Can Mississauga Support a Pro Sports Franchise?

A few days ago, I was talking to a friend and fellow editor about how exciting the Blue Jay's success was for Toronto (although that excitement is over, it was real and it was magical and it reinvigorated the city's dedicated but wary sports fans). While I will admit upfront that I don't typically watch sports, I was intrigued when my friend said that Mississauga should absolutely have a professional sports franchise.

"Why?" I asked. "Didn't it not work out for Hamilton and that RIM guy that no one talks about anymore?"

Sure, he said.

But one failure shouldn't mean no one should ever try for another sports franchise in Ontario again.

"Toronto is the biggest hockey market in the world. In any other sport like baseball, football and basketball, the biggest market for that sport has at least two teams. Think of New York, Chicago and so on.

In Toronto, we only have one team when we should have at least two. New York has two hockey teams. If you look at baseball, there are the Mets and Yankees.

Mississauga can definitely be the second hockey franchise. Mississauga has a bigger population than Kansas City, Vancouver, Detroit, Denver, Washington and Boston. Toronto NEEDS a second hockey team and Mississauga should be the city to get it."

Although I was initially skeptical, I hadn't thought about other regions -- exclusively U.S. states, but that's neither here nor there -- having two or more teams.

On the positive side, a pro sports franchise in Mississauga -- be it baseball, basketball or, namely, hockey -- would be good for the city.

It could generate revenue and enhance tourism. It would provide more employment opportunities for athletes and the people who work with and train them. It could draw international attention to the city, benefitting local businesses and creating more opportunities for entrepreneurs. It could not only increase attention and tourism, but also investment -- both public and private. We could end up with a chic but pricy sports bar that sells $20 hamburgers and a small selection of craft beers.

On the downside, the prospect seems bleak.

According to a recent blog in The Star, money prevents the NHL from setting up shop outside of TO proper.

Kevin McGran argues, "first off, NHL expansion is never about putting a team where it will succeed. It’s about money."

McGran also mentions that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (or MLSE) doesn't like the idea of sharing turf. When RIM's Jim Balsillie tried to bring an NHL team to Hamilton, people learned that MLSE had written a letter to the NHL back in 2006 (the Hamilton controversy began in 2009) saying the Leafs could reject such moves. Apparently the NHL constitution was in agreement with MLSE, even though the NHL commissioner said that the clause they were relying on was no longer in effect. That said, the clause -- technically invalid or not -- seems to stand.

But 2009 (and, more accurately, 2006) was a long time ago.

While the embattled RIM CEO lost his fight, someone from Mississauga might still want to pick up the mantle.

Leadership in the hockey world has changed, and maybe some hearts and minds have evolved.

Seeing the excitement generated by Toronto finally -- finally! -- having a genuinely good team representing them, it follows that Ontario -- populous and vast -- could use more high performing athletes drawing crowds.

If putting a pro team too far outside of TO seems risky to owners, it makes sense to put them right next to the city -- a safe skip and a jump away from The Six's downtown core. This won't be like putting a team in Barrie or Peterborough (or even Hamilton).

It'll augment Toronto's sports scene while fostering healthy competition. It'll also give GTA fans a second team to tie their hopes and dreams to in the event that one fails to make the playoffs.

So, what do you think?

Do you support a pro sports franchise in Mississauga?

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