Union eyes 2nd team in Toronto

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The NHL Players' Association won't go to war over the CBA, but would go for a second team in the Toronto market.

NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly kicked off all-star weekend by announcing the union gave its overwhelming support to extending the collective bargaining agreement to the end of 2010-11.

While Kelly called it a "positive" day for the players, owners and fans, he also repeated the union's desire that all 30 teams are in healthy, supportive markets.

If that means a second team in the Toronto market, so be it.

Kelly also confirmed he's met with BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie, who tried to buy the Predators and move them to Hamilton.

"There's no question that Toronto could handle a second team, whether they played at the Air Canada Centre or built a second arena in that market," said Kelly. "I also believe that you could rehab the rink in Hamilton (Copps Coliseum).

"A second team could work in Toronto or in the Hamilton-Kitchener area."

GROW THE GAME

With the Predators, Coyotes and Panthers all struggling to make ends meet and as many as eight teams up for sale, Kelly said that it's important for commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL to continue to grow the game.

"We want the current teams to survive, succeed and do well in the current markets they're in," said Kelly. "If a particular franchise continues to struggle and lose money, that directly impacts players because of the revenue sharing."

Kelly's comments came on the heels of a decision by the union to withhold 25% of player salaries in an escrow account for the balance of the season to make up for any revenue shortfall.

The escrow was 13.5% in the first half of the season and the players aren't expected to get all of that money back.


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