Kelly: Markham arena would lure NHL team

January 30, 2013, 12:33 PM

The morning after the City of Markham voted in favour of scrapping plans that would have halted the construction of their multi-million-dollar NHL-sized arena, former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly talked to Sportsnet 590 The Fan about his role in the previous night’s debate on the subject.

“I just [explained] to the council and to the citizens that you really don’t get many opportunities to at least have a shot at landing an NHL franchise,” Kelly told Brady and Lang in the Morning. “These windows come, and while they’re there you’ve got to take advantage of them. And frankly, this is Markham’s time. If they ever hope to land a second team in the Greater Toronto Area, this is the best opportunity they will have.”

Kelly argues that given Markham’s location and demographic — coupled with the NHL’s plans to expand to 32 teams — creates the perfect storm for attracting another franchise to the Greater Toronto Area and went just short of guaranteeing it.
“There’s no question in my view that if you put a franchise [in Markham], whether it be an expansion or a relocation, that franchise would quickly become one of the top-five revenue producers in the league,” he said. “The realities of the Markham situation add up to a very strong likelihood that if you build a world-class arena, the NHL will come knocking.

“If they build that arena in Markham, I have no doubt that they will eventually get a franchise.”

After Kelly’s comments hit the airwaves, ESPN.com spoke to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

“There’s never been a plan to expand to 32 teams,” Daly told ESPN.com. “Whether we talked conceptually at some point if things are going well whether we could expand to 32, I’m sure we suggested we could, but we certainly never reached the point where that was appropriate when Paul Kelly was executive director of the NHLPA and I’d say we haven’t got there at this point.

“[O]ur position has consistently been that our rules do not give the Maple Leafs a right to veto another franchise in the Toronto territory. That’s something that the board of governors would decide, if the board decided it was a good idea.”

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