Second NHL Team for Toronto and the Gretzky Connection

Martin AverySenior Writer IApril 24, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 07:  Head coach Wayne Gretzky of the Phoenix Coyotes looks on during the NHL game against the St. Louis Blues at Jobing.com Arena on April 7, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blues defeated the Coyotes 5-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

A growing number of NHL governors and owners believe a second franchise for Toronto is a good idea, according to the Globe and Mail.

NHL deputy commissioner Billy Daly met with a group in Toronto to talk about a second team in the greater Toronto area, it has been reported widely. NHL Players' Association executive director Paul Kelly also took part in the two and a half hour meeting.

The location for the new team and arena is in Vaughan, a city just north of Toronto, one of Canada's fastest growing municipalities, on land owned by businessman Victor De Zen.

News of the meeting between Daly and a group fronted by Kevin Maguire, a former Toronto Maple Leafs player, arrived at the same time as rumors the NHL would take over the Phoenix Coyotes for financial reasons.

Many pundits quickly put two and two together and concluded the Phoenix Coyotes could be moving to Vaughan.

"The city above Toronto", as its known, is where Wayne Gretzky played junior hockey. Gretzky now coaches the Phoenix Coyotes.

Gretzky played for the Toronto Nationals of the now defunct Tier II Junior "A" ice hockey league, which was a part of the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League and the Metro Junior B Hockey League.

The14-year-old Gretzky challenged the wishes of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association to sign with the Toronto Nationals. Gretzky had played two seasons with the Nationals and scored 63 goals for 132 points in just 60 games.

The Nationals won the 1977 Metro championship, led by Gretzky with 75 points in 23 playoff games. The next season he signed with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds just before turning professional.

The NHL's front office denied they were making plans to add a second National Hockey League franchise in the Toronto area. Members of the group  fronted by Maguire were told by Daly that the NHL is not ready to expand or relocate one of its struggling franchises at this time.

Rumours of a potential second team in the GTA have been circulating for more than half a year and made headlines for 24 hours.

"Second NHL team in GTA?" the Toronto Star headline read.

"What's a good name for a second Toronto NHL franchise?" the National Post asked.

"NHL meets with business group hoping to score another team for Toronto" the Globe and Mail headline said.

"Secret backers look to launch NHL team in Vaughan" was the headline in CP24.

"Vaughan could be home to new NHL team" the
680 News reported.

"New Toronto NHL team makes sense" the Hamilton Spectator headline said.

Maguire declined to identify the members of the group.

Vaughan mayor Linda Jackson came out in support of the idea. She said that getting an NHL team would be a massive shot in the arm for the City of Vaughan and a benefit for hockey fans across the GTA.

Maguire said his group wanted the NHL to know that if they ever change their mind, the City of Vaughan would be the best option and the proposed site the best location.

Maguire played for the Leafs in the 1986-87 season and then played three seasons for the Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers before returning to the Leafs in 1990 for two more years. The Toronto native later worked as an NHL referee.

A fee as high as $200 million would have to be paid to the Toronto Maple Leafs to waive their territorial rights under NHL by-laws.

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