With all the talk about Toronto getting a second NHL team, Hockey News columnist Ken Campbell delivers a negative thought.
Here are his views:
The prospect of a 20,000-seat rink, and the chance of any NHL team that might come with it, could be dead by the end of September if the deputy mayor of Markham has his way.
Jack Heath, originally a supporter of the GTA Center in the Toronto Suburb of Markham, has put forward a motion to effectively kill the financial framework for the arena. Heath will put his motion to Markham council September 17, with a vote coming a week later.
Heath said what he sees as dwindling chances to get an NHL franchise in the world’s most underserviced hockey market is the driving force behind his decision.
He pointed to new ownership and stability for the Phoenix Coyotes as well as sentiment that the league will expand to Seattle and Quebec City – despite the fact that the NHL has not said anything on the matter – as evidence that the Toronto area is far back of the queue in the NHL’s eyes.
“When you add it all up, a second franchise for the GTA is not a priority,” Heath said. “I have no interest in duplicating (Hamilton’s) Copps Coliseum.”
The financial framework calls for the town of Markham to borrow $325 million for the project. Half that amount - $162.5 million – would be paid back by a group headed by former Bauer chairman Graeme Roustan, who would receive a 99-year lease on the rink and operate the facility.
The other half would be repaid with controversial volunteer levy on developers.
Heath’s motion may very well have enough support to pass, which would kill the project. But should Roustan come to council with a more favorable deal, it could be saved. One councilor recently said Roustan needs a “game changer” to save the deal.
But that will not appease Heath, who said it will have been eight weeks since he informed council of his motion by the time it is presented.
“We’ve been at this for three years,” said Heath, whose father, Len, was an executive with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1960s and later with the Vancouver Canucks. “I don’t think a couple more months will make a difference.”