Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here's A Better Idea

Reports indicate the NHL is considering putting a second NHL team in Toronto in the future.

To be blunt, the notion makes me sick.

Not just because I grew up in Hamilton and had my hopes of an NHL franchise in my backyard dashed a number of times or because I have an absolute hatred of all things Maple Leafs.

No, the idea of a second team in Toronto is ridiculous to me because cities across Canada that have, could and would support an NHL team are ignored completely while craptacular US cities like Nashville and Atlanta refuse to support teams.

Instead of giving a great place like Winnepeg another kick at the can or returning a franchise to Quebec City, the NHL would much rather make like the NBA has done in Los Angeles for years and have two teams calling Toronto home.

Of course, all of this has to do with finances, as Toronto could very easily support two teams and those poor Buffalo Sabres couldn't lobby against the efforts like they have in Hamilton as no one from the Niagara Region is going to drive two hours to Toronto when they can jump across the border and watch better hockey at The HBC.

The name being tied to all of this is Research in Motion millionaire Jim Balsillie, a man who a couple years back the NHL (read: Gary Bettman) basically instructed the owners of the Nashville Predators not to sell the franchise to. Now that teams, including Nashville, continue to struggle and the economy has taken a serious downturn, the NHL is ready to welcome Balsillie and his millions into the fold with open arms and a team in the biggest hockey market in the world.

While I have written at various sites about how much I would love to see the NHL have a stronger Canadian presence, this isn't what I had in mind. Although Toronto may have the best attendance and merchandise revenues around the league, they also have a long history that contributes to their ridiculously loyal fanbase. A second team in the city may not be the same cash cow as the Maple Leafs, except that everyone who can't get tickets to Leafs games would now have another option.

Instead of bringing a second team into the city that thinks of itself as the center of the Canadian world, why not branch out and grow the game in other markets or return it to cities that loyally served the NHL long before guys with deep pockets decided hockey would be a big sell in Nashville?

I mean really, you could stick a team out here in Cranbrook and they would draw better than the Atlanta Thrashers!

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