Another GTA option for NHL?

If they build it, they will come.

Or will they?

On the surface, the proposed construction of the 19,500-seat GTA Centre in Markham is not an attempt to land a second National Hockey League team to southern Ontario.

Indeed, in an interview with Bauer chairman Graeme Roustan on Tuesday night, the man spearheading the project along with Toronto-area real estate mogul Rudy Bratty, he seemed very sincere when insisting this is to be an entertainment/concert venue, not a building designed to have an NHL team as its prime tenant.

Having said that, it’s impossible not to connect the dots here.

While it might not be the primary purpose for building such a venue, the existence of such a facility does give the NHL one important thing.

An option.

When the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg this year, part of the reason was that Manitoba’s largest city had a rink in the MTS Centre where the team could immediately play. Sure, the arena had a capacity that was 4,000 seats less than most NHL rinks, but Jets officials overcame that hiccup by developing a viable financial plan.

Sure, behind closed doors, the NHL isn’t actually jumping through hoops to place a second team in the southern Ontario market, even if many of us feel that it is an inevitability down the road. In fact, according to league sources, the NHL’s priority — when and if the next franchise relocates — is to return professional hockey to Quebec City, a community that sells out the antiquated Colisee for it’s annual pee wee tournament.

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