Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Toronto Second NHL Team?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
Does Toronto deserve a second NHL team and could the city support one? The answer to both questions are a definite yes!
Toronto has done a great job supporting the Maple Leafs over the years.
The Blue Jays have delivered the city two world championships and judging by their early 18-10 start could be postseason contenders under the same manager who led them to those titles Cito Gaston. They play in the Skydome which is a masterpiece and a great place to watch a baseball game.
The Toronto Raptors, who play in the Air Canada Centre have held their own and the CFL has done fine. Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame Owner Ralph Wilson Jr. has decided to expand his market and is now playing preseason and regular season games at the Skydome.
So this jewel of a city is a full-fledged major league sports town with all four major sports.
If Toronto were to land a second NHL team, where would they play? The Maple Leafs and Raptors occupy the premium dates excluding other events like concerts, ice shows, etc... Yet in Los Angeles, the Staples Center is the home to the NBA's Lakers, Clippers and NHL's Kings, so it's very possible to make room for another NHL team.
But even if there is a shortage of dates available for a second NHL team, there is always Maple Leaf Gardens located on the northwest corner of Carlton Street and Church Street in Toronto's Garden District. This famed landmark was the home of the Maple Leafs from 1931-1999 and they won all 11 of their Stanley Cup Titles in this building. Maple Leaf Gardens has been used seldom since the Maple Leafs moved.
A second Toronto franchise would have to be placed in the Western Conference which would rekindle a rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings, plus cut down on some of the travel for the men that wear Red and White.
Now the question remains, will Toronto get a second NHL team? NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said no for the time being. Who knows if that will change in the future.
But here are some reasons as to why I don't think Toronto will get another team.
Bettman knows that in order to pass Geography 101, he needs to eventually move the Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets to the Eastern Conference because they are the lone franchises who qualify for the most frequent flyer miles by constantly switching time zones.
Bettman also realizes that Detroit and Columbus have to play a large portion of their west coast road games between 9:30-11:00 p.m. therefore, it makes it difficult for their fans to watch televised games in prime time especially the youngsters who have to go to school in the morning.
This is inevitable.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins were struggling to get a new stadium, Kansas City offered them a sweet deal to move to the newly constructed $276 Million, 18,000 plus capacity Sprint Center for $1 per-game.
The Penguins can only thank Mario Lemieux for saving hockey in Steeltown. I do believe that Kansas City is going to land another NHL team down the line to create a Missouri rivalry with the St. Louis Blues similar to what's going on with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.
Since losing their NBA team to Oklahoma City, if Seattle gets a state of the art stadium, Bettman a former colleague to David Stern would snap at the chance to place a team in this market with no winter sports franchise. It could set-up a nice rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks.
Speaking of in state rivalry's Houston would be a natural for the Dallas Stars. How many people know that Hall of Famer Gordie Howe played for the World Hockey Association's (WHA) Aeros? The Aeros are back in business in the American Hockey League (AHL).
It's just a matter of time before one of the major sports leagues takes a gamble on Las Vegas once the city builds a new stadium and works out issues on whether betters can place wagers on the local team. This city is too big not to have a team.
So don't take it personal Toronto, but the numbers and politics are the only thing preventing your city from getting another team. But keep supporting your Maple Leafs because it's inevitable you'll win a championship. Long droughts do come to an end, just ask the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox in major league baseball. Just don't get frustrated like the Chicago Cubs because you're a long ways away from the century mark.
As much as I've enjoyed visiting your city, players would clamor to want to make a living there.
One of my biggest thrills in sports was in 1982 when I spent my 20th birthday watching the Maple Leafs face the Canadiens in their lone visit to Toronto. When I told a scalper it was my birthday, he was nice enough to sell me a ticket at face value so I could experience the thrill of seeing a game at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

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