Handful of NHL governors whispering about team in Toronto Staff

10/21/2008 8:17:01 PM

It appears some National Hockey League officials think the Toronto market is big enough to have two teams.

According to The Globe and Mail, a few NHL governors are keen on the idea of putting a second team in Toronto.

"Why shouldn't we put another team in the best and biggest market in the world?" one governor told the newspaper anonymously, adding one scenario involves Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie being awarded an expansion franchise after coming to the aid of the financially-strapped Nashville Predators.

Any suggestion of relocation or expansion into Canada's largest city is news to other league executives. "This has never been discussed in the governors meetings I've been involved in," Caroliona Hurricanes governor and general manager Jim Rutherford told TSN on Tuesday.

"I've heard bits and pieces of this scenario, although not in that kind of detail," Calgary Flames co-owner Harley Hotchkiss told The Globe and Mail. "Our priority is to have the existing franchises solid."

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment President Richard Peddie said his organization would listen to any expansion suggestions and downplayed any negative effect it could have on the Maple Leafs. "Any talk about expansion or relocation of another NHL team to southern Ontario is purely speculative," he told TSN. "If or when the National Hockey League comes to the Board of Governors with a recommendation on relocation or expansion of an NHL franchise, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will analyze the recommendation and provide its input at that time."

"The NHL has not approached the NHLPA to discuss possible expansion plans, but if the league were to do so we would certainly review their proposal,"  NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly said in a statement. "The viability of a second team in Toronto or in southern Ontario should be fully researched in the event that expansion or relocation is considered in the future."  

Another governor told the newspaper the league would be better served by moving an exisiting team as opposed to granting an expansion franchise.

“I don't think it can be an expansion team,” the unnamed executive told The Globe and Mail. “We can't expand because we would be the laughingstock of professional sports. We've got too many troubled franchises."

In recent years, Balsillie has made attempts to buy the Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins amid speculation he would move the team to the southern Ontario region.

Files from The Globe and Mail were used in this report.