As one of the founding organizations when the NHL was founded in 1917, beginning as the Toronto Arenas and Toronto St. Patricks before becoming the Toronto Maple Leafs, we often take the rich history of ice hockey in the capital of Ontario for granted. The sport has been established for so long in the city, it almost seems like a part of the furniture.
Insofar as Canadian rivalries are concerned, fans of the Maple Leafs often relish their rivalries with teams north of the US border more than any others. With the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, there’s great competition each season amongst the trio to finish highest in the NHL pecking order.
That’s before we even mention our Western Conference compatriots, the Winnipeg Jets of the Central Division, then the Pacific Division trio of the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks. Still, it’s hard to shake the sensation that there should be more Canadian teams playing in the NHL, especially being so outnumbered by franchises from south of the border in the United States, with 7 compared to 24 during the 2019-20 season.
Back in 1994, the National Sports of Canada Act quoted the following: “The game commonly known as ice hockey is hereby recognized and declared to be the national winter sport of Canada and the game commonly known as lacrosse is hereby recognized and declared to be the national summer sport of Canada.”
Considering that ice hockey is enshrined as such an important sport in Canadian lifestyle and culture, it’s perhaps even more surprising that there’s a history of franchises that have fallen by the wayside. The Winnipeg Jets in 2011 were the only franchise returning to Canada in recent years, after 17 years in Arizona. However, Quebec never gained a replacement when the Nordiques franchise was sold and headed south to Colorado.
Amusingly, Las Vegas managed to get a brand new ice hockey franchise, slap-bang in the middle of the desert as recently as 2017. This new team even managed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals during its inaugural campaign, showing this was no mere gamble by the NHL with the choice of location. Canada may be fond of online casinos, but it seems that Vegas managed to keep the house in their favor when it came to the NHL. However, much like online casinos, Canada may yet catch up with Vegas in both respects. Given that getting themselves quickly established amongst players in the Great White North is of paramount importance, new casinos always have the most generous bonus offers and are keen to welcome new custom with some of the most attractive deals around, and perhaps the NHL may follow suit.
Despite any optimism, the wait for new ice hockey franchises in Canada is ongoing, despite huge support for the sport throughout pretty much every corner of the country. Hamilton and Quebec City have been regarded as the most viable sites for new franchises, amidst widespread belief that Canada could support at least three more NHL teams, according to the Toronto Sun.
Both locations would greatly deserve the opportunity to host NHL teams again, yet there’s also a strong case for giving the Maple Leafs a new rival in their own backyard in Ontario. Regarded as the most financially viable option, locations in Vaughan and Markham have previously been earmarked as venues to base new NHL expansion teams, yet nothing ever came of proposals in the end.
Still, hope remains that Canada will get some expansion teams at some point with the NHL seemingly keen to keep growing over the next couple of decades. Various studies have even suggested that statistically speaking, the fan-base for ice hockey is roughly equal in both the USA and Canada, indicating that the current lack of teams north of the border will surely have to be addressed more seriously in the coming years.
The author of the blog is Samantha Holdings