Report: Local ownership group negotiating with NHL for Toronto expansion team

A report from NHL insider Elliotte Friedman has turned the hockey world upside down.

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According to a report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the NHL may be headed to Burlington, Ontario in the near future. Say what!? It’s not as crazy as it sounds and, evidently, it’s not just some pipe dream from an eccentric wannabe owner. Friedman reports that Paletta International, a Burlington based meat packing corporation with real estate and construction operations, is working behind the scenes with the NHL to potentially bring another NHL franchise to the region already served by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Here’s the full report taken from Friedman’s 31 Thoughts column released earlier today:

From time to time, the NHL receives inquiries from potential ownership groups. During the expansion process that spawned the Vegas Golden Knights, one Canadian group reached out with a question: Would you consider another franchise in the Toronto area? Created by Pasquale (Pat) Paletta as a beef slaughter and meatpacking operation in 1951, Paletta International expanded into real estate and construction. It’s not imminent, and it’s far from certain, but, according to several sources, the NHL and the Palettas have continued to discuss the possibility. Key to its conversations is land the family owns in Burlington, west of Toronto. It is believed the family would build the arena where a potential team would play. Pat’s son Angelo is the point person on the project. Attempts to reach him were politely declined.

 It’s also noteworthy to point out that, unlike former Blackberry executive Jim Balsillie who attempted to bring a franchise to Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum, the Palletta group is going about their negotiations with the NHL in a subdued, behind the scenes type manner.

“They are trying the Mark Chipman route,” one source said, referring to the Winnipeg Jets owner. “Don’t say anything that upsets the NHL.”

Given Balsillie’s spectacular failure and Chipman’s equally spectacular victory, this certainly seems like the appropriate strategy.

What do you think, Leafs fans? Can the Greater Toronto Area support another NHL franchise? Would fans even want to cheer for another team? The Leafs have a 100 year history in Ontario and they’ve not the type to just change allegiances because there’s a shiny new toy in town. I mean… just look at how the Ottawa Senators have struggled financially in recent years.

On the other hand, with the news earlier today that the Leafs have only released 96 tickets to the public for Monday’s game against the Boston Bruins, there are literally thousands of fans being left out in the cold. Maybe they’d welcome the opportunity to watch some NHL hockey out in Burlington? Interesting times, for sure. Like Friedman says, nothing is imminent but this is definitely worth keeping an eye on.