Back then, a lot of this "expansion" mumbo-jumbo had to do with the
Phoenix Coyotes. The NHL has since resolved its little problem, along
with two others -- Florida and New Jersey -- leading to some, dare I
say, stability among NHL franchises (for the time being).
While a lot has changed in the NHL in the past five and a half months
-- they're a little richer thanks to their new 12-year, $5.2 billion
broadcast contract with Rogers -- and a lot will be changing in the
With a new arena being built in Quebec City, an early target of the
2015-16 NHL season could result in the return of the Nordiques, via
Sure, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and everyone under/beside him will
offer the same old response: "It's not something we're embarking on,
in a formal process."
Those were Bettman's words earlier this week at the NHL/Rogers press
conference, and he's right. The NHL isn't formally exploring
expansion, but they've without a doubt looked into it, as formally as
Quebec's on the docket. It's going to happen. And if you were a little
skeptical about it, just remember that the NHL's new national French
broadcast partner (through Rogers, sort of) is TVA, which is owned by
Quebecor Media. Former Quebecor CEO and current chairman of the board
Pierre Karl Peladeau has been spearheading Quebec's attempts at
obtaining an NHL franchise.
Connecting the dots?
The second expansion market isn't as crystal clear, though many expect
it to be Seattle -- myself, included.
According to a well-placed source with knowledge of the situation, the
NHL won't have a team exist in Seattle until a new facility if built.
And this is where it gets complicated.
The group behind "Sonics Arena," led by Chris Hansen, has hit a few
snags along the way. They originally wanted to relocate the NBA's
Sacramento Kings to Seattle, but that bid was rejected by the NBA's
board of governors. Hansen has spoken with Bettman and NHL Deputy
Commissioner Bill Daly in the past about bringing in an NHL franchise,
and his group remains set on an NBA team.
The catch, however, is that in order for Hansen's group and the City
of Seattle to move ahead with its new building, they need to first
secure a professional sports franchise -- the NBA is #1 on their list.
The NHL wants a guarantee that a new arena will be available for one
of their franchises.
According to reports, the agreement Hansen's group has with Seattle
and King County to build the arena (contingent on an NBA franchise)
calls for as much as $200 million in bonds stemming from taxpayers.
The deal is likely to be amended if Hansen secures an NHL team before
he gets his hands on an NBA franchise.
Would the NHL like to be in Seattle? Sure. But it's not as easy as
flicking a switch -- and it's probably going to happen after Quebec
gets its team back, but the odds are definitely in Seattle's favor.
And all this brings us to today...
On Saturday morning, GTA Sports & Entertainment Chairman and CEO
Graeme Roustan and City of Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti announced
that GTASE has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of
Markham to construct a 20,000 seat arena, which could break ground as
early as 2014.
In addition to the signed MOU from GTASE, Scarpitti revealed that the
city has a second signed MOU, this one from a group of local
developers, and announced that 85 per cent of the $325 million cost to
build the arena is accounted for, and that none of the total cost will
come from the taxpayers.
Roustan's group will account for $162.5 million of the cost, $32.5
million will be paid to the city through a lease agreement (also
through Roustan's group), $10 million has been collected via
pre-planned initiatives, and $70 million has been committed through
the group of developers. The remaining $50 million needed to
finalizing the funding of the arena is expected to come in the near
future, the Mayor hopes.
There is much to be done, and the city council must approve the two
MOUs this coming week, but it's another step in getting an NHL-sized
building in the Greater Toronto Area.
And while Mayor Scarpitti and Roustan both claim the building can be
profitable and successful without an NHL tenant, if/when the building
is constructed, the NHL will take notice.
I've been told by a trusted individual that the NHL is not currently
considering the Toronto market for a second franchise. A group
attempted to purchase the Coyotes before they were sold to Ice
Arizona, and their goal was to move the team to Toronto. Even with an
offer in the neighborhood of $500 million, I'm told the NHL rejected
their pitch (fairly quickly). Whether this was tied to the GTA Centre
or not, I do not know. But I do know the NHL won't consider a second
team in the Toronto area without an arena already in place. Once that
happens, then you're looking at an expansion/relation fee starting at
$500 million, plus whatever territorial rights fees that have to go to
the Maple Leafs.
A second NHL team in Toronto is a great idea, and it's going to
happen... but not for 10 years, give or take. And if that means the
GTA Centre is where they'll end up, years from now, Roustan and
Scarpitti are more than fine with that, they just won't tell you that.
They've even teamed up with Global Spectrum, which runs 46 arenas
worldwide, including two in the NHL -- Jobing.com Arena (Phoenix) and
the Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia).
The end goal has to be an NHL franchise for the GTA Centre. And the
NHL is aware. If all goes well and the plan moves forward, until an
NHL team calls Markham home, you'll likely see an OHL team playing out
For now, Quebec City and Seattle are first and second on the list. Too
much dust needs to settle before you're looking at Toronto/Markham.
And outside of a second building actually needing to be constructed,
tensions need to boil over regarding the NHL's huge television deal
with Rogers. The folks over at Bell Media, which owns TSN and RDS, who
made the first offer of more than $5 billion for the broadcast rights,
are a tad irritated at how the whole deal went down. They'll move on
and I'm pretty sure we'll hear/see some big things from them in the
not-so-distant future. But here's an interesting note...
...Bell and Rogers both own 37.5 per cent of Maple Leaf Sports and
Entertainment, which owns the Leafs, among others.
I didn't think that marriage was going to work from Day 1, and after
this past week's hoopla, I don't know how much longer it'll last. But
Rogers is pretty much tapped out and can't afford to buy out Bell's
share, nor would they sell theirs to Bell. At the same time, I can't
see Bell losing the Leafs -- unless, down the road, there's an
opportunity to be involved in bringing a second NHL team to Toronto.
Now, this is pure speculation on my part (and I don't know how Bell
values the NBA's Raptors, MLS' TFC, the facilities they own, etc.),
but it opens things up for good debate.
So, to make a long story short... Toronto will get a second NHL
franchise one day, way down the road, after Quebec City and Seattle
It's all part of some great big plan concocted in the minds atop 1185
Avenue of the Americas. The lockout is over, interest is up, revenues
are up, not a single NHL franchise is currently up for sale (not
including those exploring investors) and the NHL hit its target of
roughly $5 billion for Canadian broadcast TV rights. Add in two
expansion teams within the next 2-5 years and additional revenues of
$800 million to $1 billion that gets split up amongst the 30 NHL
franchises and put directly into the owners' pockets (expansion fees
aren't part of HRR), and the League is sitting pretty damn pretty.
And you question why Bettman's earning $8 million per year?
Sit back and relax. Enjoy the rest of this season. We'll be hearing a
lot more about the "E" word soon enough... quickly followed by the
debate over which Eastern Conference team has to jump West. But that's
a topic for another day.