In a discussion with Hockey Night in Canada host George Stroumboulopoulos, Gary Bettman discussed the logistics of a second Toronto expansion team, and why the reality of that happening is in the far distant future. The demand for one currently exists, according to Bettman, because of 1967.
“If we decided that we were putting a second team in Ontario, and the year the team was supposed to start, the Leafs won the Cup, that second team wouldn’t exist,” Bettman said in a conversation with George Stroumboulopoulos at a Canadian Club luncheon.
Bettman continued: “That’s part of the dynamic because the attention gets diluted, either two ways or three ways, and when you have historically established teams with great histories and traditions, the second team – even if the first team isn’t having tremendous success at the time – the second team will never quite get the premier coverage.”
The point about the diluted coverage when you already have an established team is true, and it is tied to success – look at the coverage of the New York Islanders versus the coverage of the New York Rangers. Would the Isles monopolize more attention if their four Stanley Cup championships happened within the last ten or fifteen years? Yup. Would they get as much attention as the Rangers as time passed after those championships? Unfortunately, probably not.
The issue in favor of expansion, and one that Bettman doesn’t mention, isn’t entirely a lack of success on the Leafs’ part. It’s a lack of success and high ticket pricing. The Leafs are consistently at the tops of the cost list for NHL clubs. ESPN The Magazine just ranked the Leafs dead last (122nd out of 122 teams) in the “Bang for your Buck” category, which takes into consideration price of tickets versus how many games the team’s won.
If there is a less expensive hockey alternative in Toronto, people will go and it will be successful. It’ll always be the little brother franchise, but that won’t matter much because at least people will be able to purchase season tickets and get in the gate. Money’s money to the NHL, regardless of what franchise it comes from.