More NHL In Toronto? The Fans Can't Even Handle One Team

xx yySenior Writer IOctober 21, 2008

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

When you think about that saying, it's kind of strange.

On one hand, there's the implication that all of the power lies in your hands, that you have the ability to change what you like. If something doesn't meet your standards, then do what you wish to it because you can. There's nothing stopping you.

But while there may not be anything outside of yourself stopping you, the idea that "maybe I shouldn't" almost is a self-stopper. Does your conscience play a role in your decision? Does your thirst for power or advancement drive your strive for domination, or do you just move forward mindlessly?

Are you changing things to improve the standards for others, or are you just out to make a name, and a quick buck, for yourself?

Before you go making those changes—whether you can on your own or you can't—you have to think of all of the possible repercussions, and weigh whether or not this action is necessary, whether or not this decision will actually benefit anyone.

At the suggestion of a second team in Toronto, not as competition but as a compliment to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the tunnel vision is astounding.

Leading the charge is the basic view that Toronto could support a second team. They have the arena already (if you buy into MLSE's "we'd rent it out to them" jargon), they've obviously got fan support all across the Greater Toronto Area and Southwestern Ontario, and the logistics to support the team have already been proven with the Leafs.

In fact, if they're anything like the Leafs, they won't have to win a thing and people will still come out to the game.

Then there's the fact that you'd be giving a franchise to one of the hungriest possible owners that the NHL has attracted.

Outside of Jerry Bruckheimer (who may only want a franchise so he can monopolize Los Vegas), Jim Balsille is the only man rich enough, smart enough, and driven enough to not run his possible franchise into the ground.

As the Boots Del Biaggio fiasco has shown us, Balsille is so desperate for a franchise he's willing to help out in any way he can in the meantime to shoot himself up the waiting list at NHL HQ.

The early signs even indicate a cash cow. If tickets can be made more affordable than Leafs' tickets (a quick search on eBay and you can see what I'm talking about) then there's a market of jaded Leafs fans strapped for cash and pining for NHL hockey. The NHL would receive the revenue bump from the merchandising rights, and even Richard Peddie has insinuated that the MLSE would be more than happy with the money they made off the new team from the renting of the ACC.

MLSE concerned with making more money? Who would've guessed?

But what nobody seemed to think about—at least when the initial news of these developments hit the airwaves, web, and newstands—were the repercussions this could bring, and how this would be the most short-sighted move at the disposal of the NHL.

To start with, the rumors of this new team have nothing to do with contraction—they have to do with adding a new team, devoid of previous ties to the NHL.

As an unnamed source (as cited by TSN) has said, the NHL would become the "laughingstock of the league", especially with so many teams that are having trouble gathering support at the present moment.

Aside from those issues, there's also issues with the alignment of the league. If you add one team, then that makes 31 teams. Because both teams are in Toronto, then you've added to the Eastern Conference, giving them 16 teams, and giving the Northeast division a sixth team (if, in fact, that's where this prospective team goes).

So what happens? Do we find a sixteenth team for the Western Conference? Do we leave the league at the odd-number of 31 teams?

The fact is, the team that comes to Toronto would have to be a team that was already in existence, and although the NHL has a few of those solutions, the past has proven that relocation of a current team is never an easy thing.

Side note: Taking a look at last year's NHL attendance totals, there are some interesting trends. The expected teams are at the bottom, but of the four teams that you'd expect to be at or near the bottom (Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Nashville Predators), the Predators have been receiving the most support, filling their building at an average of an 87.1-percent clip.

Not surprisingly, Phoenix follows at an 83-percent tally, while Columbus comes in at 81.5 percent and Florida rounds out the four at 80 percent (although they have the largest building of those four to fill). It'd be interesting to see the percentages of the other six teams in the bottom ten.

Once you get through the issue of which team is your target for relocation, you then run into queue problems. Granted, there's been no set order of teams to receive an expansion or relocated franchise, but one would have to believe that markets like Kansas City, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Las Vegas, and Winnipeg would feel slighted.

Is the NHL in the business to keep the "warm and fuzzies" going around between themselves and their constituents? For the most part, no. Granted, you want to keep business ties positive, but the NHL would be doing what's best now financially.

But what if a scenario like this keeps happening? If a certain market keeps getting overlooked, then their interest may wane, or turn to another sport. In going with a team completely off the original map, you run the risk of slighting other markets—markets who could one day mean the difference between relocation and contraction.

With expanding further into the Toronto market, you're still leaving some resources untapped.

While the idea of a team in the Kitchener-Waterloo area or the Hamilton area brings about the argument that it infringes on the territory of teams like the Buffalo Sabres, you're also bringing in a different dynamic of fan.

While a second team in Toronto offers a second option for fans who miss out on Maple Leafs action, how long is it before those tickets become ridiculously over-priced as well? Soon enough, the Leafs are going to be reserved for the GTA higher-ups, well the Toronto Whatevers will be the toast of the second-tier of the rich.

Yet again, leaving us middling saps out in the cold.

If you move the franchise West of Toronto though, then you capitalize on those K/W, Hamilton, and London fans who lack not only the funds, but the means of transportation to see the Leafs.

As many have said, a team in this area will never supplant the Leafs in their hearts, but NHL hockey is still NHL hockey.

So what do you do if you're in charge of moving an NHL franchise? Granted the talks are mere whispers and mumblings right now, but if you were faced with an ultimatum—move a franchise tomorrow to a predetermined list of locations—what would you do?

Do you go with the historically safe bet in Toronto, or do you take a shot at an untapped or abandoned market like a Hamilton or a Winnipeg?

Granted other sports can handle multiple teams in the same market—New York and Chicago, anyone?—but the NHL should establish more financially-stable options before attempting that.

So before we get all gung-ho about truly making Toronto the "center of the Hockey Universe" (like many fans seem to think it is), explore the options—look at a market with new potential, not one with just spillover.

At one point, you cross a line that you can never cross back over. The idea of further expansion in Toronto is where that line is placed today. In the future, it may be somewhere else, but another team in Hogtown may only cripple the NHL further.

And if the Leafs get their way, they'll be collecting royalties all the way to the bank.

Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan, you can do so through his profile. You can also check out all of his previous work in his archives.



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