As one of the few members of the Toronto Maple Leafs with firsthand experience as a fan in a market with a local rival, Mike Komisarek is all in favour of another NHL team setting up in suburban Toronto.
Growing up as a New York Islanders fan in Suffolk County, New York, one of the veteran defenceman’s fondest early hockey memories was when his dentist set him up with tickets just behind the Islanders bench for a home game against the hated New York Rangers.
The action on the ice was one thing, it might have been even better in the stands.
“I remember the backup goalie, turning around and checking out who was winning the fights and who was beating the snot out of each other,” said Komisarek. “But that was back in the day.”
The news of today is the possibility that the Greater Toronto Area could be one step closer to landing a second NHL team that would instantly become a natural rival to the Leafs.
In a late-night meeting Markham city council defeated a motion that would have stalled a plan that includes building an NHL-ready arena in the bedroom community northeast of Toronto.
It is far from a done deal — council still has to sign off on a formal agreement yet to be struck between local developer Rudy Bratty and the city itself, and there’s still the matter of landing a team — but for the moment the news provided reason to speculate about the possibility.
On a more practical level Komisarek is a believer in a second team for Toronto because it would almost certainly be a revenue producer for the league and as a result the NHLPA.
“Any time you play in a Canadian city, the building always has a buzz, there’s a great atmosphere,” said Komisarek. “The fans aren’t only knowledgeable but they’re very passionate; they’re into the games. Some of these markets down south, the building is a little quieter and it doesn’t have that same feel to it.
“I know guys from other teams that play in the south or don’t play in those hockey hotbeds always enjoy coming to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver so yeah, they’ve tossed around the idea of a team in Quebec City, Markham’s coming out with it. I think it’d be great for the game.”
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle enjoyed the rivalry between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks when he coached in Anaheim.
“The games were great. Their season ticket holders would come down to our games and our season ticket holders would go up to L.A. and I would say in that market the majority of season ticket holders that were L.A. Kings season ticket holders when the Ducks came in became Ducks season ticket holders, because they were Orange County people.”
Nazem Kadri supports the idea too, though he says he’ll believe it when he sees it.
“I love the idea, it’d be great for the city and for all those people who unfortunately can’t make it out to our games there’s a second option. The chances of it getting passed, I don’t know what they are, but it’d be nice to see a second team.”
And if there’s some extra action in the stands, all the better.