Anaheim Ducks Boston Bruins Buffalo Sabres Calgary Flames Carolina Hurricanes Chicago Blackhawks Colorado Avalanche Columbus Blue Jackets Dallas Stars Detroit Red Wings Edmonton Oilers Florida Panthers Los Angeles Kings Minnesota Wild Montreal Canadiens Nashville Predators New Jersey Devils New York Islanders New York Rangers Ottawa Senators Philadelphia Flyers Phoenix Coyotes Pittsburgh Penguins San Jose St. Louis Blues Tampa Bay Lightning Toronto Maple Leafs Vancouver Canucks Washington Capitals Winnipeg Jets
Magazine Schedule Rumors Rankings Teams Headlines Lifestyle Rookie Watch Ice Girls Videos TFP Radio Subscribe
Bookmark and Share
November 30, 2013 | 5:21pm ET
Toronto area will get second NHL team, one day
 The proposed GTA Centre, a 20,000 seat arena set for Markham, Ontario, could house an NHL franchise one day.
GTA Centre - Enterprise Drive

TORONTO, ON -- Back on June 16, I told you that we'd all be hearing the word "expansion" more often as the weeks and months progressed.

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 years ahead.

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 expansion.

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 informally possible.

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 -- 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 of there.

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 do.

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.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.



Oct. 09, 2013 Monahan given every opportunity to shine in Calgary

Aug. 08, 2013 Devils down to final option

Jul. 31, 2013 NHL's new lucky number: 32

 latest issue 
Contact Us | Jobs @ TFP | Our Team | Advertise | Privacy Policy
© 2013 TFP Media, Inc. | All Rights Reserved | The Fourth Period™ and Ice Girls™ are registered trademarks.