The Toronto Maple Leafs are not opposed to a second NHL team setting up shop in the Greater Toronto Area.
“If the league ever comes to us and says: ‘Look guys, it’s time,’ and makes the case, then we’ve got to listen,” Burke said in an interview. “You’ve got to make the case.
“It’s no different from when people have said: ‘We’d like another team in Winnipeg.’ So would we. Quebec City? Great, make the case. Show me that you have a building that can generate NHL economics. In this case here, show me the team works here without unduly harming the two existing teams (Toronto and Buffalo).”
Burke made his comments outside a sports management conference he had been hosting that had earlier discussed the issue of franchise relocation. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly — who had been front and centre on the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy case — said the league had the power to put a second team in Toronto even if the Leafs objected.
“Ultimately, if it makes sense from a league perspective, I’m sure it will happen,” said Daly. “But that doesn’t mean that’s any time in the foreseeable future.”
The relocation issue had been one of the central issues argued in a Phoenix courtroom, and a letter from the Maple Leafs to the league disputed the NHL’s position on relocation. The Leafs had otherwise offered a series of no comments during the bankruptcy hearings.
Burke suggested that letter — produced by billionaire Jim Balsillie’s legal team as evidence of antitrust — had not been the Leafs’ position.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs have never taken the position that if the league comes to us and makes the case that this makes sense for the National Hockey League, that we won’t look at that. We never said that,” said Burke. “This whole thing where a guy wants to hijack a team and move it here without league approval is very different.”
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