NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told "Off the Record" host Michael Landsberg on Tuesday that Toronto could handle two teams.
"I don't think anybody would argue the fact that Toronto could support a second team," Daly told Landsberg. "The question is, do we want to create yet another team or do we want to re-locate a franchise, and the answer to both of those questions is 'no' right now."
Daly was part of a panel that included Sun Media writer Steve Simmons, and two former NHLers, Rick Vaive and Rob Ray.
"Well the answer should be 'yes' to the re-locate, no to expansion," said Simmons. "The NHL doesn't need any more teams… Is the NHL stronger with two franchises in Toronto and no team in maybe Nashville, no team maybe in Florida, no team in those kinds of places?"
Daly asked if that attitude was fair to the fans in Nashville or Florida who have supported those teams for 15 years.
"Having been to enough Florida Panthers games when the stands are half empty and they are giving tickets away on golf courses, yes," Simmons answered.
Vaive said he thought re-location was a good idea.
"Again, you have to ask the question. For some of these franchises, there are 12,000 or 13,000 fans in the building, you move them to Toronto and you have 19,000 every single game," Vaive said. "The revenues are higher, the players are happier, the league is happier, Bill - you're happier, so I think it's good for everybody."
Daly, though, was quick to point to Buffalo as a reason not to be hasty.
"You have to ask why there are 12 and 13,000 people in the stands because in Buffalo just five years ago you had 12 and 13,000," Daly said. It was a mark that hit home for Vaive and Ray, who both played in Buffalo.
To that point, Vaive said he was in favour of putting a second team in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), but not in Hamilton, which would affect the Sabres.
"I'm not sure about southern Ontario, but Toronto, yes," said Vaive. "I'm not sure you go to Hamilton or down into that area - first of all you affect the Buffalo Sabres - but I don't think they can support it down there. Toronto, in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) somewhere? Yes, I don't think there's any question. I've been saying that since for years."
Ray agreed with Vaive's assessment, noting that the Sabres season ticket base was 15-17 percent Canadian.
When it was suggested that winning was enough to put fans in the stands in sourthern markets, there was wide disagreement.
"Nashville has proven the opposite," Simmons said.
Daly was quick to point out, however, that Nashville had not even made it beyond the first round of the playoffs, making them a poor comparable. He suggested Carolina and Tampa Bay were better examples, noting that both franchises saw ticket sales increase after they reached the Stanley Cup Final.
Watch the entire debate on Off the Record's page on TSN.ca (http://www.tsn.ca/shows/otr/).