A new Toronto-based group has come forward with a proposal to launch a second NHL franchise in Toronto in time for the 2012-13 season.
The Toronto Legacy Group, led by founder Andrew Lopez, laid out its vision at a news conference Friday, suggesting that $1-billion in private financing is already in place for the proposed expansion team.
The team would be known as the Toronto Legacy, and would play out of a proposed 30,000-seat arena built at Downsview Park, located in the north of the Greater Toronto Area. Lopez said the site would include a community athletic centre, 50-metre Olympic swimming pool, four outdoor rinks and public park space among other amenities.
Lopez said the proximity of the second franchise to the Toronto Maple Leafs would foster 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," said Lopez. "We're here to be their little brother."
Lopez's group is taking a more unique approach than past expansion hopefuls. The group, which unveiled its logo and jersey at the news conference, has proposed that 25 per cent of its annual net profits will be divided amongst charitable foundations and non-profit organizations. If successful, the group will also hand over every dollar of seat licence fees to foundations and charities.
He added that roughly half the tickets to every game would be available for $50 in an effort to make the game more affordable for fans.
Lopez said he would be happy to speak to the NHL about the proposal - but only after the league has had a chance to review the group's plans on its own.
"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.'
"We're not here to force our will on anyone. A simple no from the National Hockey League would be okay. We realize it's a very special club."
Lopez said the project will only move forward if the NHL gives him the green light.
"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."
The expansion effort is the latest attempt to bring another NHL team to the Southern Ontario region. Blackberry billionaire Jim Balsillie is looking to relocate the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton, while a Vaughan, Ont.-based group - led by former Maple Leafs forward Kevin Maguire - has also expressed interest in landing an NHL franchise.
Lopez says his group is not affiliated with Balsillie or Maguire, and added that he isn't interested in inheriting 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."
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