With the 2011-'12 NHL regular-season now behind us, my thoughts have moved to what direction the Maple Leaf franchise is really going in...
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Saying it again: Why I don't want another NHL franchise in Toronto
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
A Toronto City Councillor made headlines last week with his public push for a second NHL franchise in Toronto. And if I'm not mistaken, Toronto council has publicly endorsed their support for a "second team" in Toronto.
This politician is not the first—and won't be the last—who wants exactly that. And I absolutely respect that point of view.
But I don't share it.
For those who missed it, below is a piece I posted about two weeks ago, with a couple of additional thoughts, which details my thoughts on why another team in town just doesn't work for me.
The (apparent?/certain?/pending?) move of the Thrashers to Winnipeg has hockey fans abuzz about a number of things.
Among the discussion points:
Do the Red Wings now move back to the Eastern Conference and re-ignite their once-proud rivalry with the Leafs, among others?
Do the Coyotes stay in Phoenix or move somewhere else after next season?
Since we’re running out of places to put troubled or new franchises (don’t say Kansas City—just like Atlanta, the NHL tried that once before), many keep suggesting: how about another team in….Toronto?
From my perspective, I don’t much care what Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment wants. They really mostly want one thing: money, money and more money. (They say they want the team to win. Of course, that would equal more money...) Territorial rights, too, and maybe more than anything they want no other franchises anywhere near the Leafs in Toronto. (They’d probably be happy if Buffalo moved, though it would be a rivalry gone...)
In other words, they want no competition. Zero.
That said, suppose another franchise was somehow possible in Toronto? Suppose the Leafs don’t in fact have a real veto, or that they could be “paid off” with some ridiculous sum of money—by the league and the new franchise owners?
I don’t honestly know if having another team in the City of Toronto would be “good” for the Leafs (even more money for MLSE, a potential rivalry, whatever…) or bad for them (some lost revenues, fans possibly switching allegiance to the new franchise, etc.).
The thing is, I'm not—perhaps like many fans—too concerned with any of that As a long-time Leaf fan, I don’t care about what it means for “business”, don’t really care what the ownership group (new or old) wants, and don’t really much care if another team would in fact be “successful” here, by whatever criteria we want to establish.
I just don’t want another NHL team in Toronto.
Fair or not (and it’s likely narrow-minded and parochial thinking on my part) I just don’t want or need to see another team here. The Leafs are the Leafs. They are special. One of a kind.
The Maple Leafs are NHL history in Toronto. Conn Smythe...and Hap Day, Syl Apps, Teeder Kennedy, Punch Imlach, Dave Keon, Johnny Bower, Turk Broad, Darryl Sittler, Mats Sundin and hundreds and hundreds of others.
(If and when the city of Toronto wins another Stanley Cup, I want it to be in the tradition of the guys pictured at right--individuals like Dave Keon and George Armstrong, true Maple Leaf legends--not because of an expansion franchise or a team re-located from some other non-hockey market.)
You played in Toronto? You're a Maple Leaf. Part of the blue and white. Part of the team's history. For life. Forever.
There is nothing like the feeling that comes over the city when the Leafs are playing well at playoff time. It’s a Leaf city. Always has been and always will be.
I have no doubt this market could “handle” another team. (Though, in all honesty, I don’t believe another franchise would ever be as beloved and hated as the current blue and white.) Just like New York once had three baseball franchises in the 1940s and ‘50s, and the Mets brought the city back to two.
Chicago has had two baseball franchises forever, I well realize. And by and large it has always ‘worked”. But there’s the north side of Chicago and the south side. It’s always been thus. It largely separates the fan base.
And in hockey, yes, the Islanders and Devils give the Rangers local “rivals”. New York is a big market, too, but the Islanders aren’t New York city. New Jersey is not New York city. Just like Hamilton is not Toronto. Waterloo is not Toronto. London isn’t Toronto.
Those Ontario markets would be fine because they are unique. They have—or would create—their own pro hockey heritage, much like Ottawa did in the olden days and has again.
Yes, I’d much rather a team in Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Halifax, Quebec City, Saskatoon—some city that loves hockey and could also support an NHL franchise—than in Toronto.
I can’t even articulate well why I oppose the very idea of another team here. There’s just no need for another team in a big city like Toronto which already has too many (and too many overly expensive) entertainment options. Surely other regions would appreciate it more?
A new team would be different, sure. But the Leaf "brand" has been around forever. What could a new team in town possibly mean in terms of branding? Who will care?
It's not like the Blue Jays (and even that has died off to a large extent, sadly). When they came in 1977 there had never been major-league baseball here. A good triple "A" pro team in the 1950s and early '60s, but not another major-league team.
Expansion team or a re-located franchise? Doesn't matter. I wouldn't want either.
Vintage Leaf Memories has evolved since its launch in September of 2009. VLM began as a site almost exclusively about my memories as a Maple Leaf fan growing up in Ontario in the 1950s and into the ‘60s and ‘70s. I was born in 1953, and it was a golden era to grow up a Leaf fan, given their tremendous success under Punch Imlach in the 1960s.
I hope that the site will continue to grow! Thanks to everyone for their feedback.