There's no shortage of potential NHL relocation opportunites, and it looks as though we might be able to soon add another to the list.
According to a report from Bob McKenzie, Bauer chairman Graeme Roustan is planning on building a new NHL-sized arena in Markham, Ontario, just a stones throw away from Toronto. He's doing it with help from GTA-based developer Rudy Bratty, a man who apparently has a lot of money.
Who cares that the NHL says they aren't planning on relocating or expanding? We'll build it anyway!
The arena would be built on a tract of land owned by Bratty, just west of the existing GO Transit train station in Unionville, and just north of Highway 407, but would be part of a much larger sports and entertainment complex, not unlike the Staples Center and L.A. Live entertainment block in Los Angeles. And all of that would be just one element of what's known as the Bratty-inspired Markham Centre, a $3 billion, 900-plus acre high-density residential, commercial and retail development that is part of the official plan of the town.
The report goes on to note that they feel the arena would be economically viable without a major tenant like an NHL team, and Roustan told The Hockey News that they don't have any plans to pursue an NHL team, but let's not kid ourselves here. 20,000 seat arenas are not typically built in North America without the hopes of bringing a major tenant in to root that arena into the ground.
You can really only think of a handful of such arenas that have been built recently without a major tenant to call it home. Sprint Center in Kansas City comes to mind, and, well, that's about it. And we all know that Sprint Center would love an NHL or an NBA team to call it home. Might just be a matter of time.
It's one thing for such an arena to be built in Kansas City, where there's no competing arena. But this new building in Markham would be just 31 kilometers away from Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto, and imagining such a building being a worthwhile investment while it's splitting concert dates and other events with a different arena?
Well, I don't know. I'm not an expert. It just doesn't seem right. Roustan is denying, and given his close ties to the NHL and his past as an interested party in owning an NHL, he probably knows the game here. Coming out and saying "HEY I WANT A TEAM" hasn't always worked well for other people, you know?
This is certainly worth keeping an eye on. Southern Ontario is ripe for another NHL team, and the market has a better chance at being viable than any number of other markets in both Canada and the United States. It's just another possibility to add to the long, long list.