It's not exactly surprising, but it turns out that the cost of infringing on the territorial rights of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and owning a second NHL team in the center of the hockey universe, is going to be mindbogglingly steep for any potential ownership group.
The specter of further NHL expansion has loomed large this summer and for good reason apparently. According to a report from TSN's Rick Westhead, the NHL "would likely command" an expansion fee of $1.2 billion for a second Toronto franchise. Westhead also reports that the league is set to discuss expansion at length later this month at the board of governors meetings in New York.
That $1.2 billion fee would smash the record for North American professional sports, which currently sits at the $700 million expansion fee the NFL charged Houston Texans owner Bob McNair when he was granted the 32nd NFL franchise in 1999.
While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has insisted the league is not currently considering expansion or relocation, several senior NHL team sources said expansion - along with the league's strategy to grow international revenue - would be key topics during the NHL board of governors meetings on Sept. 30 in New York.
Five investment bankers who advise NHL team owners on the sales of franchises said it would only be a matter of time before the league entertains offers for another team in Toronto.
The bankers, who collectively have advised both buyers and sellers of NHL teams, as well as owners who have sought new limited partners, said bidding for a new team in Toronto would begin around $800 million. Opinion was split on how high the bidding might go. Three of the bankers said they could see the auction reach $1.2 billion. The other two doubted the bidding would eclipse $1 billion.
Surely a city as ravenous for hockey as Toronto could support a second NHL franchise (perhaps in the Western Conference?), although there would be significant hurdles to clear.
If the NHL really can demand an expansion fee this lucrative though, it would seem an inevitability, particularly because expansion fees don't count towards "hockey related-revenues", which get split evenly between NHL owners and players.