Things to Consider Before Moving a 2nd Team to Toronto

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This summer is shaping up to be pretty good if you’re into all facets of hockey news. We have the Phoenix Coyotes debacle, rumors swirling around the Florida Panthers, a possible return of puck to Winnipeg, a sick corps of players to consider in the entry draft and an interesting list of free agents to tend to before the month of July.

Oh, and this business of putting a 2nd NHL team is Toronto is gaining momentum as well.

Am I the only person that thinks this is one of the most absurd ideas associated with hockey and the NHL in recent years? 2 professional hockey teams in 1 city? Seriously? Let’s consider some things before we pull the trigger on this one, gentleman.

First and foremost, were not just talking about any city and any NHL franchise here. We’re talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs. THE LEAFS. 90+ years of tradition for a team that is a cornerstone in the sport of hockey. Their fans are some of the best in the hockey world with never-ending loyalty and devotion to their team. Through thick and thin; triumph and torment; you will never see a Leaf fan denounce their club.

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Logo by: Toronto Legacy

Now, do parties interested in putting a 2nd team in Toronto really believe that there will be support for another team within the city? Can you legitimately ask a lifelong Toronto Maple Leaf fan to consider rooting for another team, especially one within their own hometown? My immediate answer is no! Absolutely not! These fans are lifers, plain and simple.

I have heard arguments that fans not fortunate enough to obtain season tickets for the club will look to this new team as an outlet. Listen. Fans not lucky enough to see the Maple Leafs play live will enjoy the game at a local pub or in the comfort of their own home. Essentially, this argument would make the 2nd Toronto franchise a fall back for people who can’t enjoy the benefits of seeing the Maple Leafs live. If that’s the case, it sounds like a 2nd Toronto team would be nothing more than bandwagon and casual fans looking for their hockey fix on nights when they can’t enjoy their favorite club. Not a very stable fan base if you ask me.

Furthermore, where does this leave the Toronto Marlies? The AHL struggles to fill seats night in and night out in most cities and Toronto is no exception. In the 2008-2009 AHL season, Toronto finished 4th worst in the league in league in average attendance clocking in at just a shade under 4,000 people per game. If a 2nd NHL team comes to Toronto, you can kiss the Marlies goodbye. Attendance would surely plummet and scheduling would become of the utmost difficulty. Imagine having the Leafs, Legacy (yeah, in case you didn’t catch it through the media hype, the proposed name for the new franchise in Toronto would be the Legacy) and Marlies all in town on the same night? Who suffers the most in that picture?

Let’s talk about location. The proposed location of the new 30,000 seat arena for the Legacy is in Downsview Park, a mere 19 kilometers (about 12 miles) from the Air Canada Centre. It’s also about 19 kilometers from the Ricoh Coliseum, where the Marlies play. The proximity of the teams just doesn’t make sense. What do you do with 2 major event arenas in the off-season? Is it really a money maker, or will a 2nd arena essentially be a money pit? You can only put so many concerts and circuses in these arenas at a time.

I can just hear the arguments now: “But the Rangers, Islanders and Devils are all close in proximity to one another, and they are doing just fine.” True, but they are completely different fans in completely different areas. Go ahead, call someone from Long Island from New York city or vice versa. You’ll get punched right in the face. They may be close in proximity, but they are distinctly different situations with a distinctly different following. There isn’t that feeling in Toronto. Something is telling me that Leafs fans aren’t torn between supporting the team there now and a perspective team that could be there within the next 5 years. There is no rivaly between Leafs fans, so why create one? Their rivalries lay with Buffalo, Montreal and Ottawa.

Not for nothing, but it’s better to get these things out in the open before this whole project really starts to pick up speed. A second team in Toronto has #FAIL written all over it. Save yourself the time and money and invest elsewhere.

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7 thoughts on “Things to Consider Before Moving a 2nd Team to Toronto”

  1. I wouldn’t mind a second Toronto team to get rid of some of the bandwagoners from the Leafs fan base. We did it before. The entire Ottawa fanbase was made up of former Habs and Leafs fans. Good riddance I’d say.

