Putting a second team in Southern Ontario through relocation or expansion would be a smart move for the NHL, and the chances that this happens could be bolstered by the people who stand to benefit from it financially.
A new state-of-the-art arena that is suitable for an NHL franchise is being planned for Markham, which is located a short distance (about a half hour drive) north of Toronto. As Ken Campbell of The Hockey News explained in a recent column, there are a number of reasons why the building could someday have an NHL tenant.
The venue manager just happens to be Global Spectrum, which is a subsidiary of Comcast-Spectacor, which is a company owned by Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider. The food and beverage provider is none other than Delaware North Companies, which just happens to be the property of Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs.
Campbell writes later in the piece:
You don’t suppose Snider and Jacobs would be in favor of a struggling market relocating to the most fertile hockey market on the planet, do you? And you’d have to think Jacobs and Snider could rally far more board of governors support for a team in Toronto than the Maple Leafs could muster to oppose the move.
If there are two owners with the ability to sway a major decision to go their way, it would be Jacobs and Snider. They are two of the four owners (the Wertz family in Chicago and Mike Illitch in Detroit are the other two) who pre-date NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who joined the league in 1993.
Campbell also addresses the possibility that the Toronto Maple Leafs attempt to block a second team coming to Southern Ontario:
The Maple Leafs, by the way, believe they have a veto over any NHL competitor moving into their territory. The league disagrees and feels it has the legal foundation to put a team wherever it wants. And that will someday be in Toronto.
It's no secret why the Leafs would be opposed to having another provincial rival. They made a league-high $193 million in revenue during the 2010-11 season, according to Forbes.com, and having another nearby NHL team could negatively affect the Leafs financially.
But how much power does one franchise have? Even an Original Six team with wealthy owners and a rich history probably won't be able to defeat Jacobs and Snider if the battle to keep a new NHL team away from Southern Ontario ever becomes a fierce one.
Expect the Leafs to fight back if putting a second team in the Toronto area becomes a real possibility, but it's a battle that Toronto might have little chance of winning.
Jacobs and Snider would certainly make a compelling case to the Board of Governors on why another NHL team in the Toronto area is a good idea, but the reasons why it should happen would likely be enough on their own to persuade the league's other owners.
Southern Ontario is home to millions of rabid hockey fans, many of whom would likely spend a good portion of their disposable income on tickets, merchandise and other things associated with an NHL team.
One way to ensure that the league's record revenues keep growing is to move teams in non-traditional hockey markets that are struggling financially to hockey hotbeds such as Hamilton, Markham and other hockey cities in the Toronto area.
Campbell wrote in one of the above passages that Snider and Jacobs would want this to happen, and it's hard to see many of the other owners not supporting the idea because it would be beneficial to the financial health of the sport.
An NHL agent predicts that whenever a new CBA is signed, Gary Bettman will try salvaging his rep by announcing 2 expansion teams for Canada.— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) September 25, 2012
The expansion fees will be in the hundreds of millions. And all of it will go to the owners. But a "50/50" split is "fair", right? #Gong— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) September 25, 2012
Although it's not known if the Markham arena would be a home to one of the two teams mentioned in the above tweets if the plan ever comes to fruition, the revenues generated from this type of decision would help the owners in a major way.
There's no way that the NHL doesn't invest more resources into getting another franchise in Southern Ontario over the next decade. It's a goldmine that the league has to take advantage of, regardless of the impact it could have on the Leafs.
Ontario is the highest populated province in Canada at about 13 million people, which is around five million more than the second-highest populated province, which is Quebec. There is nowhere else in North America that is better suited for an NHL team to have success.
A second franchise in the Toronto area would please Canadian hockey fans who want more NHL teams in their country, it would have the backing of two incredibly strong owners, it would help the league as a whole, and the chances of the franchise succeeding are quite high.
Putting another NHL franchise in Southern Ontario makes too much sense for it to not happen in the next decade, or even sooner.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.