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The Globe and Mail

Duhatschek: Toronto needs second NHL team

Are you like me? When you saw that Richard Peddie had officially set his retirement date as chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, was your first thought, who's next? Which head-hunting firm has been hired to find Peddie's replacement; and where do I send my resume?

That probably was the general overriding response to Peddie's much-anticipated decision to step down - to wonder, philosophically, what might his successor do differently (if anything) in order to bring MLSE's most important asset, the Toronto Maple Leafs' hockey team, back to the top of the NHL standings, where they were - oh some 45-plus years ago?

Few will dispute the fact that Peddie did an exceptional job on the business side of the operation, making money hand over fist for the various groups of happy shareholders.

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The Leafs were always prepared to spend whatever it took to be competitive; even if wasn't always the right way to do business. But you wonder if, two years ago, when Brian Burke took over as the general manager, what if he'd plotted a slow and steady course to the top instead of trying to fast track it? You'd have to think Toronto supporters are sophisticated enough on the hockey front to know that the only way you ever really get it right is to bottom out and then build from there. The fact that the Maple Leaf brand is practically bullet-proof suggests that a little bit of patience would have gone a long way in order to the organization on the right path towards success.

More than anything, though, where I'd like to see MLSE reverse course is on the matter of a second NHL team in the Toronto-area. MLSE has been quietly opposed to any infringement of their territory in order to protect that aforementioned brand - when it doesn't really need the help. Fact is, a second Toronto team, maybe even operating right out of the ACC, would provide the sort of competition on the ice that might eventually make the Leafs better too. Cliff Fletcher always said that in his days with the Calgary Flames, it was the presence of the Wayne Gretzky-led Oilers up the highway in Edmonton that ultimately helped Calgary become a top-of-line franchise for the better part of a decade themselves.

Meaningful competition - right under your nose - can do that sometimes. So here's hoping that the new man (or woman) who replaces Peddie understands the appetite for a second team in the Toronto-area and can convince the rest of the board to permit it to happen. Because if MLSE gives it the green light, you can be sure the rest of the NHL will fall all over itself to make it happen in a heartbeat.

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