Friday, June 5, 2009

Latest Toronto Expansion Proposal will seal Balsillie’s fate.


I’m sure that Gary Bettman’s office gets several proposals on a weekly, if not daily, basis to buy an existing or future NHL team.

The latest proposal issued by Andrew Lopez, a communications specialist who has worked as a motivational speaker for Miss Universe Canada, lays out a vision for a second Toronto team.

Mr. Lopez also noted that $1 billion in private financing is already in place for the proposed expansion team.

The announcement attracted the attention of nearly every major media outlet in Toronto. A dozen TV cameras jostled for position in the back of the room, and reporters filled every available seat.

“We're not sure how (the NHL) or the Toronto Maple Leafs will take this,” said Lopez.

“So we said, 'Let's just share with our city, share with our country, and once they've had a chance to look over what we're proposing . . . by all means, if they consider us worthy, we would be privileged.”

The eager entrepreneur came to the table with a team name, “The Legacy”, a team jersey, and a proposed new arena complex in Downsview Park, in the north end of Metro Toronto.

Lopez said the site would include a community athletic centre, 50-metre swimming pool, four outdoor rinks and public park space among other amenities.

I just have some advice for Mr. Lopez. Read the fine print when negotiating that deal with the city of North York (See Charles Wang).

What makes the proposal truly interesting his his “Mission Statement”.

First of all he’s not pressuring the league for an expansion franchise by stating, “We're not here to force our will on anyone. A simple no from the National Hockey League would be OK. We realize it's a very special club.”

“If the National Hockey League comes up to us and says 'You know what, we're going to look at this in five years, 10 years,' ... . that's fine. There is no timeline on this.”

“If the NHL says no, then this dream will stop.”

lopez-torontolegacy090605Toronto Legacy spokesman Andrew Lopez with Hockey Great Herb Carnegie

Lopez, who says his group could have the team up and running by the 2012-13 season, believes the proximity of the Legacy franchise to the Toronto Maple Leafs can create a new and exciting NHL rivalry without pulling fans away from the Air Canada Centre.

"We're not here to compete with the Toronto Maple Leafs," Lopez said. "We're here to be their little brother."

Lopez's group is also proposing that 25 per cent of its annual net profits will be divided amongst charitable foundations and non-profit organizations.

The Future Aces Foundation, started by former hockey player Herb Carnegie, would be the first organization to receive funding.

Carnegie, who will turn 90 in November, attended Friday's news conference.

Mr. Carnegie has also had a long time relationship with Investor’s Group, a highly speculated partner in this proposal.

If successful, the group says it will hand over every dollar of seat licence fees to foundations and charities.

To make things affordable to the 8 million plus residents that live in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe and surrounding areas, Lopez added that roughly half the tickets to every game would be available for $50.

He did say he wasn’t competing with the Leafs, right? OK maybe just a bit.

Lopez also made it clear that he was not interested in an existing team.

"This has always been about expansion, not relocation," said Lopez.

"I commend anyone in the world that loves hockey and is trying to bring hockey to any city. But this is strictly about expansion ... nothing to do with the former Winnipeg Jets or the Phoenix Coyotes franchise."

The NHL has denied any contact or proposals received.

Naturally, at this time, they cannot.

League commissioner Gary Bettman, as stated in an affidavit filed as part of the Coyotes' bankruptcy case, said the only way another team would end up in southern Ontario is through expansion. He has also said the league isn't looking to add teams any time soon.

To say they’d reviewed the offer would be shooting themselves in the foot.

In any event, the proposal can further diminish the chances of Jim Balsillie’s attempt to bring the Coyotes to Hamilton.

So now we have Mr. Lopez bringing a patient, well thought out proposal with the reported backing needed to start a new team.

On the other hand, we have Balsillie’s “I want, I want” tactics ,Ver 3.0, that came with no formal application for purchase/move of the Coyotes until AFTER court proceedings began.

Even the judge in the case thought that a trifle odd.

The first thing Balsillie did do, after his reported proposal was to start a web site to sell hats and tee-shirts.

The Legacy site is not selling tee-shirts.

Then, he approached the city of Hamilton for a 32-year lease agreement on a building that he later proposes needs a $150 million upgrades.

Oh and he thinks that the taxpayers ought to help out with that.

Wonder if people want their money back for their “make-it-seven” tee-shirts now?

He did get some corporate sponsors (Labatt, Home Hardware) on his side, so we’ll have to give him that.

As passionate as Mr. Balsillie’s plea may be in his mind, he really should take a better respect to the NHL’s conduct of business.

In all likelihood his plan to relocate the Phoenix Coyotes will fail.

With Mr. Lopez’s proposal publically shown, the Blackberry Billionaire’s chances for a team, period after kicking the NHL in the nuts three times, may be gone.

Oh and I have to ask Mr. Lopez.

Sir, please reconsider the team name.

With no disrespect of your intentions to honor Mr. Carnegie, Toronto already has a team with a “Legacy” of losing for over 42 years.

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