Photo by: Horge
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.
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?
Logo by: 3604069 (Yousuf Karsh)
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.
I am a contributor to several hockey blogs and I co-run a website called Saucerpass.com. It is an in-depth fantasy hockey resource for casual and competitive fantasy hockey managers. It includes strategy articles, team breakdowns and play analysis.