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Toronto city councillors want NBA to get back to playing basketball

Toronto Raptors guard Jimmy King (24) goes high above Utah Jazz center Greg Foster (44) for a basket as John Stockton, right, looks on during the fourth period Thursday, Feb. 22, 1996 in Salt Lake City. The Jazz beat the Raptors 102-86.

Steve C. Wilson/AP

Toronto city councillors are joining the chorus of politicians who want the NBA to get back to work for the sake of sagging urban economies.

Last month, 14 mayors in the United States sent an open letter to National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern imploring the league to consider the economic well-being of their cities when deciding whether to cancel the impending season.

On Tuesday, the chair of Toronto's economic development committee echoed those sentiments. "We want the season to start," Michael Thompson said. "There's an economic impact that will occur."

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Mr. Thompson met recently with NBA player Jamaal Magloire, a Toronto native, about the labour dispute that could lead to the cancellation of the entire 2011-12 season. Already some December games have been called off.

"I'm not sure if a letter would change anything, but if it would, we would certainly want to support that," he said.

The Raptors are one of 10 NBA teams that average more than $1-million a game in gate receipts. The full economic benefit of the Raptors to Toronto is not readily quantifiable, but the Air Canada Centre, the venue the team shares with the Toronto Maple Leafs, is believed to bring $2.4-billion to the city's economy.

After the baseball lockout of 1994-95, several teams took years to recover their before-lockout fan bases. The Montreal Expos never did recover from the erosion in interest and ended up moving to Washington.

"It could really hurt the Raptors' lock on the market," said Councillor Josh Colle, an avid basketball fan. "This could really hurt the team and have a larger negative impact on Toronto. We saw it in baseball."

At the same time, Mr. Colle said he wouldn't be collecting signatures for a letter from Toronto. Months ago, he was derided by several councillors when he wrote a letter suggesting Toronto should lobby for a second NHL team.

"My last attempt to send a letter to a sports commissioner wasn't exactly well received," he said.

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About the Author
National reporter

Patrick previously worked in the Globe's Winnipeg bureau, covering the Prairies and Nunavut, and at Toronto City Hall. He is a National Magazine Award recipient and author of the book Mountie In Mukluks. More

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