  2. Being a Buffalo fan myself, I think we both understand how well fans from Toronto travel to support their team.

    I totally get what you’re saying. I would just hate to see a new team in Toronto be viewed as “the team people go see when they can’t get tickets to a Leafs game.”

    I do understand the appeal of a new team, though. I don’t know about you, but I would make the hour long trip north (with stupid specialized license in hand) to check out a team in Hamilton.

  3. You don’t necessarily have to be a fan of the team to go watch them. I’m in no way a Red Wings fan but I will make the trip over there to watch a game here and there just for the sake of watching some NHL hockey. If the Leafs are always sold out, there’s no big deal in a number of their fans going to watch a game in another arena. I’m a Buffalo fan and I haven’t seen them live yet. I just go to Detroit because it’s closer and seats are usually available.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Rafal.

    Hamilton certainly introduces another element into the Ontario hockey equation. If a team is moved into Hamilton, I wonder if the Toronto Legacy Group will back off a bit.

    Wouldn’t that be something? If everything goes the way everyone wants, the NHL could have teams in Buffalo, Hamilton and 2 in Toronto. These cities are all within 2 hours of one another.

    In regards to your comment about the fan base, the only problem I can foresee is that Toronto could potentially turn into a city of bandwagon fans. If one club is winning and one is losing, where is the attention going to be placed? What if both teams are doing well? What if they are both struggling? Seems like a potentially confusing situation for fans.

    What can we learn from other cities that host 2 different teams from the same sport? Could 2 teams in Toronto turn into a Clippers/Lakers situation?

  5. Hockey is a big thing in all Canadian cities (obviously). The Leafs would still sell out every game without I problem in my opinion. I live in Windsor and you should hear the hype that’s going on about a possible team in Hamilton. Everyone’s gotten into hockey more here because of the Spitfires winning the Memorial Cup and they’d easily make the drive to Hamilton for a game. That’s just Windsor of course but I have no doubt that Toronto residents would fill the arena of a second team and more people would come in from out of town with the possibility of cheaper seats being available.

  6. Thanks for commenting, Chris.

    In regards to the Marlies, even if the club put 2,000 more people in the seats every night that would only bring them up to the middle of the pack in terms of average attendance throughout the whole AHL (based on 2008-2009 regular season statistics).

    Now, I’m going to make a point and then contradict my own point with another argument. Some of the teams heading up the top of the attendance chart in the AHL from 2008-2009 include Hershey, Grand Rapids, Scranton, Manitoba, Houston and Lake Erie. None of these cities have to compete with a NHL team in the same city.

    Making an argument against my own point, however, Chicago and Philadelphia are also at the top of the attendance list, so it leaves me to believe that the Marlies attendance still has the chance to rise. Just keep in mind, however, that neither Philly nor Chicago have 2 NHL teams within the city for the minor league affiliate to compete with.

    Still, you can interpret the information a hundred different ways, so it certainly is still open to argument.

    Good point with the “life long Leaf” fans. I would be interested to see what fans thought. It still seems too early to tell, but I would be curious. The only question I would raise is: is there enough hockey diversity in Toronto to put 30,000 people (according to the Toronto Legacy Group, this is the proposed size of the arena; whether it holds 30,000 for a hockey game is unclear) in that arena 41 times a year to make the franchise profitable thus in turn making this whole endeavor a success?

    Only time will tell, I guess.

  7. Interesting take on the subject, Schrembs.

    I have to disagree on some of your arguments though.

    The Marlies’ attendance, while interesting to note, I don’t really think has that much to do with a 2nd NHL team. An NHL team, because it is the NHL and not the minors, will attract a wider audience base. Hockey fans will be going to see stars from opposing teams.

    I also wonder about your comments on Toronto hockey fans and all being “lifelong Leaf fans”. TO is a very diverse city, population wise. I wonder if we actually did a poll/survey, what percentage are actually die-hard Leaf fans. The numbers might surprise you, Schrembs.

    Good post, all the same, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about this subject throughout the summer.

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