct.
“They can be dead-set against it, but that doesn’t mean they can stop the league from putting a franchise here if the league thinks it makes sense,” Daly said. “It’s a majority vote.”
The belief is that a hefty league expansion fee and a sizable indemnification paid to Toronto would make all parties more open to the idea. Daly said the NHL would help determine proper payment to the Leafs as “part and parcel of any re-location.”
Hamilton is no longer on a short list. Daly said that 24-year-old Copps Coliseum doesn’t fit “modern-day NHL economics”.
But the league is not writing off the future in Phoenix as expansion and re-location aren’t on the league’s radar.
“We’ve only owned the Coyotes a week,” Daly said. “There’s a lot of expressions of interest (from buyers such as Canadian-connected Ice Edge Holdings). It’s a matter of identifying new purchasers and pursuing them.”
Daly did say it’s possible the next owners of the Coyotes could seek an early termination deal with Glendale, Ariz., officials if the team continues struggling and the long-term arena lease deal proves too difficult.