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NHL skating into Vaughan?

The Vaughan Coyotes has a nice ring to it.

The Vaughan Predators ain’t bad, either.

Whatever the team might be called, the idea of landing a National Hockey League franchise in the city above has fired Vaughanians dreams of the coolest game on ice.

“People are just so excited,” Mayor Linda Jackson said last week. “I was out on the weekend and people were like, ‘Oh my God, this is so great’.”

Jackson and former Toronto Maple Leaf Kevin Maguire head a small group working toward bringing a second team to the GTA.

Maguire recently met with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly to lay out his groups’ plans to welcome a team to a proposed new arena on land owned by the Zzen Group at Hwys. 427 and 7.

Though she wasn’t there, Jackson said the meeting with the league went well.

“They certainly were taking us seriously (enough) to invite us to the meeting,” she said.

Still, the NHL told the Jackson-Maguire group it’s not interested in expanding or relocating a team to the GTA.

“I truly believe getting an NHL team would be tremendous for the city of Vaughan, but the league has said that a second team in the Toronto area is not something that’s on their radar screen right now,” Maguire said in a statement released last week. “However, we wanted the NHL to know that if they ever change their mind, we think the city of Vaughan would be the best option and the proposed site the best location.”

The National Hockey League Players’ Association, contrary to what the league said, has signalled it is in favour of another team in the GTA.

“Without discussing specifics, I have previously met informally with groups that have expressed an interest in putting a second team in Toronto or southern Ontario,” NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly said in statement. “The viability of a second team in Toronto or southern Ontario should be explored, so, in the event that relocation needs to be considered for franchises that are struggling where they are currently located, a well informed decision can be made.”

News of the meeting was leaked last week and hurt her group’s position, said Jackson, who was mindful of the situation surrounding Research In Motion CEO Jim Balsillie’s very public attempt to secure an NHL team for Hamilton.

“That’s why we’re being very cautious and so is the NHL in comments and things that we’re saying,” she said.

In 2007, Balsillie started selling tickets in Hamilton for a team he didn’t own. Two years later, Balsillie is still on the outside of the NHL owners’ club looking in.

“We’ve made our presentation to the NHL,” Jackson said. “I guess the whole thing is just to keep it on their radar and let them know that whenever they’re ready, we’re ready.

“We’ll continue to do our work with our group to make sure that if and when the time comes that we’ll be prepared to accept the challenge that is given to us by the NHL,” she added.

“Stay tuned.”

Vaughan Today
In print: May 1, 2009, page 7
Online: May 5, 2009 [link]