On January 30, the city of Markham voted down a proposition to scrap a premature funding program for an NHL sized arena in the community. Former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly played a key role in Markham’s decision, confidently suggesting in the debate that “if you build it, they [an NHL team] will come.”
While a second NHL team in the greater Toronto area would have a good chance at maintaining a strong fan base, it could also have a big impact on the one that’s already there.
One important question facing Markham is in a city of 300,000 people, how will they manage to rival Toronto Maple Leafs crowds? Certainly if they were to simply play better than the Maple Leafs, a Markham NHL team would attract a good number of hockey fans to the shiny new rink. Furthermore, any Toronto-Markham games played in Markham would be sure-fire sellouts because of how close it would be for Leaf fans.
Another rivalry would make games exciting and having opponents so close together cuts down on travel time for all players in the league. Maybe another team would be the league’s way of thanking the worst team for bringing in the most revenue. After all, there have probably been a number of fans over the seven years of the Leafs missing the playoffs looking for a new team to cheer for.
What if a lot of people started cheering for Markham? What if Markham won a Stanley Cup? Would everyone cheer for them?
The further each scenario is extended, the more and more convincing it is a Markham NHL team has the potential to be a Leaf killer. If Markham offered significantly cheaper tickets, those tired of paying a premium at Leafs games would likely consider catching a Markham game instead, especially during the current economic downturn. Cheaper tickets coupled with a better team at a nicer and newer arena would certainly draw in a number of fans from across the GTA.
On the other hand, a Markham team could ultimately flop. Look at the New York Islanders, a team that’s 27 out of 30 on Forbes Magazine’s ranking of franchise value in the NHL. Their neighbors, the New York Rangers, are placed as the second most valuable team. If the Islanders couldn’t steal some of the fan base from the second most valuable NHL team then why would Markham be able to do it to the Maple Leafs, who are at the top of the franchise value list?
Setting scenarios aside, wouldn’t it make more sense for Quebec to be the recipient of a new NHL team anyways? Having been without the Nordiques since 1995, Quebec City has been hungry for an NHL team for just under 20 years. Fans of hockey in the GTA are connected by their shared passion for hockey, and will cheer for the Maple Leafs no matter their place in the standings. Perhaps this is a relationship that would be tampered with if a Markham NHL team arrived.
Tags: Markham Expansion