It needs to be said up front, and quite emphatically, that the NHL has no plans to put a second franchise in southern Ontario.
But if the league's view on that should ever change, there is a potential 19,500-seat arena project in Markham, Ont., that could one day turn out to be a viable option.
Sources tell TSN that Graeme Roustan, the chairman of the hockey equipment company, Bauer, who also moonlights as an arena builder, and Toronto-area land developer Rudy Bratty, ranked in 2010 by Canadian Business Magazine as the 62nd richest man in Canada with a net worth of $940 million, are working together in a massive real estate venture that includes a 19,500-seat facility that they hope will be built regardless of the NHL interest, or lack thereof, in southern Ontario.
The project is located a slapshot away from where Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos grew up in Unionville, or the western part of the town of Markham that is situated on the northeast border of Metro Toronto.
The arena would be built on a tract of land owned by Bratty, just west of the existing GO Transit train station in Unionville, and just north of Highway 407, but would be part of a much larger sports and entertainment complex, not unlike the Staples Center and L.A. Live entertainment block in Los Angeles. And all of that would be just one element of what's known as the Bratty-inspired Markham Centre, a $3 billion , 900-plus acre high-density residential, commercial and retail development that is part of the official plan of the town.
Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti is believed to be a proponent of an arena venture and town councillors are well aware of the project, although they have all signed non-disclosure agreements and cannot discuss it publicly. Mayor Scarpitti will reportedly update council on the project on Tuesday night during an in-camera, or private, segment of the regularly-scheduled town council meeting.
If this project is green lighted, the expectation is the arena will be economically viable even without a major spots tenant, that concert and show promoter Live Nation and arena management firm Global Spectrum are said to have some interest as well.
It is not a reach to suggest that Roustan's and Bratty's ultimate vision would be to one day secure an NHL franchise. Roustan was in the running to purchase the Montreal Canadiens at one point.
But NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's message to all of would-be suitors, including those from Quebec City, has been the same: do not construct a building thinking there's a chance to get an NHL franchise because the league has no plans at this time to relocate another team.
Nevertheless, the wheels are in motion to get this arena built in Markham. While nothing has been formally approved by Markam town council, there appears to be a desire to try to break ground on this project as early as 2012 with a potential completion date of sometime in 2014.
Whether that's realistic, remains to be seen, but it's quite likely we'll be hearing a lot more about this project.